Three Indy car drivers – two current and one a retired legend – were all at Phoenix International Raceway on Feb. 27, a day before their shared birthday. For two, it was cause for celebration. The third, though, may not feel like throwing a party on Feb. 28.
Mario Andretti, noted as one of the greatest race car drivers of all time with 52 Indy car wins including the Indianapolis 500 in 1969, turns 76 today. He was born in Montona, Istria, Italy, before his family immigrated to the United States.
Andretti spent his birthday eve welcoming celebrities and dignitaries into his “office,” taking them around the 1.022-mile oval at speed in the INDYCAR Experience two-seater. As usual, Andretti left his riders beaming from the excitement and the opportunity to meet one of the legends.
Sebastien Bourdais, born Feb. 28, 1979, in Le Mans, France, received an early birthday gift. On Feb. 27, a day before he turned 37, it was announced that the four-time Indy car champion and seventh all-time race winner (34) has signed a one-year contract extension to drive for KVSH Racing in the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series with Hyrdoxycut as a co-primary sponsor on the No. 11 Chevrolet.
“Yes, a nice little birthday gift,” said Bourdais, who planned to spend his birthday quietly at his St. Petersburg home with his wife and two children.
Jack Hawksworth, however, may not be so eager to blow out the candles to celebrate his 25th birthday today. The native of Bradford, West Yorkshire, England, wasn’t in great spirits after crashing his No. 41 AJ Foyt Racing ABC Supply Honda during the final practice session of the promoter test at Phoenix as teams and drivers gear up for the 2016 season opener, the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, on March 13.
“We came into Turn 1 and the car just got loose,” Hawksworth said. “I caught it, but by that time it had all the lateral force and just took me into the wall. I don’t know what happened, but we snapped and that was it.”
Maybe Hawksworth can take solace in the fact that he shares his birthday with two Indy car greats.
“It’s a super day,” Andretti said. “February’s a good month, actually.”
Indeed. Among the other greats of the sport who celebrated birthdays in February were: Anton “Tony” Hulman, who purchased Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1945; Roger Penske, who has more Indy car race wins and Indianapolis 500 victories as a car owner than anyone; and Indy 500 winners Bobby Unser, Graham Hill, Floyd Roberts and George Robson.