|By DAVE BLOWER JR.
Farm World Editor
GREENFIELD, Ind. — Indianapolis 500 winner Mario Andretti added a trip to Greenfield’s Riley Park Tire as part of his pre-race promotional tour last week.
Andretti is a spokesman for Firestone Tires, one of many brands that are offered at Riley Park Tire. Andretti patiently signed autographs and posed for pictures for hundreds of visitors who came to meet the racing legend.
“It’s very gratifying to me for people to take time out of their day to come and see me,” Andretti said. “They say some very nice things, and they reminisce with me. Race fans have been a very important part of my life.”
Andretti is the 1969 champion of the Indianapolis 500, and is among the race’s most famous drivers.
Andretti qualified and competed in the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” 29 times, which is second all-time to A.J. Foyt. Andretti is third on the race’s all-time list with 556 laps led; he also is tied for second with leading laps in 11 different races. Andretti has covered 7,625 race miles on the famed 2 1/2-mile Brickyard.
He has passed on his passion for open-wheel racing to his son - and now - grandson. Michael Andretti, Mario’s son who earned the 500’s Rookie of the Year award in 1984, now owns a racing team and is hoping to qualify for his 15th Indy 500 this weekend. Marco Andretti, 19, Michael’s son, drives for his father’s racing team and is planning on becoming the third generation of Andretti’s to qualify.
Despite his pursuit for speed, Mario Andretti and his family have ties to farmland - albeit an ocean away.
“My dad farmed while we were in Italy,” explained Andretti, who was from Montona, Italy before coming to America with his family as a child. “My dad had 2,100 acres and seven tenants, but I was too young to remember anything about the farm.”
However, the veteran Firestone pitchman did wish to offer Farm World readers with a story that tied farming and racing.
“Did you know that a lot of racing technology went into the design of farm tires,” Andretti asked. “I was on a tour of a Firestone farm tire factory in Des Moines, Iowa when I learned this. The sidewalls of farm tires face the same type of stress that racing tires endure. Also, the technology gained from the high temperatures that racing tires face is used in the construction of farm tires.”
This farm news was published in the May 17, 2006 issue of Farm World.