MICHAEL ANDRETTI One of Racing's Top Drivers and Most Successful Entrepreneurs
by Kaya Morgan
Voted by WorldCom as the "Most Popular" driver in 2001, Michael Andretti has led a racing career to match. As the "Winningest Driver" in CART history and third in all-time Champ Car annals, Michael recently finished among the top three for the 2001 season for the eighth time in his illustrious career. In one of the greatest comebacks of his 18-year racing history, Michael captured his 41st win with a dramatic run at Toronto when an early-race incident dropped him to last place in the 26-car field before storming back to a hard-earned victory.
Of course, having a racing legend like Mario Andretti for a father hasn't hurt. A third generation native of Pennsylvania, even as a small child, Michael spent virtually every season at the raceway, traveling from race to race, often wearing a driving uniform to match his father's. "I had always wanted to race. I don't think I ever thought about anything else. It was like I knew I was going to race, so that was that," says Michael. By age nine, he had already begun the go-kart circuit racking up 50 wins out of the 75 races he entered during those early days.
In 1980, he entered his first serious competition with a Formula Ford and by the following year won his first championship as a professional driver with six victories under his belt. Moving into world-class racing in 1983, Michael began the Indy Car World Series and then paired with father, Mario, as a teammate in the historic 24 Hours of LeMans endurance race. Mario and Michael made further racing history as Indy's first father-son team in 1989 when Michael joined the Newman/Haas team. Andretti has retained a consistent and impressive racing record throughout his extensive career finishing in the top ten of the championship 17 times.
Retaining his racing position as one of the top drivers requires a huge personal commitment. As one of the oldest drivers on the circuit, Andretti has developed a reputation for being in peak physical condition. With only 6 percent body fat, he stays in tiptop shape with a regular weight-training routine, dedication to the StairMaster and running up to 7 miles a day with his personal trainer.
Yet, if asked about the most important thing in his life, Andretti, without hesitation will always answer, "family." It's no mystery that the greatest influence in his life has been father, Mario. He has been the greatest supporter and served as a faithful confidant and trusted advisor throughout Michael's career. Even on a spiritual level, his father has always been a source of great personal insight, reminding him "That you will have more bad days than good days. That means you really have to appreciate and enjoy the good days," Michael recalls. And, appreciate it he has.
Although Michael could live anywhere, he prefers to keep close the family ties and remain in Nazareth. "It's a great place to raise a family
.my kids love it," says Andretti. "To me, home gives you stability in your life. It keeps you real and puts everything in perspective." Michael's grandfather worked in the textile mill down the street, and grandma still lives just a stone's throw away. What better connection to their roots could any children hope for?
Sharing a 50-acre homestead site with his parents, Michael has built the family compound to be the ultimate haven. Spending most of the year on the road with a grueling race schedule, home has been designed to be a place to truly unwind. Meticulously landscaped, with a series of modern archways linking a collection of buildings throughout the very private but expansive grounds, it is the center of family activity. Along with a six-hole, par-3 golf course complete with pond, there is a resort-style pool and portable basketball goal for son, Marco, now a starting guard on his school team. A vacation home in the Blue Ridge Mountains and a $1.2 million dollar motor coach to help ease life on the road, rounds out the perks of success nicely.
Andretti loves to spend as much time as possible with his children. Knowing what it's like to grow up with a famous father, he tries to keep things quiet on the home front. He runs the kids to school, shoots baskets and shows up for basketball games to watch them play. But, when Marco races go-karts, he tries to keep his distance. "If I'm down there getting involved, all I'm doing is putting pressure on him," says Andretti. "I don't want that for Marco. I want him to be himself." Daughter, Marissa, the brains of the family, "is the one I picture running all my businesses one day," smiles Andretti.
By the time Marissa is ready to take over, there will no doubt be an even larger conglomerate. Thus far, Michael owns Andretti Toyota (Pittsburgh), Andretti Mitsubishi (Pittsburgh), Andretti Nissan (Hummels Wharf), Speedmart Stores (San Francisco and Monterey Bay) and Andretti Hanna Carwashes in partnership with father, Mario; Andretti Petroleum, Michael Andretti Powersports (Reading, Scranton, Phillipsburg, N.J. and Selinsgrove, PA.) snowmobiles, watercraft, motorcycles, ATVs from Honda, Kawasaki, Yamaha, Suzuki, Polaris; the Andretti Signature Line of apparel and collectibles; and, a variety of real estate projects through Andretti Global Development Corporation. What might be next?
Since racing is the only life Andretti has ever known, he sees no end in sight to his career. As competitive off the track as on, "I am always striving to do my best in whatever I attempt to do. I always try to be competitive in a healthy way, which means I always give 100% to anything I do," he adds. This quiet, thoughtful man, beloved by his fans has a true depth of character that makes you want to see him go on forever. So, 'GO' Michael and keep on winning. We'll be watching!
You can find more about Michael Andretti at www.andretti.com
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