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Biofile Mario Andretti Interview

By Scoop Malinowski

This Biofile interview is presented by Online Casino Snoop

Status: Auto racing legend. Winner of Indianapolis 500, Daytona 500 and Formula 1 world championship. One of only three drivers to have won races in F1, Indy Cars, NASCAR and World Sportscar Championship (Dan Gurney and Juan Pablo Montoya are the other two).

DOB: “My twin brother Aldo and I were born in Montona, Italy on Feb. 28, 1940. [WWII] broke out around the time we were born. Even when the war ended, there was no peace because the borders were in dispute, as they always are following war. In 1945, our town (Montona) was ceded to Yugoslavia as part of the post-war political settlement and we were trapped inside a Communist country. In 1948, we decided to leave Montona.

Our first stop was a central dispersement camp in Udine. About a week later, we were transferred to a refugee camp. For seven years, from 1948 until 1955, we lived in the refugee camp in Lucca. Then our request for U.S. visas came through and we moved to America, arriving June 16, 1955 on the Italian ocean liner Conte Biancamano (arrived into New York Harbor). That was the day we began our new life in the United States. My parents, me, my brother and my sister. I was 15 (and we had been in the refugee camp since I was 8). My dad had exactly $125 in his pocket to start our new life here. And none of us spoke English. We settled in Nazareth, Penn. with an uncle.”

Childhood Dream(s): “It was in Italy that I developed a love of car racing. In those days, motor racing was more popular than any other sport in Italy. And the world champion at that time was Alberto Ascari — my idol. One of my fondest memories is the sports car race called the Mille Miglia, a 1,000-mile lap of Italy. One of the segments ran through the Abetone pass, near Florence. Every year, my twin brother and I would watch from the side of the road. Back home, we’d talk about nothing else for weeks. In 1954, we were invited to go to Monza for the Italian Grand Prix. I was only 14-years-old, but I went to that race and the die was cast. I wanted to be a racer. If I couldn’t be a racer, I’d like to have been a fighter pilot.”

Childhood Heroes: “Race drivers Alberto Ascari and Stirling Moss.”

Favorite Movies: “The one I really enjoyed as a kid was To Please A Lady with Clark Gable and Barbara Stanwyck. It was about a racer. I was so impressed when I saw it in Italy in about 1951. The title in Italy was Indianapolis.”

Favorite TV Shows: “I watch every race — Formula One, Champ Car, IRL, motorcycles, NASCAR.”

Favorite Music: “Opera. I think it’s the most exaggerated expression of feeling. My interest in opera came as the result of being exposed to it. I was 13 or 14-years-old, living in a refugee camp in Lucca. The theater in Lucca would hire extras and my father would take jobs as an extra to make additional money for our family. When he was hired, our family was given free tickets — way up in the peanut gallery. So, I would attend the operas in which my dad was appearing as an extra. I was not forced to go, I loved it. And the early teens are such impressionable years. Opera was also something we heard all the time on radio. It was quite common in our house.”

First Job: “Working at my uncle Louie’s Sunoco gas station in Nazareth, Penn. (age 15). Aldo and I alternated days — I’d work one day, he’d work the next.”

First Car: “My first brand new car was a 1957 Chevrolet. My father bought it for my twin brother and I when we were 17. That car was my love. It was a red two-door, with a white hardtop. We had that car until late 1961 when I got married. Although 175,000 miles later, it was still a cream puff. A great car.”

Favorite Meal: “I have hundreds of favorite meals. I was hoping you wouldn’t ask me to pick [smiles]. Usually my favorite meal is my last one.”

Favorite Ice Cream Flavor: “I love a real true chocolate Gelato.”

Favorite Vacation Spots: “In the U.S., it’s the Poconos. Outside the U.S., Istria (now part of Croatia) would be my favorite place to vacation. I think the best kept secret in the world is Cape Town, South Africa.”

Hobbies/Interests: “Flying my ultra-light, snowmobiling, playing tennis, motorcycling.”

Favorite Racetracks: “I love Monte Carlo, Kyalami (South Africa), Indianapolis and Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis.”

Greatest Career Moment: “1978 Formula One World Championship. I clinched in Monza, Italy.”

Most Painful Moment: “When my best friend and teammate Ronnie Peterson was killed on the same day I won the World Championship. It was so ironic. So unfortunate in every way. Obviously it could have been the happiest moment of my life. Turned out to be one of the saddest. Tough to celebrate under those circumstances.”

Closest Friends from Racing: “The Unsers, Paul Newman, Carl Haas.”

Funniest drivers: “To me, the one guy who could crack me up like no other was Graham Hill. A wonderful, neat guy with a sense of humor you could never expect. He was a proper British guy with the accent. Graham Hill was just genuinely funny. I think he could have been a stand-up comic anywhere.”

Toughest Competitors: “Well, I’d say — when I broke in in Champ cars — Foyt, the three Unsers, Jackie Stewart, my son Michael, Niki Lauda, Dan Gurney. They were exceptionally tough. Exceptionally good — in my opinion.”

Embarrassing Racing Memory: “Long Beach Grand Prix 1977. This was really embarrassing. The morning of the race, I came down with the runs. I had diarrhea. All I had, I think, [was] Mexican food the night before. Before the race, I just couldn’t hold it. I came out of the car — it was too far away to make it all the way to the bathroom in one of the convention buildings. So I went in one of those outhouses. I’m in there and I stand up and look outside and there was a line of people to get my autograph. It was so embarrassing. Honest to God, I came out I was so embarrassed.”

Funny Racing Memory: “Believe it or not, it was in 1977, I won the Italian Grand Prix. I fell asleep in the car on the grid (just prior to race start). We jumped in the cars, waited the five minutes for the signal. It was really relaxed. Then they gave you the 30 seconds. Suddenly everyone started their engines, I wake up, What the heck?!? It was right in that time in the afternoon — so relaxed I fell asleep [smiles]. And I was on pole. The mechanics laughed. They couldn’t believe it.”

People Qualities Most Admired: “I think I always admire intelligence — someone who can think and articulate eloquently. Someone who may have an alternative way of thinking, but can articulate his/her point effectively. I like, I appreciate people with quick wit, a strong work ethic. Most of all people with integrity. That’s the most important quality, in my opinion.”

Career Accomplishments: Indianapolis 500 winner in 1969. Daytona 500 winner in 1967. Formula One world champion in 1978. Four-time Champ Car national champion in ’65, ’66, ’69, ’84. Competed in 879 races from 1961-2000. He has accomplished 111 wins and 109 poles in all forms of motor sports. He’s also the first driver in history to win Formula 1 and Champ Car titles.

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