By Shawn Wood
For The Daily Item
NAZARETH -- From the narrow streets of Monaco to the cathedral that is the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the name Andretti is synonymous with a relentless pursuit of victory.
At 73, Mario Andretti's passion for racing still burns brightly, and today he'll watch his grandson Marco race the Pocono Raceway 2.5-mile tri-oval as the IZOD IndyCar Series returns to the track for the first time since 1989.
n Early days
Mario Andretti wanted to be a race car driver. He didn't have a Plan B.
His earliest memories of the sport came from watching Formula 1 racing when he was 10, cheering world champion and fellow countryman Alberto Ascari.
The family came to the States in 1955 and settled in Nazareth where Mario lives today.
Along with his twin brother, Aldo, they built a 1948 Hudson and raced in the sportsman division at Nazareth Speedway in 1959.
"We ran two years with our own car because we were technically underage," he said. "We sort of fudged our license, because you had to legally be 21 to race professionally in those days; we were 19. I then raced three-quarter midget before I got a ride with the American Racing Drivers Club (ARDC) midgets (full-size midgets) which was a very strong midget club on the East coast."
Settling in Nazareth was a blessing for Andretti.
"I think Pennsylvania was very fertile ground for race fans," he said. "Tracks like Hatfield, Flemington, Williams Grove, Trenton, Langhorne ... all were in a 150-mile radius for the race fans."
He noted that he learned a lot from racing with legends Ed "Dutch" Shaffer and Len Duncan in his early days.
"I never tried to categorize a track as 'I like this one,' or 'I don't like this one,'" he said. "If you enter an event and say that you don't like a track, technically you are defeated before you enter."