Mario Andretti – a name spoken with respect in auto racing circles. A master on the Formula One and NASCAR track, Mario Adretti has certainly left a major mark on the history of auto racing. Andretti, an Italian-American, has had a remarkable driving career with 4 IndyCar title wins and numerous F1 victories.
Mario Gabriele Andretti, along with his twin brother Aldo, was born on 28 February 1940 in Italy. In 1948 due to the occupation of his homeland by Yugoslavia, his family promptly departed, finally coming to reside in Nazareth of Pennsylvania, USA. Andretti’s racing career began in 1959 as he raced around a dirt track in a Hudson. His first year of racing saw Mario Andretti coming in 3rd place at the Indianapolis 500. 1964 was the year Andretti began racing in the USAC series. He also took part in a variety of forms of auto racing such as drag racing.
Mario Andretti also had a keen interest in Formula One. His first race was at Watkins Glen in 1968 and his first win for Ferrari was in 1971. Andretti’s focus really shifted to F1 driving in the mid-1970s. He began driving for the Parnelli team. He took the Lotus to its limit, developing a fantastic racing car that took an amazing full lap lead at Mount Fuji track. 1978 was a remarkable season with 6 wins in his brilliantly designed Lotus 79. Unfortunately after his previous grand successes as a Formula 1 driver, Andretti failed to gain victory from 1979 onwards. However his career in F1 reminded all why he was a champion as he competed with Ferrari in 1982. Andretti continued racing IndyCars during the ’80s.
Through his racing days Mario Andretti received much recognition, along with many awards and titles. Amongst these are the 1978 F1 World Champion, Inductee of the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2000 and Inductee of the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in 1996. He was even named “Driver of the Century” in 2000 by Associated Press and RACER magazine. Andretti was honored by the Italian government in 2006, by being awarded the Commendatore dell’Ordine al Merito della Repubblica Italiana.
Today Mario Andretti is a successful business man. He has set up the Andretti Winery in Napa Valley and has business interests in car dealerships, petroleum, the Mario Andretti Racing School as well as the Andretti Indoor Karting and Games center. However, Mario Andretti will always be remembered as one of the greatest race car drivers ever.
David Earl Savage Jr, was born in San Bernardino, in California, on 26 August 1946. He was an all American NASCAR driver that started his career in Soap Box Derbies at the tender age of five years old. Soon he was racing Quarter Midget cars, and by the age of twelve, he had moved up to Go-Kart racing. Swede Savage took a keen interest in motorcycle racing in his late teens, and started driving a Lola in the late 1960s, in the Can-Am Racing Series. A few NASCAR drivers and events saw the introduction of this talented driver during the years 1968 and 1969. Swede Savage was forced out of the Daytona 500 in 1969, after his car’s wheel fell of on the 124th lap, and he crashed out. The undeterred Savage was driving an identical sponsored Plymouth Barracudas as his teammate Dan Gurney in the 1970 Trans-Am Series.
Swede Savage took home the “Phoenix Bobby Ball 150” title in 1970, behind the wheel of an Indycar. He also raced in the Indianapolis 500 twice, with a 32nd place finish in 1972, after being forced to drop out of the race due to mechanical problems. In 1973, Swede Savage lead the Indianapolis 500 for a total of twelve laps, but was unfortunately passed on the 55th lap, by Al Unser. It was on the 58th lap, that tragedy struck. Savage’s car had brushed along side the wall at the turn four exit and his car went sliding across the track sideways. Swede Savage then impacted violently, at a very oblique angle, against the track wall. The car disintegrated on impact and erupted in a ball of flames, with the trans axle and engine tumbling continuously until it reached the entrance to the pit lane. Swede Savage was still strapped in his racing seat, and the force had thrown him across the circuit, where on this hand and knees, he came to rest at the outer retaining wall. He was completely exposed. The tragedy did not end there. Crewmembers, Armando Teran and Graham McRae, ran blindly to their injured driver. Their concern and worry for his condition caused them not to see the fire truck that was approaching the scene, driving in the opposite direction of pit lane travel, that struck and killed Armando Teran. Teran was one of the youngest members of the team.
Thirty three days after his horrific accident, David Earl “Swede” Savage, died from his injuries. Savage had inhaled racing fuel vapors during his ordeal, that had led to severe respiratory failure. Swede Savage was laid to rest in Mt View Cemetery in San Bernardino, and left behind a wife, a six year old daughter and an unborn baby. The loss of this wonderful driver, and the tragedy that befell his family, friends and fans, is evident in the fan sites and kind words that are still expressed today.
Tony Stewart is a top NASCAR driver who has had numerous racing championship victories over the course of his auto racing career. Stewart has competed in sprint cars, stock cars and Indy cars. A fine racer and caring individual, Tony Stewart is known by fans as “Smoke”, “Tony the Tiger”, “The Columbus Comet” and “The Rushville Rocket”.
