Motor Racing: Andretti's last lap

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AFTER all the lush tributes from his fellow drivers, the essence of Mario Andretti's final race was perhaps best captured with the words on a young woman's T-shirt.

'We'll Miss You, Mario,' it said.

Mario Gabriel Andretti, an Italian immigrant who for decades has been one of the world's most popular drivers, sped around an IndyCar track for the last time on Sunday. It was his 407th IndyCar race - another of his many records.

'I'm just going to have to find out if there's life after driving after all,' he said after a 31-year career ended at Laguna Seca Raceway. 'You notice I'm keeping my (racing) suit on. I may sleep in it tonight.'

The 54-year-old could not even finish his final ride. His race began with an accident on lap one and ended with engine failure just four laps from the flag.

Andretti won IndyCar races in the Sixties, Seventies, Eighties and Nineties. He captured four IndyCar titles, winning 52 races - second only to A J Foyt's 67 victories. He also won a Formula One title, the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500.