Men's Lifestyle

Indy 500 Winners Andretti, Unser Jr., Franchitti, Mears – “What Would You Tell Your 20-Year-Old Self?”

Thanks to the Verizon IndyCar Mobile app by Verizon, we went #InsideIndy at the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500. While attending the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” we asked four former winners – 1969 winner Mario Andretti, two-time winner Al Unser Jr., three-time winner Dario Franchitti, and four-time winner Rick Mears – the same question: in hindsight, what’s the one thing you would go back and tell your 20-year-old self?

Mario Andretti

Mario Andretti is an icon whose last name, and brand, has almost outgrown his legacy as arguably the greatest driver of all-time.

“I would say, just be patient at the start of anything, not just racing.”

After so much success and such an expansive legacy, it’s easy to overlook the fact that Andretti and his twin brother, Aldo, came to the United States from Italy as refugees.

“I was brought up in a very non-conventional way, being born just when the second World War broke out. Being a refugee in our own country — as we were occupied by Yugoslavia — and then coming to America at age 15. And really with my twin brother Also, we just had one thing, one passion, one desire, and that was to pursue motor racing. And that’s what we did immediately. Never had a ‘plan b.’ We had no idea where this was going to end up. But perseverance, I think, paid off in many ways.”

“I wasn’t looking to build a brand – I was just looking to have a career. And to try to personally satisfy myself. And the rest takes over; it either happens or it doesn’t.”


Al Unser Jr.

Al Unser Jr. had huge shoes to fill. His father, Al Unser, won the Indy 500 in 1970. His uncle Bobby also won the Indy 500, in 1968. “Little Al” outdid them both though, winning the race two times; in 1992 and 1994.”

“Patience. Just patience – it’ll come. That’s about it, really. Patience means you settle down, you have confidence in yourself. Patience is what I would advise my 20-year-old self.”

When asked his top speed, Unser Jr. said the fastest he’s ever driven a car was an insane 253 MPH.

“To be honest, once you get above 200, 210 you’re straight hauling ASS – you’re flying. It truly becomes just a number at that point.”

Dario Franchitti 

Dario Franchitti won the Indy 500 three times – in 2007, 2010, 2012.  The British race car driver He is also a four time IndyCar Series champion Franchitti started his career in his native United Kingdom in the early 1990s,

“Don’t stress so much; it will all work out,” is what he said he would tell his past self.  Franchitti called IMS “The most difficult track in the world.”

“Success comes down to hard work, attention to detail, and who you surround yourself with – your teachers and the people you work with. And as hard as you work, as much as you prepare and focus, sometimes, it just comes down to whether it’s your day or it’s not. There’s only so many things you can control.”

Rick Mears

The absolute king of Indianapolis Motor Speedway is Rick Mears. Not only because he won four Indy 500’s (tied with A.J. Foyt for most ever), but he also survived two nearly fatal car crashes – one that almost melted his face off and required plastic surgery, and another that crushed both his feet and lead to nine months of rehabilitation.

“Don’t do anything any different. There has been so much more that happened than I had ever even dreamed of. I never dreamed of making a living at racing, it was a hobby. And it just snowballed and took it’s own course. I never dreamed of being here at Indianapolis, never dreamed of driving an Indy car – that was way out of my league. I’ve been so much more fortunate than I ever would’ve dreamed. There’s always a little something here or there you may do different at a younger age, but I can;t really say I’d tell my younger self to change anything.”

“The love of doing it is what it boils down to. If you really love what you’re doing, the reward outweighs the risk. You always dig deeper at something you enjoy doing, than if you’re doing something you don’t that’s just human nature.”

“As far as the accidents as long as I knew what happened and I knew what caused it then it was absolutely no problem to get back into the car. After I got burned in the fire, and then later when I crushed my feet in 1984, that was a long road to recovery there — I was in hospital for 3-4 months, wheelchair for five months — but as soon as the accident was over and I saw both of my feet there, I knew I was going to be in a car again. As long as I knew what caused the mistake, if it was me or if it was something on the car that broke, I knew I could fix it.”