CHAMPCAR/CART: Mario Andretti helps with Sears Point blood drive

Mario Andretti takes fans for joyride around Infineon Raceway. American Red Cross Reach Goal at ¡High Speed Blood Drive¢. SONOMA, Calif. -- Race fans were treated to a joyride around the world-famous road course at Infineon Raceway on Tuesday,...

Mario Andretti takes fans for joyride around Infineon Raceway. American Red Cross Reach Goal at ?High Speed Blood Drive?.

SONOMA, Calif. -- Race fans were treated to a joyride around the world-famous road course at Infineon Raceway on Tuesday, and at the same time they aided a worthy cause.

Mario Andretti helps with Sears Point blood drive.
Photo by Infineon Raceway.

More than 300 race fans braved cold and wet conditions at the 2nd annual "High Speed Blood Drive" to benefit the American Red Cross. Race fans were treated to a hot lap at speed around the 12-turn, 2.52-mile road course in exchange for donating a pint of blood. The bonus was that 75 lucky people were given hot laps around the track by Mario Andretti, the only driver in history to win races in five different decades.

"We're delighted that we were able to help the Red Cross at a time of such critical need," said Steve Page, president and general manager at Infineon Raceway. "The turnout was tremendous and we are grateful to Mario for helping to attract so many donors. We look forward to hosting and growing this event in future years."

Race fans lined up more than an hour before the start of the blood drive, anxious to meet their favorite driver. Andretti not only spent the day giving fans laps around the track in a 2003 Audi Quattro S8, he also signed autographs, took pictures and mingled with the fans. Other hot laps were given by instructors from the Jim Russell Racing Drivers School. The event was co-sponsored by The Bone 107.7 FM out of San Francisco.

"This was a very unique experience," said Christian Reed, from San Francisco. "I came out for a good cause to donate blood but I also had the excitement of meeting Mario and going 90 mph around hairpin turns. It doesn't get any better than that on a rainy Tuesday afternoon."

Said Kimberly Taylor, a Vallejo resident: "The lap with Mario was something I'll never forget. I was videotaping while he was going around so I started to get a little sick but it was pretty fun. This was just a great way to get people to come out and donate blood, by having Mario out here."

Mario Andretti helps with Sears Point blood drive.
Photo by Infineon Raceway.

The drive netted 106 pints of blood, exceeding expectations of the American Red Cross, which called it one of their best events in the Bay Area. That number was more than a 300-percent increase over the amount of blood donated at last year's High Speed Blood Drive at Infineon Raceway. American Red Cross representatives said the 106 units will help save 318 lives.

"Currently we have a one-to-two day supply of blood so every unit that we collected today will help save lives," said Phil Bureau, director, recruiting marketing blood services for the Northern California Region of the American Red Cross. "This has been a great event."

Andretti, a spokesman for Infineon Technologies, was pleased to spend the day with race fans, and also help the American Red Cross. He is the 1978 Formula One world champion, a four-time CART champion and former winner of both the Daytona 500 and Indianapolis 500. "I had a great time today. It's amazing to see how many race fans came out to donate blood, especially considering the bad weather. I just hope they had a good time with me in the car," Andretti said.

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About this article
Series Charity , IndyCar
Drivers Mario Andretti