What’s It Like Out There?
By: Mario Andretti with Bob Collins; Publish Date: 1970; Publisher: Henry Regnery Company (Chicago), Hardcover, 282 pages
The first book in my review series is by the driver who I consider my “Number 1” sports hero, Mario Andretti. Mario came on to the national scene in the mid-1960’s and quickly established himself as a force to be reckoned with. As a young auto-racing fan I was fascinated by his personality and driving style while watching the races on television. He captured my imagination and I’ve been a life-long fan of his ever since.
After the 1969 season, Mario collaborated with writer Bob Collins, sports editor for the Indianapolis Star, to tell Mario’s amazing story, culminating with his 1969 Indy 500 win. What’s It Like Out There? was published 50 years ago, and this was my first reading of the book. It chronicles Mario’s upbringing with his twin brother Aldo, and their love of cars. It talks about how the Andretti family endured life in war-torn Italy and the brutal aftermath of World War II. Mario’s father then made the brave decision to immigrate the family to the United States. Mario and Aldo then found themselves as teenagers in Nazareth, Pennsylvania. Little did they know that the move would open doors of opportunity that were only dreams until then.
The book describes their first racing exploits and Mario’s climb up the racing ladder, and then focuses on his top-line professional career from 1964-1969. Mario’s major achievements in that short span is phenomenal: 1969 Indianapolis 500 Winner; 1966 and 1967 Indianapolis 500 Pole Position; 1965 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year; 1965, 1966, and 1969 USAC National Champion; 1967 Daytona 500 Winner; and winner of the 12 Hours of Sebring with co-driver Bruce McLaren in 1967. That’s a whole career worth of success right there in six years. Amazing!
I’m glad I found this book to add to my vintage racing bookshelf. It’s refreshing to read about this portion of Mario’s career and in particular this era of auto racing from his perspective. It’s fresh, detailed, and comes from his heart. Bob Collins interjects his humorous flare that adds to an incredibly enjoyable read. I encourage you to read it yourself!