Skip to content

Mario Andretti honored by national motorsports press group

Jan 26, 2014, 12:13 PM EDT

Photo: David Griffin/NMPA Photo: David Griffin/NMPA

CONCORD, N.C. – Even though the national and local motorsports media has been decimated by layoffs and beat eliminations over the last several years, Saturday’s National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame induction ceremonies proved that there still is power of the press.

The NMPA inducted three heavyweights of their respective areas, honoring the legendary Mario Andretti, NASCAR crew chief/team owner Ray Evernham and noted journalist Steve Waid.

Andretti was honored for a lifetime of achievement across several forms of motorsports, including being a past Formula One and four-time Indy car champion, as well as Daytona 500 and Indianapolis 500 winner.

Voted “Driver of the Century” by several media entities over the years including the Associated Press and Racer magazine, Andretti, who turns 74 on Feb. 28, looked like he could still climb into a modern-day Indy car and give today’s stars a run for their money.

Being voted into the NMPA Hall of Fame was one of the highlights of his career, Andretti said.

“You get that beautiful call and then it gives you a chance to pause and look back at everything that has happened to you, to count your blessings,” he said. “The greatest compliment is your work has been acknowledged, and this (his induction) is what it’s all about.”

In typical gentlemanly fashion, Andretti was humbled by the honor, while at the same time stressing that even while the media ranks have greatly decreased in recent years, there is still a significant need for the media.

“I feel almost like an intruder because it’s motorsports press. I’ve never written a column in my life,” Andretti said with a smile.

He added in a more serious vein, “I don’t think anyone appreciates the value of the press more than I do, because we all need to realize that no matter how exciting the sport can be, the talent involved and so forth.

“But unless there is somebody out there to tell the story, there’s no value and nobody knows. It’s because of the press that the sport of motor racing is enjoying the popularity that it’s enjoying today, no question about it.”

Andretti reminisced about his storied career, giving particular credit to his wife of 54 years, Dee Ann, as well as reflecting upon some of the downsides of his four-decade racing career.

“(Dee Ann’s) not a race fan, either. But somehow, she got sucked into it,” he said with a laugh. “All along, she held everything solid behind. God knows I was selfish, I just wanted to race, there were no picnics on weekends for us. (My daughter Barbie) reminded me, ‘Dad, you were not even at my graduation.’ I know, and I’m so sorry, but I had to work.”

And work Andretti did, becoming one of the greatest and most successful drivers in all motorsports, particularly with his versatility and willingness to drive pretty much anything that had four wheels on it.

He drew a huge round of laughs from the approximately 250 attendees at the induction banquet when he related a story involving eldest son Michael, who is now the principal owner of the Andretti Autosport car on the Izod IndyCar Series.

“Michael was in school at six or seven years old, and the teacher asked the kids what their fathers did,” Mario said. “She got to Michael and Michael said, ‘He goes to the airport and makes bread.’ The reason he said that is he’d always see me pack my suitcase and my helmet bag and he’d ask, ‘Dad, where are you going?’ I’d tell him, ‘I’m going to the airport. Got to make the bread.’ “

Andretti was presented for induction into the NMPA Hall of Fame by NBC Sports’ Leigh Diffey, who observed that even in retirement, Andretti is still a man in demand, particularly by members of the media.

“You were so appealing to the media,” Diffey said of Andretti. “You were always available. … I don’t think you’ve ever had a bad soundbite. You’re always guaranteed to give a good quote. It’s still happening today – Mario gets asked 20 to 30 times a month to be interviewed by various publications because Mario has a legitimate choice and a legitimate opinion.”

Andretti was awarded the traditional grey NMPA jacket and a plaque as symbols of his induction.

“I count my blessings every day because I’ve been so, so fortunate to have a long career and be able to meet so many incredible people along the way – and some of them are in this room,” he said. “I look back (on his storied career) with no regrets whatsoever. … To be able to have a long career like I have … it allowed me to retire on my own terms.”

Latest Posts
  1. FIA WEC: Solid first outing for Mark Webber and Porsche

    Apr 20, 2014, 6:00 PM EDT

    FIA World Endurance Championship 6 Hours of Silverstone Getty Images

    Former Red Bull F1 driver finishes third, while Porsche’s GTE-Pro squads finish 1-2 in class.

  2. New incentive for NASCAR Sprint Cup teams to win races: free breakfast!

    Apr 20, 2014, 5:10 PM EDT

    boxcar grille

    Trophies and big paychecks are no longer the only things a NASCAR Sprint Cup driver and team get when they win a race. Now they get a big breakfast, too. According to Statesville.com, the Boxcar Grille in Statesville, N.C., has begun serving breakfast to winning teams in the Charlotte area after they return from capturing a Cup race.

  3. FIA WEC: Title defense starts poorly for Audi

    Apr 20, 2014, 4:30 PM EDT

    FIA World Endurance Championship 6 Hours of Silverstone Getty Images

    Both of their Le Mans Prototypes fail to see the checkered flag at Silverstone due to accidents.

  4. NASCAR’s Chad Knaus, NFL coach Ron Rivera swap strategies, philosophies

    Apr 20, 2014, 4:10 PM EDT

    (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken) AP

    While he probably can’t throw a football more than 20 or 30 yards, Chad Knaus is a diehard Carolina Panthers fan. And while football and stock car racing are polar opposites, they do have some similarities, particularly when it comes to team building, success, strategy and preparation for each game or race. Knaus, a six-time Sprint Cup champion crew chief for Jimmie Johnson, recently called Panthers’ head coach Ron Rivera to throw around and share ideas that might be beneficial to both men.

