Honda Racing / IZOD IndyCar Series / RacingLine
Back behind the wheel: Mario returns
Mario Andretti, 63, has been a fixture in the Andretti Green Racing garages as the Honda-powered team prepares for the 87th Indianapolis 500. In a test in late April, Mario ran the No. 11 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda driven by Tony Kanaan.
"Mario is a big part of us starting up front," said Kanaan, one of three AGR cars among the top five starters. "He's been with me all weekend, giving me tips. Having him around has meant everything to me."
Wearing a broad smile and his son's racing suit, Mario Andretti tested Kanaan's car at Indy for much of April 23. In his first full-speed run in an Indy car in nine years, Mario went as fast as 224 mph.
"This was a huge thrill," Mario said. "It's something that certainly wasn't planned and certainly doesn't carry any further than this. For me, it's dealing with a challenge. I usually don't back away from a challenge, so here we are."
The day ended with a spectacular crash, but Andretti was not injured. "I'm very blessed," Andretti said. "The man upstairs has been taking care of me for so many years, I can't see him giving up now."
Kanaan gave much of the credit for the team's success to Mario, who tutored Kanaan in the days leading up to the front-row qualifying run.
"He called me 'champ' in Italian," Kanaan said. "I don't think he calls anybody else that. It gave me an extra boost to go and do well."