Anthony Wayne Stewart, better known as Tony Stewart, was born in Columbus, Indiana on 20 May 1971. As a youngster, Stewart was an avid racer, and at 7 years of age he began go-kart racing and accomplished much. In 1987 Tony Stewart won the World Karting Championship. He competed in three-quarter midgets, but advanced to the USAC (United States Auto Club) series in 1991. 1995 saw Stewart winning the Triple Crown which included winning the titles of National Midget, Silver Crown and Sprint. He was the first driver to do so. He participated in the IRL for 2 years and was named Rookie of the Year in 1996.
Finally in 1999 Tony Stewart entered the world of NASCAR with Joe Gibbs Racing, soon proving his talent in the driver’s seat. At his first race, the Daytona 500, he managed to qualify in second place. His entire rookie season was masterful, with 3 victories and 2 second-place finishes. All through his NASCAR career, Stewart has participated in Midget racing when possible. In 2001 he became an inductee of the National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame.
Tony Stewart is keen to race any machine, at any place and anytime, and having won several championships in IRL, NASCAR, USAC and go-karts, Tony Stewart is a power to be reckoned with.
Tony Stewart is not only a top race car driver, but also a humanitarian of sorts. He has established the Tony Stewart Foundation which, by means of fundraising projects and community involvement, contributes to charitable organizations. Over and above racing and charity work, Stewart hosted a radio show called Tony Stewart Live between 2007 and 2008.
Located in Sparta, Kentucky, the Kentucky Speedway has played host to some of America’s most popular racing events, including the NASCAR Nationwide Series, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, IRL IndyCar Series, IRL Firestone Indy Lights, and the ARCA RE/MAX Series. It is a 1.5 mile tri-oval track measuring 70 feet wide with 12 foot shoulders and turns banked at 14 degrees. The grandstands have a seating capacity of more than 60,000 with a 2,000 seat Bluegrass Club and plenty of camping spaces and facilities to accommodate the crowds of racing enthusiasts attracted to the track by its program of events.
Some of the “firsts” recorded for the Kentucky Speedway include the first race on June 16, 2000, being the NASCAR Slim Jim All Pro Series “Kentucky 150”. The attendance at the event was 36,210 and the winner was Bill Bigley Jr., with an average speed of 111.747 mph in his #28 Peerless Woodworking/Nevamar Decorative Services Chevrolet. The purse was set at $95,050. The first pole sitter at this inaugural event was Brian Smith in his #20 Juba Glass Chevrolet Monte Carlo, with a qualifying time of 150.038 mph. The first winning crew chief was Bill Bigley, Sr.
In May 2008, Speedway Motorsports bought Kentucky Speedway from Jerry Carroll, with the deal finalized in October of that year. Its been reported that the new owners aim to secure a place in the NASCAR Sprint Series, but as at the end of 2009 this had not yet become a reality. Nonetheless, Kentucky Speedway continues to host the other events mentioned at the outset, offering auto racing enthusiasts a world-class venue to enjoy their favorite fast-paced sport.
The now very popular Richmond International Raceway started life as a little track known as ‘Strawberry Hill’. It was first used as a racetrack venue in 1946 when Ted Horn drove his champ car to victory on the 0.5-mile dirt track that came to be known as ‘Strawberry Hill Speedway’. These races were usually held once a year on the third Saturday of April. In the period that followed between 1953 and 2000, the track had three name changes and four configuration changes. The surface was changed from dirt to asphalt and lights were added to the facility in 1991. Ever since then, all races have been held ‘under the lights’ – something which helps make Richmond International Raceway somewhat unique.
Today the Richmond International Raceway is known for hosting some of the best NASCAR and IndyCar Series racing. The raceway features a D-shaped, 0.75 mile (1.2 km) asphalt track and is part of the 800-acre, multi-purpose Richmond Raceway Complex. Although the track is fairly short, it’s layout allows for excellent side-by-side racing and drivers are able to reach speeds similar to that of a superspeedway. This means that only the most skilled drivers can make their way to first place and there is plenty of action during the course of the average race. The Richmond International Raceway currently hosts the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup, the Busch Series, the Indy Racing League, the United States Auto Club Silver Crown and National Sprint Car Series. The last 30 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series races have been sold out and the track is known for producing some of the best racing in the sport.
In the past, Richmond International Raceway has been known as the ‘Atlantic Rural Exposition Fairgrounds’, the ‘Atlantic Rural Fairgrounds’, the ‘Virginia State Fairgrounds’ and the ‘Richmond Fairgrounds Raceway’. From these various names it is easy to tell that the Raceway complex is not only used to host racing events. It is also used to host a number of agricultural shows, expositions, sports and crafts shows and seasonal fairs. This means that the raceway complex is almost always busy with some major event but the most popular of these are the races.