Mario Andretti was born in Montona, Italy, on February 28, 1940, just three months before Mussolini worked up the courage to throw in his lot with Hitler, and thrust Italy into World War II. At the cessation of hostilities the Andrettis found that their homeland was destined to become part of post-war Yugoslavia. They became refugees from Communism, spending several years in a camp at Tuscani. In 1954 Mario’s interest in motor racing was quickened by a visit to Monza to see the great Ascari compete in the Italian Grand Prix. The following year his family emigrated to the United States, making their new home in Nazareth, Pennsylvania.
For 1971, he competed for Ferrari in six Grands Prix, winning the first race of the year at South Africa on 6th March of 1971. He beat the World Champion-to-be Jackie Stewart by more than 20 seconds after starting in fourth place. He only participated in five other races for Ferrari in 1971.
In 1972, he had sporadic participation in F1 again as he contested only five races for Ferrari during the season. In the same year, he drove for Vel’s Parnelli Jones Racing in Indycar and the same team gave him the chance to compete in F1 in the final two races of 1974 (after not participating in any event from the 1973 season) and in most of the 1975 campaign. During those two years with Parnelli, Andretti’s best result was a fourth-place finish in the 1975 Swedish Grand Prix.
He made his final two appearances in F1 with Williams and Ferrari in 1982. With Ferrari, he qualified on pole for the 1982 Italian GP at Monza and finished third, which was the final podium of his F1 career at a track where the motorsport fire started to burn inside his body when he was a teenager with big dreams.
Mario’s reputation was established and he remains to this day, the last American to win a Formula One race (the 1978 Dutch Grand Prix). Not only is he the last American to win in F1, he is also the only person to win an F1 World Championship, the Indy 500, and the Daytona 500 (he also won his class at Le Mans in 1995). Mario Andretti’s illustrious racing career spans decades, and he won in all of them.