Mario Andretti named honorary race official of Daytona 500
On the 50th anniversary of his shock victory in NASCAR’s centerpiece event, Mario Andretti will serve as honorary race official for the season-opening race of the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup season.
Andretti’s duties for the 59th edition of “The Great American Race,” will include being introduced at the drivers’ meeting, participating in pre-race ceremonies, riding in one of the parade cars and taking part in question-and-answer sessions in fan hospitality areas and the UNOH Fanzone.
In this latter area, a replica of Andretti’s 1967 DAYTONA 500-winning #11 Holman-Moody Ford Fairlane will be on display on Daytona 500 Weekend.
“It’s an honor to host Mario Andretti for the Daytona 500,” said track president Chip Wile. “Mario is part of an exclusive club of champions at the ‘World Center of Racing’ and arguably has the most recognizable name in the entire history of auto racing. His victory here in 1967 has grown to legendary status and is truly one of the most significant moments in the history of the speedway and our community.”
Indy car legend and ’63 Indy 500 winner Parnelli Jones, who ran Andretti from 1972 through ’75 in Indy car racing, was also a three-time starter of the Daytona 500. He recalled of Mario’s classic Daytona win: “When Mario won the 1967 Daytona 500, it was pretty much a one-man win; his team even held him on the jacks during his final pitstop, trying to keep him out of Victory Circle. Mario was teammates with Fred Lorenzen, and Mario was not a Southern boy like Fred or most of the other NASCAR drivers in the race.
“A lot of the drivers and some NASCAR officials said Mario was dangerous, and was going to crash driving a car so 'loose'. What they didn't know was that 'loose' was the fast way around Daytona, and Mario had great car control. We already knew how good he was, having won two Indy car championships.
“He just outdrove them and he won it on his own, with no help needed! Open-wheel racing knew Mario was a keeper, and after that, NASCAR knew it, too. Mario is one of the great all-time drivers in any car he drives, and his Daytona 500 win sure proved that to everyone."
Andretti also raced in the ’66 Daytona 500, in a Smokey Yunick-prepared Chevrolet Chevelle, and in ’68 he returned to Holman-Moody to race a Mercury Cyclone.
Andretti and A.J. Foyt are the only drivers to have won both the Indianapolis 500 and the Daytona 500.
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