  5. Hermie Sadler to promote new wrestling group in Denny Hamlin’s Short Track Showdown

    Apr 20, 2014, 2:49 PM EDT

    Hermie Sadler is seen in an advertisement promoting his involvement in Denny Hamlin's Short Track Showdown on Thursday at South Boston (Va.) Speedway, as well as being named to the board of directors of the new Global Force Wrestling association. (Illustration courtesy of Global Force Wrestling) Hermie Sadler is seen in an advertisement promoting his involvement in Denny Hamlin's Short Track Showdown on Thursday at South Boston (Va.) Speedway, as well as being named to the board of directors of the new Global Force Wrestling association. (Illustration courtesy of Global Force Wrestling)

    Hermie Sadler will never be confused with former wrestling greats Hulk Hogan, The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin – not even Rik “Wooooo” Flair. But the NASCAR analyst for Fox Sports 1 has been a longtime fan of wrestling and will now become somewhat of a decision maker, too.

  6. Toyota scores 1-2 finish in WEC season opener at Silverstone

    Apr 20, 2014, 1:58 PM EDT

    FIA World Endurance Championship 6 Hours of Silverstone Getty Images

    Sebastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson, and Nicolas Lapierre take the No. 8 Toyota to the win in the Six Hours of Silverstone.

  7. Call him Professor Junior: Dale Earnhardt Jr. going back to school

    Apr 20, 2014, 1:07 PM EDT

    Dale Earnhardt Jr. plays teacher and Kyle Busch the dutiful student prior to last Saturday's race at Darlington Raceway.  (Photo: Jeff Curry/Getty Images) Getty Images

    More than 20 years after graduating, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is going back to school. Well, for at least one day. Earnhardt will take part in a two-hour session on May 8 with two student groups, wrapped around an all-school assembly at Seaman High School in Topeka, Kansas, according to a report in the Topeka Capital-Journal.

  8. Happy Easter from MotorSportsTalk!

    Apr 20, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT

    Credit: Remains Credit: Remains

    We hope your Easter’s filled with family, friends…and maybe some jelly beans.

  9. Difficult weekend for Raikkonen worth just four points

    Apr 20, 2014, 9:45 AM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of China Getty Images

    Finn can only come home in eighth for Ferrari, some 50 seconds behind teammate Fernando Alonso.

  10. Hulkenberg and Bottas quietly brilliant in China

    Apr 20, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of China - Practice Getty Images

    Largely unnoticed, these two youngsters were brilliant today in China.

  11. VIDEO: Vettel explains decision to not let Ricciardo past

    Apr 20, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of China Getty Images

    German driver saw no reason to follow team orders, but soon realised that there was no point in holding Ricciardo up.

  12. Rosberg perseveres after telemetry failure to finish second

    Apr 20, 2014, 7:15 AM EDT

    Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg AP

    German driver downbeat after losing to Hamilton yet again, but in the grand scheme of things, it was a great result.

  13. Chinese GP called two laps early after checkered flag mix-up

    Apr 20, 2014, 6:30 AM EDT

    Lewis Hamilton AP

    Embarrassing error sees race end on lap 54, not lap 56; Kobayashi the only driver to lose a position.

  14. Alonso scores Ferrari’s first podium finish of 2014

    Apr 20, 2014, 6:15 AM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of China Getty Images

    Ferrari ends torrid week with something to smile about as Alonso finishes third in China.

  15. VIDEO: Vettel ignores team orders, telling team “tough luck”

    Apr 20, 2014, 5:47 AM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of China Getty Images

    German driver refuses to let Daniel Ricciardo past at first, but ultimately thinks better of it.

  16. Hamilton astonished by Mercedes pace after China win

    Apr 20, 2014, 5:30 AM EDT

    Mercedes Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain drives during the Chinese F1 Grand Prix at the Shanghai International circuit Reuters

    British driver delighted with team effort, and pleased to see teammate Nico Rosberg reach the podium again.

  17. Hamilton makes it three with lights to flag victory in China

    Apr 20, 2014, 4:43 AM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of China Getty Images

    British driver goes wire-to-wire to claim his third straight win and number 25 of his F1 career.

  18. WATCH LIVE: Can anyone spring a Shanghai surprise?

    Apr 20, 2014, 2:15 AM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of China - Qualifying Getty Images

    As the Mercedes turf war rumbles on, Red Bull and Ferrari will be waiting in the wings to pick up the pieces.

  19. Starting grid for the 2014 Chinese Grand Prix

    Apr 20, 2014, 2:00 AM EDT

    Daniel Ricciardo, Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel AP

    Here’s how the drivers will line up for the 2014 Chinese Grand Prix today, live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 2:30am ET.

  20. Hamilton chases first ever career three-peat in China

    Apr 20, 2014, 1:30 AM EDT

    Lewis Hamilton AP

    He has come close before, but Hamilton finally can make it three wins in a row today in China.

Today on NASCAR AMERICA

Featured video

Lewis Hamilton thanks his 'angels'
Top 10 NASCAR Driver Searches
  1. J. McMurray (4773)
  2. A. Seuss (1910)
  3. B. Myers (1476)
  4. J. Myers (1364)
  5. L. Fleming (1352)
  1. J. Boston (1163)
  2. T. Hessert (1138)
  3. C. Edwards (1063)
  4. P. Kligerman (1050)
  5. B. Loftin (1036)

More from NASCAR America

The new faces of NASCAR