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gtr986 04-24-03 12:33 AM

Mario's wreck
Mario Andretti was testing out at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and did a triple lindy after being launched by a piece of debris. You can view the video at http://www.wthr.com

From the Indianapolis Star...

Airborne Andretti to press on after crash
63-year-old legend, who doesn't plan to race, is uninjured.

By Curt Cavin
[email protected]
April 23, 2003

The bloody scrape on Mario Andretti's chin did not begin to show what happened to the 63-year-old racing legend Wednesday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

After 29 Indianapolis 500 starts, many of which ended in frustration, Andretti got one of the luckiest breaks of his career when he walked away from a dramatic, multiflip crash.

Unfazed, Andretti said he is still committed to qualifying injured Tony Kanaan's car for next month's Indy 500.

"It's our plan to come back," Andretti said.

Coming off the first turn late in an otherwise personally fulfilling test day, Andretti's initial plan was dramatically altered. Realizing debris from an accident was in his path, the 1969 Indy 500 winner hit it in an instant.

The impact was fierce and direct, lifting the front of his Indy Racing League car off the ground. Almost immediately, air shot under the machine, firing it upward. Andretti saw the track from an estimated 15 feet in the air.

The car hit the top of the catch fence on its way up, flipped tail over nose twice and twisted violently before landing right-side up in the second turn. Andretti, the oldest man to ever drive a competitive lap at the Speedway, nearly went over the fence and into the grandstands, something that has never happened at the Speedway.

Remarkably, Andretti got out of the car, threw his arms in the air and within 20 minutes was talking to reporters about returning to another car when practice opens May 4.

"It was just a freakish situation," he said outside the Andretti Green Racing garage in Gasoline Alley. "It will not happen again, I'm sure."

Andretti's son, Michael, the team owner, was much more shaken by the mayhem. Only days before, over pizza, he had spoken with his father about returning to the Speedway as a possible qualifications replacement for Kanaan, who has a broken wrist.

The subject initially arose after a columnist for their hometown paper, the Allentown (Pa.) Morning Call, wrote an April Fool's Day piece saying Andretti would return to Indy.

Andretti laughed off the column at first, then pondered it seriously after his daughter, Barbie, nudged him to take it seriously.

Wednesday's crash is another obstacle for Michael Andretti's team to overcome. First came Kanaan's crash in Japan 11 days ago, then the team learned last week it will lose another driver, Dario Franchitti for three months with a broken back.

Now this.

"What else is going to happen to us?" said Michael, who plans to conclude his driving career at next month's race. "Every one of them is not our fault."

On the other side of Gasoline Alley, another former Indy 500 winner was trying to explain what happened. Kenny Brack, the 1999 race winner, knew something was wrong in the rear of his car -- perhaps something with the engine -- and he slowed down entering the first turn.

"But by the apex (of the corner) it was too late, and I spun and just hit the wall," he said. "It didn't feel like much, but I must have hit pretty good because it punched a hole in the (soft) wall."

Andretti said he saw no oil on the track from Brack's accident. But he was close enough to admit he was trying to draft off Brack's air to create an artificially fast lap.

"It wasn't anything big that I hit, but it was something hard," he said.

"The next thing I saw was air. You don't want to know what I said. It was, 'Oh, s---.' "

Brack was fortunate to be facing toward the second turn when Andretti came through. He said debris struck his car.

When given a description of the crash from a television replay, Andretti paused for several seconds.

"Wow," he said, shaking his head. "I feel very blessed."

Said career rival A.J. Foyt: "That guy has been the luckiest guy in the world all his life."

Andretti joked about not needing to take the mandatory stress test when he returns in May.

Clearly back in his element, Andretti was proud that he consistently ran laps in the 224-mph bracket and delivered a 225.453 just before the incident occurred. Team officials marveled at his car feedback, noting that he had never driven an IRL car before and hadn't been at speed at the track since his most recent race in Indianapolis, in 1994.

Andretti's last racing stint was in 2000 at the 24 Hours of LeMans in France. But he still felt fit and mentally ready for this challenge.

"It was more than I thought we were going to do today," he said. "We really worked (the car) and made a lot of small gains. I was totally happy, and (the last lap) was going to be the end of a perfect day."

The accident occurred at 5:58 p.m. The session was to end at 6.

"His day was so perfect; what a shame," Michael Andretti said. "But it's still perfect; he's all right."

devilshalo 04-24-03 12:06 PM

That was damn_crazy how airborne he got -eek-
I can't imagine what he hit on the track that propelled him 15 feet off the ground, doing 5 - 6 flips.. lucky he landed upright n his wheels.

El Scorcho 04-24-03 01:36 PM

Originally posted by devilshalo
That was damn_crazy how airborne he got -eek-
I can't imagine what he hit on the track that propelled him 15 feet off the ground, doing 5 - 6 flips.. lucky he landed upright n his wheels.

It doesn't take much to get a car airbourne at 175 mph. Just a tiny bit of lift on the front end..

Look at those jet boat races. Those things are always flipping due to high speeds and a little bit of lift.

BDB 04-24-03 11:39 PM

Wow, the cockpit stayed together well

Blake 04-24-03 11:47 PM

I guess he's just lucky he landed right side up...although the sturdiness of those cars are amazing - either way he'd probably be good.

mljones99 04-24-03 11:55 PM

i saw this on ESPN tonight and all I have to say is wow...

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