1987 Indy 500 pole winner Mario Andretti

IndyCar News: CART Alumni hold annual conference (Update)

CORRECTION: There were minor edits to the last two paragraphs of this article below regarding plans for when the next time the CART Alumni may meet.

January 20, 2024 

The CART Alumni recently had their annual Zoom conference to reconnect with old friends and reminisce about the CART IndyCar era.

In attendance were 55 former CART officials, safety crew members and people who held other jobs within the series. The 3-hour-long affair was a way to get the alumni together and share recent stories and tell a few of the old ones.

Paul Leyton, President of the committee, ran the meeting with help from several other committee members, including Gene Axtell, current Vice President, Brett Crabtree, Terry Dale, Billy Kamphausen, Bill Luchow, Jay and Suzy Hodge and Ray Dock.

A list of alumni that has passed away this year was read.   A video tribute to Annette “Peppy”Dallenbach, Wally Dallenbach Sr’s wife, was played to all the members.

Wally Dallenbach Sr.
Wally Dallenbach Sr. raced in the Indy 500 in the 60s and 70s.

Peppy volunteered for the Colorado 500 for over 40 years. Started by her husband Wally, the event was an annual ride with fellow motorcyclists through Colorado started in 1975.

The original group of nine riders included fellow drivers, Bobby and Al Unser.  By 1987, the event became a charity event, providing scholarships and grants to local schools and students.

Special Guest Speaker – Mario Andretti

The special guest speaker was the charismatic Mario Andretti, winner of the Indianapolis 500 in 1969, the 1967 Daytona 500, the 1978 F1 World Driving Championship, the 1979 IROC Championship and over 100 races.

Andretti drove IndyCars during the USAC and CART eras.

The 83-year-old showed up in his 1994 Newman Haas driver’s suit and joked about his Lola parked outside.

1991 AJ Foyt and Mario Andretti
1991 AJ Foyt and Mario Andretti

Andretti was asked a question regarding going wheel to wheel at 200 MPH against his son Michael.  “The only one that was worried about how dangerous it was my wife.  As far as Father and Son, we were not honestly going to do anything stupid against one another.  Believe me, we did not give each other an inch.”

“As a matter of fact, on the slower corners on the road courses, DeeAnn used to go crazy because if there was an overtake, it was never clean, it was always touching wheels.  We were taking no prisoners, you could see that.”

“Like in 1986, Michael was leading at Portland and the last couple of laps, he was having a fuel pickup problem.  So my engineer was screaming in my ears and saying, “stand up on it”.  So it came down to a drag race to the finish line and I beat him by 0.007 of a second.”

1992 Mario Andretti and team owner Paul Newman
1992 Mario Andretti and team owner Paul Newman

“My wife says, “ You know it is your son.  How could you do that to him?”.

“And I replied, very easy, no problem.”

“And it was Father’s Day.”

“In 1992 in Milwaukee, Michael won, my nephew John was second, and I was third.  All three of us were on the podium.  The sport has been so rich with so many wonderful family memories”

1967 Daytona 500 winner Mario Andretti with wife Dee Ann
1967 Daytona 500 winner Mario Andretti with wife Dee Ann

The Italian talked about the Indy 500 and the fact that four Andrettis qualified in 1991 and 1992.  His nephew John joined Mario, Michael and Jeff on the grid.  That never happened again after that.

Mario Andretti completely dominated the 1987 race, but a broken valve spring with 13 laps to go gifted the win to Al Unser Sr.
Mario Andretti completely dominated the 1987 race, but a broken valve spring with 13 laps to go gifted the win to Al Unser Sr. Andretti’s engineer that year? None other than F1 design guru Adrian Newey.

It was great to listen to Mario talk about his racing career and share his stories with the group.

After Mario’s appearance, the rest of the group continued to talk between themselves for another hour and a half.

The CART Alumni committee would like to thank Mario for sharing his stories with us.

In sticking with having an onsite conference every other year, there will be a conference in Indianapolis this October.  Stay tuned for the dates and the location to be announced soon.

There is a rumor that there might be an activity organized by committee members when the NTT INDYCAR Series returns to the Milwaukee Mile this Labor Day weekend for a double header on the historic oval.

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