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Uncensored CΛRT Commentary
by Ed Donath

et tu Mario?

ATHENS, NY—One can only assume—if one strives to afford CΛRT’s best-known personality, current board member and all-time favorite driver his deserved modicum of respect plus the benefit of any doubt—that Mario Andretti’s recently-cited remark in a Curt Cavin/Steve Ballard article was used out of context by the two employees of that increasingly anti-Champ Car Indianapolis newspaper/website.

This excerpt from the referenced article contains Mario’s surprising comment:

…But the 1969 Indianapolis 500 winner told The Star this week he will end his boycott of the IRL if series president Tony George adds road racing to the schedule.

“As soon as the IRL becomes diverse, it will be a totally different story with me,” he [Andretti] said.

The how, when and where of what Mario actually “told the Star”—specifically, the wording of the question for which answer-only is provided in the previous text—is the subject of an e-mail sent to Cavin and Ballard on 3/14/03. Unfortunately, to date, my simple Alex Trebec-like query has not been acknowledged.

Giving Mario plenty of wiggle room, it is, nonetheless, disturbing to think that he would make off-the-cuff remarks and/or accede to an interview that might be published sans transcript in a medium with such a decidedly IRL-oriented readership. Obviously, hometown supporters of the Speedway and f-inheritor would love to have the gloating rights that would accrue if the acknowledged ambassador of our beloved speed sport were to re-join Michael and the other CΛRT sell-out legends at Indy and other venues.

But even if Mario had quietly and discreetly started showing up for Mikey’s race weekends he would be sending a message that, at best, condones crossover support of the avowed enemies of Champ Car racing. At worst, Mario would be setting himself up as an unwitting drawing card/PR agent/propaganda shill whose fame could help lure potential customers to the IRL—and away from CΛRT.

That would certainly be antithetical to the mission statement Mario updated as recently as the day he was appointed to the Champ Car Company’s board last year when he said:

"I am proud and honored to join CΛRT's Board of Directors and hope to assist the current board in helping CΛRT attain the status that it deserves in motor racing…It has always been clear that my heart is in CΛRT and it will be my pleasure to help the series to grow."

Mario’s recently publicized head-shaking and his boycott of Michael’s IRL exploits and “sudden” allegiance to the inheritor of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway really shouldn’t come as that much of a shock to the elder Andretti. On an old notebook page headed Road America – 1998, I discovered the following conflicting Andretti family press quotes:

Michael: "For the next five years I'm under contract to Carl Haas so I'm not going anywhere. But if he (Haas) decided to go to IRL next year, I'd do that."

Mario: “You can't tell me that motor racing, open-wheel racing, is better today because of the IRL. The IRL damaged it to an incredible level.”

While Mario Andretti obviously means well and continues to believe that his role as Champ Car racing proponent is undiminished, the negative press that continues to be generated by the so-called rift between he and Michael has become increasingly intolerable in this precarious racing economy. Sadly, the time has come for Grandpa Chris and the board to issue an ultimatum.

Copyright © 2003 by Ed Donath and Deep Throttle. All Rights Reserved.

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