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Uncensored CΛRT Commentary
by Ed Donath

Mario: Worst Case Scenario
4/30/03

ATHENS, NY—It would be an understatement to say that I continue to be torqued over Andretti family high jinx at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last week. Even more aggravating is the pusillanimously casual manner in which CΛRT pundits and talking heads—including Grandpa Chris himself—shrugged the whole sordid affair off as just another adventure in the life of their favorite fuzzball racing legend.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a family-oriented person myself, and I certainly don’t begrudge a man the opportunity to enhance a relationship with one of his children in any manner possible.

Nor does it bother me when chronologically “old guys” (sadly, that shoe fits this Cinderfella as well) attempt to prove that they can still do it as well as they did when they were much younger. I’m actually inclined to root for their success and to adopt them as my heroes, as was the case a few years ago when George Foreman—born within hours of this renegade scribe—mounted his successful comeback for the Heavyweight Championship.

In my more objective moments, I can even approach understanding the economics that propel any given Champ Car driver or team owner to make a foray into the ranks of f-inheritor—the younger Andretti included.

Furthermore, I continue to be grateful to Mario Andretti for his presence in and support of Champ Car racing—especially after Mikey’s defection—including his recent success at helping to patch the rift between Road America and CΛRT. Certainly, my sentiments echo those of Chris Pook’s in that regard:

“I must thank Mario Andretti for his tireless efforts toward getting Road America back on our schedule. It is great to see that he has the same level of passion for the heritage of CΛRT Champ Car racing that he did when he was behind the wheel,” Grandpa Chris recently commented.

But facing it objectively folks [that means take your rose-colored shades off now], Mario Andretti is a paid employee of CΛRT as a director on its corporate board. As such, it is inappropriate for him to be moonlighting, voluntarily or otherwise, for another racing company—ANY other racing company—without express consent of Champ Car’s stockholders.

Sure, it can be logically argued that Andretti’s presence at an IRL-sanctioned race, qualifying session, or test constitutes a mere visit with his son, even in light of Mario’s open-wheel racing star quality, his PR value, and his powerful drawing card status.

However, once Mario as much as puts on a headset while sitting in Mikey’s pit box or, as was the case in this instance, dons logo-emblazoned Nomex and gets strapped into a sponsored Indy car for a full-blown test drive, he is most definitely working for the competition!

That Mario Andretti would do such a bizarre thing so casually despite his Champ Car Company involvement and long-standing outspoken criticism of the IRL is inexplicable. You may not choose, as I do, to hold this against him. You may choose not to view him as a hypocrite. That is certainly your prerogative.

In either case, our feelings need not serve to diminish the man’s former and ongoing accomplishments in Champ Car racing. In either case, it was fortunate for both Mario and CΛRT that the good news about Road America coincided with the good news about Andretti’s death defying crash. In that respect, a second bullet was dodged, as well.

One final observation:

Coverage of Mario’s testing crash was splashed all across the media with plenty of references to the IMS and the Indianapolis 500 but nary a mention of CΛRT or Champ Car racing. The last time so much general press coverage was afforded any motorsports event or incident was in 2001 when Dale Earnhardt was killed during the running of the Daytona 500.

Can you spin that as harmless to our beloved speed sport?

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

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