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Racing great Mario Andretti would love more Indy-NASCAR crossovers

Mario Andretti speaks to the media during a press conference at Darlington Raceway on May 12, 2023, in Darlington, South Carolina. (Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

DARLINGTON, S.C. (AP) — Racing great Mario Andretti is excited about NASCAR champion Kyle Larson’s attempt to run the Indy 500 and Coca-Cola 600 in May 2024.

Andretti spoke at Darlington Raceway on Friday, on hand to watch driver Nick Sanchez run in the truck race in a throwback paint scheme of Andretti’s car that won the Daytona 500 in 1967.

Andretti said he’s long been an advocate of drivers testing themselves at other disciplines. And who knows that better than the 83-year-old Andretti, the only racer to win a Daytona 500, an Indy 500 in 1969 and the Formula One World Championship in 1978.

He’s won 111 races across several disciplines in five decades of racing.

Andretti was a prime draw for NASCAR’s annual throwback weekend, where the sport’s 75th anniversary will be celebrated. Andretti believes talented drivers can grow all of motorsports by displaying their skills at different venues.

“I think it’s so great for the sport in general to have this crossover,” Andretti said.

No driver has attempted the Memorial Day double of racing 500 miles at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and following that up with 600 miles at Charlotte Motor Speedway since Kurt Busch in 2014.

Busch finished sixth at the Indy 500, but came up short of finishing the 1,100 miles with a blown engine in the NASCAR race.

Andretti, who ran 14 NASCAR races, recalled chatting with stockcar greats like the the Allison brothers, Donnie and Bobby, and Cale Yarborough about doing more open-wheel events.

Andretti remembered how drivers known for Indy racing like four-time 500 winner A.J. Foyt running in NASCAR.

“It was awesome,” Andretti said. “It was good for all of us.”

Andretti liked that seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson tried his hand at the NTT IndyCar Series in recent years.

Andretti thinks Larson has the skills to do as well at the Indy 500 has he has in NASCAR, where he’s won 21 times including the series title in 2021.

“We all know how versatile Kyle can be,” Andretti said. “We’re all one, big happy family.”