|My autographed copy of the 1969 program.|
How well I remember the “Arrivederci, Mario!” Tour of 1994.
Everywhere Mario Andretti went that year, people showered him with accolades one last time. It didn’t matter whether he won on the track or not – at least, not to anyone except Mario himself. For everyone else, it was a matter of giving a good friend a deserved sendoff.
But somehow, I can’t think those 12 months could have compared to what should be tabbed the “Celebrare, Mario!” month the world’s most recognized race car driver is experiencing right now at the Indianapolis 500.
He is being blown away by it, and he doesn’t mind admitting it.
Twenty-five years after he stepped out of the cockpit as a full-time speed merchant, no one is saying “goodbye … see you later … bye-bye” to the Italian immigrant who has put Nazareth, PA, solidly on the map. People everywhere are opening their arms and embracing him, maybe like no other time in his life.
Some health issues will prevent me from attending the 103rd Indianapolis 500 next weekend to watch the final chapter of this special time for Andretti as he is hailed for not only his only Indy victory 50 years ago, but also as the principal ambassador of his life-long pursuit.
But I have to say it’s been enjoyable for me to step into that time capsule and take myself back to my early years in the newspaper business. To re-read old stories and stir up old memories. But most of all, to talk to Mario again about those days and maybe to learn some things I never knew or even thought about.
My story that appears in The Morning Call. But we talked about so much more, so I thought I’d share some of the conversation with you.