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Mario Andretti: “Without adrenaline I’d die”

MARIO ANDRETTI is a legend in the world of auto racing, and still as comfortable behind the wheel as ever. Mo Rocca hitched a ride with him for our Sunday Profile: 

You would’ve thought Rocca would be nervous climbing into the backseat of a racecar at Sonoma Raceway. But when the driver is a 77-year-old grandfather, why worry?

And then they took off, hitting speeds of 180 miles an hour.  Who does Gramps think he is, Mario Andretti?

Well, actually, yes!

“I’m an adrenaline junkie,” Andretti said. “And without adrenaline I’d die.”

The motor sports legend compares sitting behind the wheel of a race car to conquering a wild animal.

CBS News

Even though he’s long-retired from racing, every few weeks Mario Andretti takes the wheel at racetracks around the country, as part of the Indy Racing Experience.  He and his fellow drivers give thrilling (and somewhat terrifying) rides to everyone, from big-time racing fans like Greg Leichner of San Jose (“If you take a rollercoaster and multiply it by about five, that might be close — but there are no rails!”) to NBA superstar Stephen Curry (“That was unbelievable!”).

Race car driver Mario Andretti waves from the winner’s circle after winning the Indianapolis 500, May 30, 1969. 

AP

Andretti is arguably the greatest racecar driver of all time. During his half-century-long career, it seems there was no car he couldn’t tame.

“I always say, just like an animal trainer: If you can make a tiger or something that can destroy you purr, you’re a darned good animal trainer,” he told Rocca. “And this is the same thing. You gotta make that car that can destroy you, make it purr, make it do the things you want it to do. That’s the appeal.”

What always made Andretti stand out from the pack was his versatility. He won on ovals, on road…

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