The Indianapolis Star from Indianapolis, Indiana on May 28, 1994 · Page 80
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The Indianapolis Star from Indianapolis, Indiana · Page 80

Indianapolis, Indiana
Issue Date:
Saturday, May 28, 1994
Page 80
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S22 THE INDIANAPOLIS STAR SATURDAY, MAY 28, 1994 "MMMnrai St i MARI0' & the 10' through i Uie years ; 19 6 5 J Car: Dean Van Lines Ford : Start: 4 Finish: 3 Notes: Driving for Al Dean in his rook-! ie effort, Mario qualifies for his first ; Indianapolis 500, gaining the fourth ; starting position at an average speed 1. of 158.849 mph. Mario finishes third ',- tn completing the 500-mile distance ; : and is voted Rookie of the Year. 19 6 6 Car Dean Van Lines Ford ; Start: 1 Finish: 18 Notes: Mario earns first Indianapolis i : 500 pole position at an average speed ', Of 165.899 mph, a qualifying record. (n race, leads 16 laps; engine failed. 19 6 7 i. Car Dean Van Lines Ford Start 1 Finish: 30 Notes: Mario takes his second straight ;' pole position at an average speed of '. 168.982 mph, a qualifying record. ; Loses wheel in race. f: 19 6 8 Car: Overseas National Airways Ford ; Start: 4 Finish: 33 , 'Notes: Driving a Ford entry he owns, ; Mario qualifies fourth, fastest of the ' new turbo-Fords, at 167.691 mph. ' Burns piston in race. 19 6 9 ; Car STP Oil Treatment HawkFord Start: 2 Finish: 1 Notes: Driving Andy Granatelli and Colin Chapman's revolutionary four- wheel drive, wedge-shaped STP Lotus ' . turbocharged-Ford, Mario practices at ' 160.5 mph. But a broken right-rear ; hub causes Mario to crash later in ' ; practice. He switches to the year-old ; STP Hawk. Mario starts second, leads 116 laps, wins by almost two laps over Dan Gurney. Record average speed of 156.867. He receives famous kiss from Granatelli in victory lane. 1 9 7 O ' Car: STP Oil Treatment .' McNamaraFord '; Start: 8 Finish: 6 : Notes: Completes 199 laps. 19 7 1 Car STP Oil Treatment McNamaraFord Start: 9 Finish: 30 Notes: Accident in race. 19 7 2 ; Car Viceroy ParnelliOffenhauser Start: 5 Finish: 8 Notes: Completes 194 laps; out of fuel , while fifth. 19 7 3 Car Viceroy ParnelliOffenhauser Start: 6 Finish: 30 . Notes: Burned piston in race. 19 7 4 Car: Viceroy ParnelliOffenhauser Start: 5 Finish: 31 Notes: Broken piston in race. 19 7 5 Car: Viceroy EagleOffenhauser . Start: 27 Finish: 28 Notes: Accident in race. 19 7 6 Car CAM2 McLarenOffenhauser Start: 19 Finish: 8 Notes: Driving for Roger Penske, Mario turns in the fastest qualifying speed of 189.404 mph. But it occurs on the second weekend of time trials, as Mario drove in the Belgian Grand Prix the previous weekend. Mario's speed tops pole winner Johnny Rutherford's 188.957, but he starts 19th. Completes all 101 laps in rain-shortened event. 19 7 7 Car CAM2 McLarenCosworth Start: 6 Finish: 26 Notes: Mario drives the first 200-mph . lap during official practice, going 200.311 mph at 5:44 p.m. Broken header takes car out of race. 19 7 8 ! Car Gould Charge PenskeCosworth Start: 33 Finish: 12 Notes: Mario turns in an unofficial : track record of 203.482 mph during . practice the day before qualifying begins to make him the pole favorite. .' But time trials May 13 and 14 are ; rained out and Mario cannot qualify ; the second weekend because of a ' conflict with the Belgian Grand Prix. ", Mike Hiss later qualifies the car for : Mario, who must start 33rd. Completes 185 laps. ,1980 ! Car Essex PenskeCosworth Start: 2 Finish: 20 Mario's Robin Miller He owns a Lamborghini Diablo, a Lamborghini Countach, Mercedes 600 SEL, Chevrolet Cor- L. and Fdrd van. He has a full-time pi lot to fly his Lockheed Jetstar 731 and operates a trio of Hanna Auto Washes. He is wealthy and successful beyond the wildest imagination of any boy, especially an immigrant from Italy. But there is one very valuable thing money can't buy Mario An-dretti time. "If I could make a deal with somebody and buy five or six years of their life, I would," said Andretti, in the 54th year of his life but the last as a race driver. "I'm happy I'm doing it because it's something that makes sense at this point but don't get me wrong ... 