Mario Andretti with his winning car after the 1969 Indianapolis 500. Andretti’s car was a Hawk III-Ford,
using the famous four-cam Ford Indy motor. Andretti had qualified in the middle of the front row, along with A. J. Foyt, on pole, and Bobby Unser. Although Foyt led for a time, Andretti led for 116 of the 200 laps and set a record fast time for the race. Andretti’s car was entered by the innovative STP Oil Products CEO Andy Granatelli. This was Mario Andretti’s only victory at Indy, and it came the hard way.
Granatelli had had two years of severe disappointment at the 500 with his earlier turbine cars retiring with minor mechanical problems when in the lead and within a few laps of taking the checkered flag in both 1967 and 1968. During practice for the 1969 race, a hub failed on Andretti’s Lotus 64 four-wheel-drive Ford-powered racer and Andretti suffered minor facial burns in the fiery crash. The Granatelli Lotus which had looked to be the class of the field was withdrawn along with two other Lotus 64s due to worries about their fragility. The Hawk was Granatelli’s year-old backup car and it did the team proud, seen below on its way to victory.
The race itself was not without concerns for Andretti and Granatelli. The Hawk suffered from overheating and an external radiator, installed after qualifying, was rejected by the USAC technical crew so another was installed behind the seat instead. Then the transaxle became questionable late in the race, but held together until the flag.
The final and most amusing aspect of Andretti’s win was created by Granatelli who dashed to Victory Lane after the finish and planted a kiss on his driver’s cheek.
Photos by Vicente Alvarez ©The Klemantaski Collection – http://www.klemcoll.com
To see more photos from our archive go to: http://www.klemcoll.com/TheGallery.aspx
Mario Andretti, the guy who in 1968 was guest driver for Lotus Team for
Watkins Glen and not only replaced the late Jimmy Clark but actually put
the care on pole position.!
To best of my memory it was his first visit to that track and ride in that car. Quite
an introduction to Grand Prix racing, Some guy !
Thanks, your great photo and attached narrative are great!
Sent from my iPhone
Thank you for this well-written and informative KlemColl post on Mario Andretti’s 1969 Indianapolis 500 win, and for the two fine period photographs that accompany it. The narrative details expressed concerning his winning car’s performance and haunting ills during the race are captivating.
I recently spoke with Mario for an 8-page feature article I wrote entitled “Mario @ Indy” which was published in the May/June 2017 issue of Vintage Motorsport print magazine. I have copied here a section of that text for your readers’ interest in Mario Andretti’s 1965 rookie year at Indianapolis, as he related it.
>>Looking back to 1969 at Indianapolis where Mario drove the STP Clint Brawner Hawk for owner Andy Granatelli to lead 116 laps of the 200, Andretti says, “That was the second race there that I actually finished, and I won it.” Mario’s only Indy win remains huge in his life. … As we reminisce, what’s intriguing is Mario’s take on the very first time he set foot, and wheels, on the Brickyard’s 2.5-mile racing oval. It was 1965, his Indy 500 rookie year. “I had my fingernails down to the bone,” he says, a smile in his voice, “because there were two weeks of practice before qualifying in those days, and my car only arrived the Wednesday of the second week. But the part that really got to me was when I went out to qualify—the first time I would be on the track at Indy by myself with two hundred thousand people looking on and seeing the grandstands all the way around up through Turn Two, and I figured, ‘Oh my God, all those people!’” It’s honest to say he’s never gotten over the emotional high of being there. The end of Mario’s Indy 500 drives wouldn’t come for another 28 starts after that 1965 Rookie of the Year third place finish behind Jim Clark and Parnelli Jones.<<