The Michigan Daily - SPORTSMonday - Monday, December 12, 1994 - 3
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The racing legend talks about his career
Mario Andretti, one of the most
successful auto racers in history,
has recently decided to retire -
somewhat. After many years - in
some spent racing against his sons
- the Andretti name has become
synonymous with auto racing all
over the world.
Introduced to racing by his uncle
at an early age, both he and his twin
brother Aldo were immediately
hooked. They went to work in ga-
rages to learn everything they could
about car mechanics.
Forbidden 'by their parents to
race, Mario and his brother had to
keep their racing accomplishments
t.) secretforoverfouryears. They were
finally forced to tell their parents
when Aldo was seriously injured in
an accident in theirAmerican home-
town of Nazareth, Penn.,that left
him in a coma for over three weeks.
Aldo eventually retired in 1969, af-
ter another near-fatal crash.
Mario's achievements will long
be remembered, as will those of his
sons Michael and Jeff, and his
nephew, John. Michael has been the
most successful of the three, and he
and his father have raced against
each other on numerous occasions.
Mario's first world champion-
ship came in 1978 with the Newman/
Haas Racing Team. His numerous
championships include the India-
napolis 500, the Twelve Hours of
Sebring and the Daytona 500. He
has raced in over 15 countries in-
cluding South Africa, Sweden and
Mario Andretti is still racing,
but at the age of 54, he has decided
to take a break to spend time with
Daily Sports Writer Julie Keating
recently spoke to Andretti, during
which he shared his thoughts on his
past experiences, future plans and
deep love and support for his sons
Daily: How did you get involved
in auto racing?
Andretti: Racing was something
that caught my eye from the very be-
ginning, and it was always something
that I wanted to pursue. As far as get-
ting started, it was not until my family
moved to this country in 1955.
I was 15 then, and I began work-
ing in garages, which is where I
seriously started getting involved in
By 1959 my twin brotherAldo and
I started driving locally here in Penn-
sylvania. The funny thing is that we
were forced to keep it a secret for a
number of years, until Aldo was seri-
ously hurt in an accident.
D: Did you have any role models
when you were growing up?
A: Oh, yes. The current world
champion at the time was Alberto
Ascari, and that guy was my hero
and quite an inspiration for me.
And of course, as you go on and
grow older, there are many people
over the years that inspire you.
People that you respect and people
that represent your values are those
who you choose to emulate.
Like I said, there are many people
that have meant a great deal to me
and have given me guidance
throughout my life.
D: What is one of your fondest
memories of your racing career?
A: My world championship per-
haps was one of the most exciting
moments of my career, but there
were many events surrounding it
that were not pleasant. I lost my
teammate in that very race, in Italy,
where I clinched the World Cham-
There were a lot of mixed emo-
tions for me of course, but at the
same time, it was something that I
and off the track
had been striving for. So again, that ing ad
was a favorite memory of mine, that Th
I hold very close, for a number of we are
D: Obviously auto racing is not create
one of the safest sports. What do cockp
you think about safety, and how do done,
you think it can be improved? accum
A: Well, first of all, yes, I agree as to th
anks to today's technology,
e able to understand much
including what is needed to
safer environments in the
its. Many tests have been
and a lot of data has been
ulated that gives information
he type of force that is created
but there was a lure there, and I defi-
nitely encouraged them to try it.
From my stand point, there are
always mixed emotions about this
sort of thing. But as long as it is
strictly their choice, then I will sup-
port them in every way. As a father,
I always encourage them, whether it
be with racing or anything else in
D: How are you enjoying your
retirement so far?
A: Well, the retirement is not
exactly what everybody thinks it is.
I am not retiring and laying back to
smell the roses; not yet. It is not like
that at all.
I have only decided to retire from
a small phase of my career. I will
still be driving some long distance
races, and will continue to be very
active in the business aspect of my
life. So it is not a retirement really.
D: Do you know what your plans
will be for the future, or possibly
your next appearance?
A: Well, again, I choose to just
sit back from that standpoint and
just look at the opportunities that
will be coming my way. I will defi-
nitely assess everything before I take
a new direction.
I would definitely like to be in-
volved in another capacity of racing;
possibly a team owner or something
like that in the future. That is such a
great undertaking, and at the moment,
it is not really an option, yet it is some-
thing that does excite me a lot.
It is certainly part of my plans
for the future. Whether that will
happen next year or the year after
that, I don't know. That is pretty
much the way I am looking at things
D: When you were younger, did
you ever think you would be as
successful and as famous as you are
A: No, I don't think you could
ever plan for anything like that. You
can only hope for a certain degree of
success, because that is something
that you always strive for through-
out your life.