1 wish I didn't have to retire. "My whole life, all I remember is preparing for races ... I don't know any other life. And what scares me is that nothing else really excites me." Since he came sliding onto the scene in a sprint car in the mid-60s, Andretti has been exciting anyone who ever respected the skill and bravado required to excel at motorsports' highest levels. From the high banks of Salem and Daytona to the road courses of Europe, through the streets of Long Beach, on the dirt at Springfield, up Pikes Peak and back, and to Indianapolis, nobody has sustained speed any better, or longer. "What I've always respected about Mario is that he's a racer," said A.J. Foyt, who is fairly familiar with that subject. "He liked to run midgets, sprints, stocks, he's done it all." M-a-r-i-o .... he sounded fast the first time you heard his name and he didn't disappoint. He's won Indy-car races in four decades, totaling 52 and is second only to Foyt. He scored 12 Formula One victories, three times he's won at Sebring and he triumphed in his debut at NASCAR's promised land of Daytona. He's a four-time Indy-car champion and earned the 1978 world driving title. Andretti is the only driver to "My whole life, all I remember is preparing for races ... I don't know any other life. And what scares me is that nothing else really excites me. Mario Andretti VICTORY SMOOCH: Right, team owner Andy Granatelli plants a kiss on Mario Andretti's cheek after he wins his first and only Indy 500. File Photo r5 Sp eeaway jinx Mario has just one Victory Lane visit in 28 Indianapolis races. By Robin Miller STAR ASSOCIATE SPORTS EDITOR It's beyond belief that in all his magnificent moments of the past 31 years. Mario Andretti has only visited Victory Lane once at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Burned pistons . . . ignition failure . . . spinning cars . . . broken headers ... all these things have contributed to the Andretti curse during his 28 previous starts. But, Ironically, Mario's only winning May looked like a disaster right up to the checkered flag. "It was a crazy month from every standpoint," Andretti recalled of 1969. fast times come to a cbse ever win the Indianapolis 500, Daytona 500 and F-l championship. It's hard to argue he Isn't the greatest ever. "What a real champion," marveled Dan Gurney, a longtime rival and friend of Andretti's who held his own on both continents. "Ever since Mario went to Europe and won the Formula One championship, I've called him 'champ' and I really mean It. "He's made his mark in histo- ry." Richard Petty was NASCAR's king, seven times in the record books and forever with the fans, but he recalled Andretti's impressive infringement on his hallowed ground. "He came to Daytona (in 1967) and wins our biggest race ... I was always glad he decided not to stay with us," said Petty. Three-time Daytona champ Bobby Allison has always been awed with Andretti's versatility. . "A lot of us concentrate on Just one thing and I tried some other things, but nobody's done it like Mario," said Allison, who raced at Indy for Roger Penske. "He is Just so good at all types of racing." But as successful as he's been all over the globe, Mario's legacy began here, at 16th & Georgetown. Actually, it started in the midwest when he ran a sprinter for Rufus Gray on the lethal United States Auto Club circuit. In those days, a big-time lndy driver ran everything . . . midgets Friday night, sprinters Saturday and Milwaukee Sunday. "It was the time in my career I felt I needed to be there and test myself. Rufus gave me the opportunity to race against the likes of Jud Larson, Don Branson, Roger McCluskey and Foyt," recalled Andretti. "I didn't have the best car, but it was a good one, and I was competitive with those guys." Clint Brawner liked what he saw and hired Mario to run the Dean Van Lines roadster Trenton in 1964. They came to Indy in 1965 . . . the cantankerous mechanic with the straw hat and the raw, ragged-edge rookie. "Clint could be pretty abrasive but he was a great mentor and Just the stabilizing force I needed in those days," said Andretti. "Remember, I had driven one race 1L 'V-" The month opened with Andretti running a 4-wheel-drive Lotus for Colin Chapman and Andy Granatelli. That particular project wound up against the fourth-turn wall in a fiery crash caused by a defective right-rear hub. Those revolutionary cars were withdrawn, which put Mario in Clint Brawner's year-old Hawk. "Looking back, it was probably good I crashed that thing because we were popping everything and it was dangerous car," Andretti said. "It would have been very unreliable because we had a two-speed gearbox for the race and that thing was so weak, we used to pop gears In 15 laps. "I was aided by the fact the first weekend of qualifying was rained out because I would have qualified that Lotus and it would fcave been lethal for me in the race.' Although he managed to qualify second fastest, Andretti wasn't too on a mile oval and to go from midgets and sprints to Indy cars was the biggest jump of my life. "I was all guts and determination but you talk about rattling Inside. I had never sat in a rear-engine car until I started taking my rookie test. In those days, we didn't test or have ROP (Rookie Orientation Program) and we were not prepared! I had no idea. "But I felt I was with one of the top three teams and luckily the car worked well. I never looked back." Instead, he was looking to the front, qualifying fourth, finishing third and becoming rookie of