One of Mario Andretti’s commitments during the Indianapolis 500 weekend was working with Mattel and Hot Wheels, as Hot Wheels presented the “World’s Best Driver Championship.” Hot Wheels put together a one-mile long slot car track on the front straight of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and Andretti and nephew John served as a coach for the young kids.
We’ll let the 1969 Indianapolis 500 champion take it from there, in a phone interview he did with MotorSportsTalk Friday morning.
“They always want to do things and in a big, impressive way. Here, they certainly came up with another one,” Mario said. “They wanted to put together the longest slot track in history, a 1-mile oval that was laid out right on the front straightaway at Indianapolis. You had more than a thousand pieces and wheel boosters, and it was an incredible thing.
“So they needed some coaches. My nephew John and I were two of the four coaches. It was fun, great to prepare the kids,” he added. “The best part for them? They were in awe of everything. John and I told them how important it is for them. It was a shot of a lifetime and the kids are all nervous. We got them onto the brink of crying!
“Everything was building up, all the pressure, and the anxiety building up to the start. The kid I was coaching had had a slight problem with the start. We led for a while and then, oh gosh, but we were second. Everybody was a winner; we were in victory lane with chocolate milk. The winner’s wreath was around their necks. I guarantee these kids will never forget this.”
Andretti, a legend and icon in every sense of the word, felt it was important to help pay it forward to expose the sport of IndyCar racing to them and help pique their interest to become greater fans.
“It’s a great opportunity to be involved and it’s why I love working with Mattel,” he said. “To help create a lasting memory for these kids and, as you say, it helps to build the new generation of fans. We’re there just sharing the excitement. I would love to be part of planting a seed in for a new generation of race fans.”