By Frank Santoroski, Staff Writer
One of the more iconic images in auto racing is the familiar helmet design utilized by the Andretti family. Starting with a simple silver helmet, with a strip of red tape on the side, Mario Andretti added a wide red stripe over the top of the helmet in the 1970s. The stripe ended in a point above the visor, and it represented the logo of then-sponsor, Viceroy cigarettes.
Andretti liked the design and stuck with it for the rest of his racing career. When son, Michael, began a racing career of his own, he adopted his father’s helmet beginning a family tradition.
Michael added a furled American flag around the base of the helmet in 1993, signifying his status as the lone American competing in Formula One at the time. Michael kept the flag on the helmet after returning to IndyCar racing, and it became his trademark as he set the all-time record for wins in the CART series.
When a third-generation Andretti driver, Marco, hit the tracks, he adopted his father’s helmet design, opting to change the red stripe to green. He later changed the green to blue, and a few other features popped up, again at the bequest of sponsors.
With the historic significance of the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500, Marco has brought the design full-circle back to its beginnings.
Utilizing the helmet that Mario wore in 1969, en route to victory at Indianapolis, as a template, Marco Andretti had a retro helmet designed to wear during the 2016 month of May.
Perhaps it will be the lucky charm that he needs to take home a win, perhaps not. Time will tell. Either way, the helmet is a fitting tribute to his beloved grandfather.
Images: Marco Andretti (via Twitter)