Mario Andretti is best-known as one of the most successful car racers of all time. In his career which spanned multiple decades, Mario raced in multiple championships and won multiple titles. Mario was born in 1940 in what is now Croatia. At the end of World War II, Mario and his family were forced to immigrate to the United States, where Mario quickly became intrigued with racing. It wasn’t long before Mario established himself as one of the most successful racers in the country.
Born in Montona, Italy, his hometown is now known as Motovun, Croatia. After immigrating to America, Mario started his five-decade long career in car racing. He is now widely known as one of the best racers in history, and his resume includes multiple awards.
Mario earned three Driver of the Year titles, each from three consecutive decades (the 60s, 70s, and 80s). Mario also holds a record of his own as he is the only driver to have ever earned Indy 500, Daytona 500, and Formula One titles.
Mario grew up with a twin brother, Aldo, and despite growing into a highly-successful racer, his childhood was filled with family struggles and political turmoil. Shortly after World War II ended, there town fell under Communist rule. Fortunately, his family was able to secure a safe route to a refugee camp and they quickly fled to safety. Mario’s family stayed at the refugee camp for seven years. It wasn’t until 1955 when his family secured a visa to come into the United States.
Mario and his family moved to Pennsylvania. Having just $125 to their name, Mario’s family settled in as much as they could, and they continued to face struggles with work and communication as none of them spoke English.
Mario and his twin brother Aldo quickly became mesmerized with car racing. It soon became the center of their worlds after migrating to America. Mario admitted to idolizing Alberto Ascari, an Italian driver at the time. In his new home country, Mario and his brother began to immerse themselves in the world of racing. Soon after, Mario got a job from his uncle at his garage where they began racing stock cars at the local track.
Mario and Aldo quickly took to the world of racing and claimed some small wins during their first season. But, during his last race of his first season, Also crashed and suffered a skull fracture. Determined to continue alongside his brother, Aldo continued to race another decade until he was the victim of another accident that caused facial injuries and forced his retirement.
Despite his brother’s accidents, it seemed Mario couldn’t be slowed down. Mario’s father didn’t come to any of his races after Aldo’s accident until nearly twenty years later in 1964 when he finally discovered Mario’s passion for racing. He soon after began attending his races again.
It wasn’t long before Mario discovered midget car races, and almost as often as he participated he would claim the winning title. In 1961, Mario joined the United Racing Club. Just a couple of years later, he began racing with the American Race Drivers Club and raced midget cars through the east. The same year Mario officially became an American citizen in 1964, he also joined the U.S. Auto Club. Soon after Mario began racing in many of the country’s top competitions.
After only a year of membership, Mario raced in his first Indianapolis 500. He took third place and earned the title of Rookie of the Year. Over the next few years, Mario would continue his successful career in racing and earn the fan-awarded title of one of the best racers in history.
It wasn’t long before he raced in NASCAR’s Daytona 500 and shortly after he began competing in Formula One territory. By the late 1960s, Mario was considered the best Indy car racer, and fans said he couldn’t be beat. In both 67 and 68, Mario won second place in two Indy car championship finishes, Mario also took home the spot of top honors in 69 after a total of nine victories.
After forty years, Mario was still going strong, and in his fifth and final decade, he continued to rack up the titles and awards. By 1994, Mario had earned over $11 million in race winnings and he announced his retirement from Indy car racing. Even today, over a decade later, Mario is considered one of the best race car drivers, and still has thousands of fans.