Mario Andretti, recently named the Grand Marshal for the April 7-9 Bosch Spark Plug Grand Prix weekend at Nazareth (PA) Speedway, shares a piece of USAC Coors Light Silver Bullet racing history with USAC President John Capels. Both will be on hand to witness the 100-mile USAC race at the 1-mile paved oval which will be held in conjunction with the Bosch Spark Plug Grand Prix CART race.
Mario and John combined in 1974 to win the Silver Bullet title, winning back-to-back-to-back races at Sedalia, Mo., Springfield, Ill. and DuQuoin, Ill. and adding second and third-place finishes at Syracuse, N.Y. and Indianapolis, Ind. respectively. Capels served as chief mechanic for the Viceroy entry for Vel's Parnelli Jones racing of Torrance, Calif. In 1973 Capels masterminded Al Unser, Sr.'s drive to the USAC Silver Bullet championship and in 1978 he served as chief mechanic and car owner for Silver Bullet champion Pancho Carter.
"Coming back to Nazareth brings back profound memories in my association as chief mechanic and car builder for Mario," says Capels. "Mario is my kind of driver. He liked to reach out and was not afraid to try things which could result in better performances. He was very talented on dirt and liked to run right on the fence. He's probably the most versatile driver this sport has ever seen."
Capels also served as chief mechanic for Al Unser, Sr. At Nazareth in the inaugural Silver Bullet series race in 1971. "We led that race until Al ran over some debris on the track with less than 10 laps to go," he remembers.
Mario is not the only championship tie between the Andretti family and USAC. In 1983 his son Jeff won the USAC Pro Ford Championship and the same year nephew John was the Indianapolis Speedrome USAC Midget king.
The Nazareth race is round three of the 2000 Coors Light Silver Bullet championship and will be pivotal in the early battle for positions in the series standings.
Silver Bullet practice and qualifying are scheduled for Friday, April 7, while the 15-mile "qualifying race" and the 100-mile feature will occur on Saturday, April 8.
Tickets for the Nazareth weekend racing events can be ordered by calling 1-888-629-7223.