You don’t need to be a racing fan to know the name Mario Andretti. Arguably one of the most accomplished and iconic American race car drivers of all time, Mario Andretti has had a long and storied career, taking the checkered flag 111 times over the course of five exciting decades.
Mario’s story begins in 1940 in Montona, Italy (modern day Croatia), where Mario and his twin brother Aldo were born. The Andretti family left in ’48 as refugees after Montona’s annexation, and in 1955 the Andrettis made their way to America, where they settled in Nazareth, Pennsylvania.
Mario and Aldo’s fascination with cars and racing first developed in Italy, but it was in Nazareth that their early childhood love for motorsports really had a chance to blossom. After discovering a nearby dirt track, the twins, along with a group of friends, fixed up and took turns racing a 1948 Hudson Hornet Sportsman. Much of this was done in secret because the boys’ parents didn’t approve of racing, and an early injury sustained by Aldo nearly put the kibosh on the whole thing. Nevertheless, Mario drove in his first official race in 1959, and in just two seasons he won 20 races behind the wheel of a stock car.