1 / 11

Mario's Luckiest 500

Mario Andretti’s name became so entwined with bad luck at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, it spawned a tongue-in-cheek noun: the Andretti Curse. In 1966, Andretti, 26 years old, was favored to win. He placed his car on pole, only to blow a cylinder after a few laps. The following year, his efforts were doused by a slipping clutch, and his race ended when his car lost a wheel. The year after, engine failure on lap one.

For a while, at the biggest race in the country, it seemed as if Mario couldn’t do anything right. Then, 50 years ago, in a Brawner Hawk-Ford, he won his first and only 500. The triumph followed a crash in practice that destroyed his car and burned his face. But Andretti persevered, qualified on the front row, then dominated the race. Earlier this year, we sat down with him and a handful of images from 1969. Here’s how Mario remembers his greatest day at the Brickyard.