the year. His average speed was 158.849 mph and how far you drove past the 1 marker on the front straightaway before braking for the corner separated the men from the boys. "Nobody knew anything about springs, shocks, camber or stagger back then ... all we did was jack weight," said Andretti. "You could muscle a car a little more because the speed wasn't as great and the driver could have a little more input on superspeedways by risking and getting the car out of shape. "In those days you were drifting and fighting that SOB every inch of the way through the corners, sliding all the time, I was working that turkey. I was Just as much on the edge, or more, then than I am now. "The biggest pressure for a rookie here was being pushed out to qualify with all those people . . . you could see someone's character. And if I got one message it was that I should respect this joint, that's one thing I've never lost." But, despite leading more laps in competition than anyone except Al Unser and starting eight times from the front row (three on the pole), one of Indy's greatest performers has only been to Victory Lane once (1969). The Andretti Curse at Indy is right there with Lloyd Ruby, the Bettenhausens and the Novi. Two straight poles in 1966 and 1967 wound up with back-to-back mechanical failures. The 1981 Indy 500 was awarded to Mario the morning after Bobby Unser was penalized before Unser was reinstated four months later. In '85, he led 107 laps but finished second to Danny Sullivan, who spun but didn't hit the wall or lose a i 1 optimistic. "I figured we were Just going through the motions because we never intended that car to be for the superspeedways," he said. The Brawner-Hawk had suffered overheating problems at Phoenix the month before and even a big, extra radiator couldn't keep keep things cool. "We figured this thing wouldn't go 10 laps and you cannot imagine the temperatures it was running during the race," said Andretti. "How that thing ever stayed together, I'll never know." Besides his engine temps, Mario's other chief concern was Lloyd Ruby. "I cooled it at the start and nobody ever got away from me and I could deal with Ruby," Mario said. "Then, he raptured his fuel tank during a pit stop on Lap 106.': Andretti was unchallenged the f A haunts Andretti lap. In 1987, he won the pole and was two laps ahead in the race when a valve spring broke after leading 170 laps. However, those personal daggers through the heart were nothing compared to 1992. "It was my worst moment," he admits. "I crashed and I'm lying there in the hospital when I hear that something serious has happened to Jeff. That was a ravaging feeling, I never felt like that in my whole life. "The only glimmer of hope was to have Michael bring it home. A doctor knew I was down and he kept coming in to tell me Michael was leading. I was fogged up with painkiller and I dozed off. When I woke up, I asked a nurse who won. "She said, 'Do you really want to know?' It was a devastating day." Of course, there have been some really wonderful memories. Finishing behind Parnelli Jones and Jimmy Clark in his first Indy 500, his first Indy-car win at Indianapolis Raceway Park, the shocking victory at Daytona, winning the Long Beach Grand Prix . . . it's a long list. But nothing was better than watching his family Join the business. Mario and Michael run 1-2 on Father's Day at Portland in 1986, then become teammates in 1989. Michael, Mario and nephew John run 1-2-3 at Milwaukee in 1991 and all four Andrettis qualified for Indy in 1991. "At Pocono in 1986. Jeff sat on the pole and won the ARS race. Michael was on the pole for the Indy-car race and I ended up winning it ... we cleaned house in our own backyard. As a father, that's one of the highlights of my life," said Mario. "Racing has kept our family a lot closer because we have so much in common. We're not going in different directions." Michael is dad's mirror Image In a race car relentless, fearless and never satisfied unless he wins. He stole the old man's thunder as the patriarch went from 1988 to 1993 between wins. Mario can still go plenty quick, as evidenced by his spirited chase with Nigel Mansell last year at Michigan. "I used to go for everything," he acknowledges. "A few years ago, I'd watch Michael and I'd see myself but not anymore. I know that I'm not what I was, that some of the things I had are not there anymore. "I know I'm not as quick as I was, but I know I'm quick enough to Justify being in it. I know that some aggression has gone and I guess It's inevitable you lose some motivation. Because I'm not up front as much, I'm not enjoying it as much." Andretti isn't sure what he'll do after '94, but while nothing can replace the thrill of driving a race car, it's doubtful anybody will ever challenge all the marvelous things he's done. Indy cars will lose