Speedway Style: Marco Andretti on Racing, Fashion and Why DWTS is Not in His Future

Marco Andretti, IndyCar

Marco Andretti

You never forget your first time.

Deep growls reverberated throughout my body. My pulse quickened and I could nearly taste the adrenaline rush. The deafening groans were almost too much to take as the sleek bodies hugged the curves — and then it passed and for a moment and I could breathe again. My first Indy Car race. I would never be the same.

It was my first time at the Long Beach Grand Prix, where in addition to feeling the visceral excitement of racing for the first time (TV does not count), I spotted Marco Andretti posing graciously and confidently with two of his many adoring fans. It was evident why racing and style are such seductive bedfellows and why Andretti, who hails from one of racing’s most illustrious families, is considered one of the sport’s top ambassadors. Straight out of the gate in 2006, Andretti finished second in his first Indianapolis 500 in the second-closest finish in 500 history and was named Rookie of the Year. Later that year, Andretti won at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif. at just 19 years old. He has since finished top five in the Indy 500 five out of the last nine years.

While IndyCar racing has always been considered the kind of sexy sport that attracts high-end sponsors who capitalize on the industry’s equally sexy cars, camera-ready drivers (both men and women now) and high-octane action, what is newer to IndyCar racing has been luxury fashion and accessories companies stepping into the mix — both with sponsorship of the cars and collaborations and partnerships with the drivers. This past year we saw Detroit-based heritage and watch brand Shinola as a major sponsor of the Detroit race and  Izod, William Rast have also been past sponsors and luxury watch brands such as LAPIZTA and B.R.M. (Bernard Richards Manufacture) have collaborated with IndyCar drivers for exclusive lines. (Read more here).

Promoting the upcoming series finale at Auto Club Speedway outside Los Angeles, Andretti took the time to chat with Fashion Trends Daily from his home in Pennsylvania and give us a look into what it’s like to be one of racing’s hottest names and style arbiters — and why he thinks he’s just too boring for reality TV. (For the record: We beg to differ! How boring can you be if you vacation with Ludacris and can say that Ice-T and Coco’s dog King Maximus fathered your bulldog?!)

Read on for our fun chat with Andretti!

Fashion Trends Daily: I went to the Long Beach Grand Prix this year, and I saw firsthand how gracious you were with fans before the race, posing for pictures, giving autographs. Have you seen a change in the type of IndyCar fan coming to the track during your career? 

Marco Andretti: You know what’s funny? I’m not sure I see a difference in the fans, but I see in difference in myself. I’m often misperceived because I have a million things going on in my head at the racetrack. So I’ve been really working on myself and working on being more graceful with fans.

FTD: Fontana is this weekend. The last race of the season. You were on the podium once again at Indy this year, and were a threat in all three 500-mile races last year. What’s your edge? 

MA: The 500s are really mental races. In the past, I’ve taken to the ovals quite well, but this year I don’t think I’ve done as well as in the past. We have go back to the drawing board, I think. But having it be my ninth year, knowing what I need from the car and knowing where the car is going to go is [key].

FTD: You’re considered to be among some of racing’s most stylish drivers. We’ve really seen fashion taking more of a center stage in racing, from both sponsorships and collaborations with the racers. We saw Shinola watches at Detroit this year, and we’ve seen William Rast a couple of years back and Izod used to be the series sponsor. Do you think we’re going to see more integration of style at the speedway?

MA: All I can say is I hope so. [Dan] Wheldon did a great job of doing this with his involvement with William Rast and he was a perfect ambassador of style. I think if we can just emulate Dan’s style …

(Sadly, Two-time Indy 500 winner Dan Wheldon passed away in October 2011 in a crash at the Izod IndyCar World Championship at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.)

FTD: I saw that you have your own watch. How did that collaboration happen?

B.R.M. by Marco Andretti

B.R.M. by Marco Andretti

MA: I have to give [IndyCar driver] Simon [Pagenaud] credit for that (Read more here). He was wearing a B.R.M. [Bernard Richards Manufacture] watch and I asked him and said ‘You have to give me your contact.’ So, I got in contact with them and said ‘Would you be willing to talk to my agent?’ Normally, I’m just focusing on the racing, maybe I need to get better on the marketing. There’s a year two edition coming out for my watch. It will be another 30 pieces.

FTD: How is your preparation different for a 500-mile race than one of the shorter ovals? 

MA: I think just maybe the approach. My approach mentally is different because you have longer time to execute. Maybe you don’t force the issues like you would with other races.

FTD: You had a couple of races this year when your engine just went out on you. During the Texas race, I was amazed at how calm you seemed to be when you were getting out of the car. What’s going on in your mind when the engine is on fire behind you?

MA: The first thing is making sure I’m able to get out and get disconnected with the radios, and then once you know you’re safe, the frustration sets in. We were on a charge early and then that was that. We’ve had three Honda failures this year…It’s been really frustrating, but we’re just really trying to keep our nose to the grindstone.

Marco Andretti's Car

FTD: Let’s talk about something really important: Hollywood. You’re consistently mentioned as one of the best looking guys in racing. Have you been approached for any TV shows?  

MA: It actually happens a lot. I’ve even had people on the Kardashian side approach me. I’ve done a few cameos … some I regret. [laughs].

FTD: What about Dancing With The Stars? Helio [Castroneves] did it. Would you do it if they came calling?

MA: They’ve tried for three years. I’m not the greatest story to follow. When you’re dedicated to your craft, you’re boring. But that really fit Helio’s personality to a tee.

FTD: I heard that Mr. Chow was listed as one of your favorite restaurants. Are there any other places or activities that are on your must list when you are in L.A.?

MA: I always have to make a point to go to Katsuya. I love the job Katsuya does, and I’m a big fan of BOA. We’re going to try Hyde and Katana, BOA’s other Japanese spinoff.

FTD: Last year, much was made about the fact that you had changed your driving style so that you could be more competitive on road courses. It seemed to work. Do you revisit your driving style at the end of every season? 

MA: I try to at the end of every race. I’m always working on my craft and trying to see how I got beat and why. We have to find where we lost our edge on the ovals. Last year I was extremely dominant and that dominance has left us, so if we’re going to go for the championship next year we have to improve.

FTD: Best of luck to you on the last race of the season!

MA: Thank you!

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Author:Michelle Dalton Tyree

Fashion Trends Daily is the brainchild of Michelle Dalton Tyree. She is the former West Coast Retail Editor for Women’s Wear Daily, Fashion Editor for The Japan Times, and founder of former L.A. luxury boutique Iconology. Michelle is frequently quoted about fashion retail trends in major media outlets such as NPR, KPCC, The Inside Source and the New York Times. She has developed content for many luxury brands and retailers and has written for Allure, Worth Global Style Network, Footwear News and other media outlets.