The Driver Suit Blog-Jeff Andretti…A Promising Career Cut Short

eurosport94By David G. Firestone

The name Andretti is to racing what the name Ruth is to baseball, Jordan is to basketball, Unitas is to football, and Gretzky is to hockey. Between Mario, Michael, Marco, and John, the Andretti family has wins in many different forms of auto racing over a lengthy period. It was with the same expectations that Jeff Andretti, Mario’s son, and Michael’s younger brother started his racing career in the 1980’s. In 1986, he scored his first win, at the 1986 Indy Lights race at Pocono. He followed that in in 1987 with two wins, one at Phoenix, the other in Miami. He had a decent Indy Lights career until 1990, when he went to CART. His career in CART seemed to be taking off in 1991, where he had 4 top 10’s.

Then came the 1992 Indianapolis 500. That race could, at best, be considered a caution-fest. There were a total of 13 cautions for 84 laps over the course of 200 laps. So 42% of the race was run under caution. Lap 115 brought out caution #10, when Andretti and Gary Bettenhausen crashed coming out of turn three. Safety crews needed 18 minutes to cut Andretti out of the car, and he was sent to the hospital with two smashed legs.

That is the kind of wreck that, if it doesn’t end a career, will hamper it, and Jeff was no exception. Although he would return to racing, any chance of a great racing career was long over. After that race, Andretti would only attempt two more CART races, before moving back to the Indy Lights series in 1995, then the North American Touring Car Championship in 1996, then to the Craftsman Truck Series in 1999, before retiring, and becoming a driving instructor.

Jeff’s last grasp as a CART driver came at the 1994 Slick 50 200, at Phoenix. He started 27th, and finisned 17th while racing for the AGIP / Hawaiian Tropic Lola / Ilmor for Antonio Ferarri’s Euromotorsport. One of his crew members wore this Pyrotect pit crew firesuit.eurosport94This single-layer suit shows some light wear, not surprising for a pit crew suit worn for one race.

The collar has a PYROTECT patch across the Velcro closure.eurosport94-collarThis is why I love old open wheel firesuits, instead of one large sponsor across the front torso, there are a series of small sponsor patches in a grid formation, along the white and blue stripe.eurosport94-rchest1 eurosport94-rchest2 eurosport94-lchest1 eurosport94-lchest2The suit has no belt, and unadorned legs with standard cuffs.eurosport94-legs

The shoulders have unadorned epaulets on them.eurosport94-rshoulder eurosport94-lshoulderThe right sleeve has STP, GOODYEAR, and CAN BALANCE logos present, and no television logos.eurosport94-rsleeve1 eurosport94-rsleeve2The left sleeve has an SFI patch, indicating the suit has a 1 rating, which would provide the wearer with the most minimal of protection, 2 seconds at most.eurosport94-lsleeve1 eurosport94-lsleeve2The back has an unadorned neck, and a gusset surrondung the AGIP logo, and the stripe containing the smaller logos.eurosport94b eurosport94-neck eurosport94-blogoPit crews face serious risks every single day, and unlike this suit, which would provide the most minimal of fire protection, especially in CART, which had a well-known history of pit road fires, the suits that crews wear need to be specifically designed to protect them from fires. How this is done is accomplished through a number of ways. Next week, I begin a huge project concerning those pit crew suits.

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