Born winner carves identity

TERRY JONES, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:42 AM ET

If Mario Andretti shows up at the race in Edmonton this year, he won't have to worry about getting any grief from his son Michael and his grandson Marco.

Last year, from a family point of view, it was politically incorrect to head out the door to go to a Champ Car race here. But Mario jumped at the chance to come here to be the parade marshal in Edmonton because it gave him another chance to be "a pain in the ass" with his own family and everybody else in the divided open wheel racing world.

"As for leaving home and coming here with my own family, they didn't know about it," said the No. 1 American legend of international auto racing.

Andretti said he shouldn't need to have his mouth washed out with soap back home for coming here and admitting what a good, competitive, interesting series Champ Car had become since his son left it after driving in it during the CART days which preceded it. And, like Bobby Rahal who came to see his son race Formula Atlantic the year before, he said he wasn't going to zip his lip because he was on Champ Car property, either.

"I come right out and say it. Can you imagine how much better this series would be if you combined it with the IRL field?"

Who knows. Maybe grandpa Mario played his part. But his son Michael will be here this week in the pits overseeing the Andretti-Green team and his grandson Marco will be out there driving.

For Michael, this race might mean something. Edmonton replaced the Molson Vancouver Indy on the schedule. He won the race in 1991, 1992 and 1996. He's done well in Canada, winning the Montreal race once and the Toronto event a staggering seven times. Michael is involved in purchasing the rights for a Toronto race in the new IndyCar merged series in which Edmonton is the only stop this year.

On the other hand, this is a family which has had a lot of races. When both Marco and John Andretti started the Milwaukee Mile on June 1, it was the family's 1,000th open wheel auto race.

Mario raced 537 of them including 121 in Formula 1.

Michael had 317.

John, the son of Mario's twin brother Aldo, was making his 76th start.

And Marco was driving his 21st big league event.

When your last name is Andretti, you have a lot to live up to.

"To be honest, I've been dealing with that since I stepped into a go-kart," Marco said.

So far, while he's been a bit of an adventurer at times, you'd have to say Marco Andretti is off to a good start living up to the family name.

He claimed the title of youngest winner in open wheel racing history (before Graham Rahal came along this year and took that claim to fame away) when he won his only race to this point as a 19-year-old in 2006. He also won the IRL rookie of the year award that year.

But it's been at the biggest race of them all, the Indianapolis 500, where he's made the largest impression.

He nearly won the 500 in his first attempt, beat at the line by Sam Hornish Jr. after leading laps 198 and 199 of the 200 lap race. In fact, he led going into Turn 4 on the final lap as well.

Andretti led the Indy 500 for 13 more laps last year before flipping after making contact with Dan Wheldon three laps from the end.

This year, while he essentially put his teammate into the wall early in the race, Andretti ended up third, driving the Team Indiana Jones car. A second and a third at the Indy 500 by age 21 is pretty heady stuff.

Andretti was seventh in the series standings through the first half of the season in which all but one of the races were on ovals. He was seventh in 2006 and 11th last season.

There are plenty of people out there to tell you he's no Mario or no Michael. But were they at his age?


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