America’s Racing Trinity
Twenty years after they hung up their helmets, their names remain synonymous with the sport they carried to new heights. A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti, and Richard Petty rose to fame just as the American media – print, radio, and, crucially, television – began to legitimize auto racing. The timing was perfect. In Foyt, Andretti, and Petty, the nation found characters as compelling as any in sports or entertainment.
Foyt was all Texas, John Wayne in a fireproof suit, stomping into Victory Lanes from Indianapolis to Le Mans. Andretti, who’d sailed from Italy with his family at age 15, struck for all outsiders the same yes-you-can chord sounded by another Italian-American, the great Frank Sinatra. Petty, the genial North Carolinian who signed autographs until the last fan went home, put a smiling Andy Griffith face on the American South, no small feat in the tumultuous ’60s.
They crossed paths often, on the track and in the headlines. Take 1967, which opened with Andretti beating NASCAR’s best at Daytona, peaked with Foyt’s third Indianapolis 500 win, and ended with a record 27 victories for Petty. Or the three-season stretch from 1977-79, during which Foyt became the first four-time Indy winner, Andretti earned the World Driving Championship, and Petty captured a landmark Daytona 500.
They even throttled back their careers in near-unison, Petty in 1992, Foyt in ’93, Andretti in ’94. Today all three are revered; as they walk through crowded pit areas, people step back to make way. Charisma never ages.
This is no mere three-act biography. Laced with quotes from first-hand interviews with Foyt, Petty, Andretti, and their peers, and spiced with period accounts from the motorsports world and the changing social landscape, this is award-winning author Bones Bourcier’s history of modern American automobile racing as refracted through the lives of three extraordinary champions.