As far as the end result, there is
no way you could ever predict or
expect that you could achieve cer-
tain standards. So you know, every-
thing that comes, you learn to really
appreciate a great deal.
The one thing that racing has
taught me is that you never take
anything for granted, ever. Believe
me. You must never end your search
to attain the great things in life.
GET CUT FROM
Go where the
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Here's to the Heisman
Trophy's simpler days
You can just picture it - a 40-plus pound bronze sculpture - getting
dusty while propping open a door in an Illinois house. The mounted
bronze man lunging forward; one arm cradling a ball, the other stiff-
arming a miniature opponent.
The place? Jay Berwanger's aunt's house.
The hardware? The first-ever Heisman Trophy.
There's something charming about that story. In a time of otherworldly
sports heroes, it's nice to envision a fantastic piece of history in a humble
It was before magazines made gridiron stars, before tailbacks took
out million-dollar insurance policies on their knees, before universities
signed Nike contracts. Fifty-nine years ago, New York's Downtown
Athletic Club named Berwanger the nation's top college player (only
those east of the Mississippi were eligible; only Eastern sportswriters
Although he was the first college player to be drafted by the NFL, Jay
"Pardon my French."
Berwanger did not go. In those days winning the
Heisman Trophy - he won it in 1935 - did not
translate into a lucrative pro contract. Berwanger
might have received a contract similar to Chicago
Bears standout Bronko Nagurski's $7,000 deal. But it
was in his best interests, he decided, to go into
business for himself.
What would life have been like had he won the
award in another time?
"Someone asked me the difference in the
Heisman today and when I won it," he said at Jim
Plunkett's 1970 ceremony. "I said the difference was
between nothing and a million dollars."
And today? Berwanger said this year's winner,
Colorado running back Rashaan Salaam, should
make "a hell of a lot of money," he says, adding,
with you. The sport does have its
inherent danger to it, but today it is
so much safer than before, mainly
because safety was never really ad-
dressed directly before.
I think that the general percep-
tion was that if you are going to
embark in this sort of thing, you
were going to accept all the risks
that were thrown at you.
There are many areas today that
are being improved, I would say, by
being smarter, talking about it and
demanding that certain standards be
met. I also feel that I have been
around long enough, that I feel a
part of the movement that has made
the sport safer today.
Not only from the standpoint of
safer cars, but also safer circuits
that we drive on. I would like to
think that today's driver has a much
better chance of surviving and com-
pleting their careers than before.
But by no means have we reached
the optimum. There is always more
that can be done and improved upon,
and fortunately these areas are be-
in a crash.
Later on, we can study this infor-
mation in order to develop test mod-
ules and such. Also, the sanctioning
bodies have made these types of
tests mandatory, along with the
(building) of new chassis being ac-
cording to (safety) regulations.
So what I am saying is that you
are always learning new things.
Something can always be improved,
and many of these things are being
incorporated into today's racing to
make it a lot safer than yesterday's.
Progress is being made continu-
ously, which is good for the drivers
because they are the ones who get
all the licks.
D: How have you influenced your
sons, Mike and Jeff, in their racing
A: Well, of course, they have
been exposed to the sport through
me, and when it came time for them
to plan for the future, both my sons
and my nephew, wanted to pursue
Itcould have been justthe opposite,
The best part about winning the award was his first airplane ride, the three-
stop trip from Chicago to New York. "That was a big thrill," Berwanger says.
In fact, Berwanger has said that he achieved no real notoriety until the
adoption of television by the American public. That became the "instant
replay" of every event, including the live announcement of the Heisman
winner. It was television that made the statue's pose famous.
"The Des Moines Register took a picture of me that had that very same
pose," says the 80-year-old man, "but the sculptor never admitted that he saw
it or looked at it. My wife said it was me because my socks were down around
my shoe tops."
Berwanger insists that despite the shoe scandals and drug charges, college
teams are not in moral decline. "I don't think they have any problems that
they didn't have since the beginning of football," he says.
Berwanger is right about that. After all, the game itself - and the people
who play it - essentially is the same. It is the way fans react to it that's gotten
out of whack.
We no longer allow our college football heroes humility. Desmond
Howard, the 1991 recipient, will never go back to being a college sophomore.
Instead, the phrase "Heisman Trophy winner" will adorn his name like a
prefix. No matter how fast he falls in the NFL, he'll always be a kind of sports
Last week on ESPN, there was an advertisement for the awards ceremony
that said, "Lettermanjackets are for mortals."
Yes, they are. But so are Heismans.
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