its last real gunfighter, while sportswriters will lose their last great quote. Mario was racing's most eloquent spokesman, the guy who could put anything into perspective and articulate it. He thrived in the dangerous '60s, sped to worldwide stardom in the '70s, ushered in the aerodynamic '80s and bowed out in the '90s. "When I was in my late teens 1 just hoped I could make a living driving race cars," he said. "To me, that was the perfect life and anything else that came along was obviously the bonus. "I have no bitterness, no unfair feelings or whatever. I appreciate everything that's happened to me . . . it's been a privilege to be a professional." And it's been a privilege to watch Mario Andretti, as well as know him. rest of the race winning by two laps. "It had to be my day, it really did, because the car was a mess . . . the gearbox was carbonized, it had all the oil out of it. and the engine ran hot all day," he said. Andretti's great race was sealed with a kiss from his 300-pound car owner. "There's a great story about that which deals with Andy that very few people know. It was in my contract that If I won Indiana-polls, or the national title, he would have to double my salary," said Andretti, who was getting a $200,000 retainer in those days. "So when I pulled into Victory Lane and took off my helmet, he leaned In grinning and said, 'You m Despite the fact only AjJ. Foyt has more Indy-car victories, it would be Andretti's only one at . the Speedway. , .. ... MARIO & THE throughX . trie years Notes: Mario starts from the middle of the front row, leads 10 laps, but engine failure drops him to 20th place. 19 8 1 Car: STP Oil Treatment WildcatCos--worth Start: 32 Finish: 2 Notes: After the first qualifying weekend is rained out, Wally Dallenbach qualifies eighth fastest at 193.040 mph while Mario competes in Formula One. Mario replaces Dallenbach and starts 32nd. Mario leads 12 laps, finishes second. He is ruled the winner when official results are posted at 8 a.m. the next day because of a one-lap penalty to Bobby Unser. On Oct. 8, a USAC panel changes Unser's penalty to a fine and declares him the winner, with Andretti second. 19 8 2 Car STP Oil Treatment WildcatCos-' worth Start: 4 Finish: 31 Notes: Eliminated in Kevin Cogan-A.J. Foyt tangle at start; teammate Gordon Johncock wins using Andretti's tire. 19 8 3 Car Budweiser LolaCosworth Start: 11 Finish: 23 Notes: Driving in first Indianapolis 500 for NewmanHaas Racing, Mario hits Turn 1 wall after Johnny Parsons Jr. spins in front of him on Lap 80. 19 8 4 Car: Budweiser LolaCosworth Start: 6 Finish: 17 Notes: Mario is the first driver to practice over 210 mph, on May 9, going . 210.575 mph. Mario leads 29 laps, has contact with Josele Garza on pit lane, and finishes 1 7th. His son, Michael, is co-Rookie of the Year. 19 8 5 Car. Beatrice LolaCosworth Start: 4 Finish: 2 Notes: Mario is fastest on Carburetiort Day at 209.937 mph. Mario leads 107 laps, barely misses Danny Sullivan's , "spin and win" in Turn 1, and finishes second. : 19 8 6 Car NewmanHaas LolaCosworth Start: 30 Finish: 32 Notes: Starts at rear after practice . accident in qualified car; knocked out. of race by mechanical problems. 1 19 8 7 Can Hanna Auto Wash Lola-Chevrolet Start: 1 Finish: 9 4 Notes: Mario sets quick time in prac-J tice. It's the fourth year in a row Mario is fastest on the day before pole qualifying. Mario captures his third pole ; with an average speed of 215.390 j mph. He leads 170 laps, before a brrr ken valve spring drops him to ninth i place. j 19 8 8 Car: AmocoKmart LolaChevrolet Start: 4 Finish: 20 j Notes: Ignition problems knock Maria out of race. 19 8 9 j Car KmartHavoline LolaChevrolet Start: 5 Finish: 4 Notes: Mario leads one lap, finishes fourth. 1 9 9 O I Car KmartHavoline LolaChevrolet '. Start: 6 Finish: 27 Notes: Speedway history is made May, 6 when four family members are on the track at the same time in practice Mario and older son Michael are in KmartTexaco LolaChevrolets, '; younger son Jeff in the Amoco LolaCosworth, and Mario's nephew John in the Pennzoil LolaChevrolet. Jeff qualifies at 210.268 mph to mark; the first time four family members complete qualifying attempts. Jeff later is bumped, but Mario, Michael and John all start. Out of race with engine; problems. . 19 9 1 Car KmartHavoline LolaChevrolet 1 Start: 3 Finish: 7 i Notes: Leads 22 laps; engine prob- 1 lems; son Michael 2nd, son Jeff 15th (Rookie of the Year), nephew John 5th 19 9 2 Car KmartTexaco LolaFord-Cosworth Start: 3 Finish: 23 Notes: Leads 1 lap, suffers toe and ' foot injuries in a Turn 4 accident. 19 9 3 Car KmartTexaco LolaFord-Cosworttj Start: 3 Finish: 5 Notes: Mario is edged by Arie '. Luyendyk for theole, but gets his eighth front-row start, and third in a I row. Leads 72 laps. i

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