Andretti looked good at age 75 though the thickness of his mid-section might prevent him from climbing into an Indy Car these days. He courteously was posing for photographs and signing autographs for a continuous line of fans who seemed thrilled to meet him.
I was lucky enough to meet Mario back in 1969. I had just gone to work at a radio station in Indianapolis and met Andretti, his team owner at the time Andy Granatelli, and a couple of astronauts at a cocktail reception in a hotel suite a short while before race day. Another news reporter and I got the bright idea to get everyone's autograph on a check blank. I had that check with the four autographs for some time before it disappeared. (SWMBO said when I reminded her of the story yesterday, "Oh! I was just thinking of Antiques Roadshow!)
It might have been a collectors' item because Andretti won the Indy 500 that year. Granatelli planted a kiss on his driver's cheek in the winners' circle.
Neither Mario nor any of the many members of his racing family have ever won the Indy 500 since that day and rumors say it is because of this kiss, now known informally as the Andretti Curse.
As Mario was being interviewed by Prescott Daily Courier reporter Doug Cook yesterday, I caught a glimpse of Andretti's socks.
After the interview, I got his attention saying "Nice socks, Mario!"
He grinned and then he laughed as I pulled up my pants leg to show him MY colorful Funky Socks.
Mario Andretti - nice guy.
You can read my friend Cook's article here.