April 25, 1959 – Mario Andretti makes US racing debut

Mario Andretti, made his US racing debut on this day in 1959, just four years after emigrating to the USA. The superstar driver started his racing career several years prior in 1953, at age 13, in Italy’s Formula Junior racing league. Mario and his twin brother were born in Rina, in Montona, Istria, formerly the Kingdom of Italy and now modern day Croatia. After the move to the US, Mario and his twin brother took jobs at their uncle’s auto garage in Pennsylvania. Here they earned money to purchase and modify a 1948 Hudson Commodore.

Above: Andretti in the winners circle of the 1978 Dutch Grand Prix. By Suyk, Koen CC BY-SA
Top: The Andretti twins’ 1948 Hudson

On this day in 1959 the brothers entered the car in the races at the dirt track near Nazareth, Pennsylvania, for the first time. Mario would win his first race, and between he and Aldo, would capture four wins in their first four starts.The early success behind the wheel allowed Mario to quickly work his way up the racing ladder. 

Andretti in a Lotus in 1977. By Luca Varani – From SIM Driving Forum., CC BY-SA 2.5

He would go on to become one of only two drivers to have won races in Formula One, IndyCar, NASCAR and World Sportscar Championship, the other being Dan Gurney. He is also the only driver ever to win the Indianapolis 500 (1969), Daytona 500 (1967) and the Formula One World Championship (1978). Another incredible feat is being the only driver to win United States Driver of the Year in three different decades (1967, 1978 and 1984) and with his final IndyCar win in 1993, he became the only driver to have won an Indy race in four decades and any kind of automobile race in five.

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