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 The Granatelli Lotus which had looked to be the class of the field was withdrawn along with two other Lotus 64s due to worries about their fragility.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
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