Few racing names transcend the sport to resonate with almost anyone on the street. One of those is Mario Andretti.
Indy 500 champion. Formula 1 world champion. Daytona 500 champion. If it has four wheels, Mario has probably been there, won that. But despite all his success and fame, Indianapolis remained somewhat of a fickle beast throughout his career. Time and time again, Mario seemed poise to get that elusive second victory to follow his first in 1969, but something always seemed to go wrong, and Tom Carnegie would belt out that famous announcement once again, "And Mario is slowing down..."
Perhaps Mario had no better chance to win than in 1987. His Lola Chevy was the dominant car all month, and ultimately sat on the pole with a speed of 215.390. Then he dominated the race like few ever have. Through 177 laps, he had led 170 and had a one-lap lead over second place, and a two-lap lead over third place. In fact, there were only 12 cars left in all.
Then, misfortune struck again.
An electrical failure in the fuel metering device, part of the fuel injection system, began flooding the engine with raw fuel. And Mario is slowing down...
He managed to coast back to the pits where his crew replaced a spark plug and wastegate, but despite the tremendous lead, it took too much time and Roberto Guerrero took over the lead. Disaster struck Guerrero shortly after, however, when his engine stalled during a pit stop. That gave the lead to Al Unser Sr., who went on to win his fourth 500 in one of the greatest upsets in race history. His car had been a showcar literally weeks before. More on that in a future installment.
I built this version of Mario's '87 ride a few years ago from the AMT Lola Chevy kit. Painted with Tamiya Italian Red and finished with Indycals.