Tom’s Take: Bury The Crow—And Marco Andretti’s Un-Illustrious Career

Editor’s Note: Make sure to tune for the Crow’s Funeral on FB Live from Hollywood Forever Cemetery at 4:00 PM PST on Wednesday September 20. Fans are invited to attend the event.

That poor frozen crow. Tucked away in a freezer. Frightening my children…Disgusting my wife…The Crow, however, will be removed, having now served its purpose. A noble purpose. A point that needed to be made: Sometimes nepotism doesn’t work! I mean, it works for Marco to the extent that he has gotten to drive an IndyCar for 11 seasons without any threats to his seat, despite a perilous career record. Turns out I won’t be eating the still-frozen crow, but on the other side of things, I also highly doubt that Marco will go away quietly.

“Oh poor Marco,” say a few anti-haters on social media. Sorry. I am done feeling for him — particularly after he blocked us on Twitter. Marco has Millions of Dollars in the bank, a big house, sexy-model wife, a top-flight IndyCar seat — and no motivation. Pretty disgusting actually. His inherited name has opened so many doors — that were slammed in the faces of so many others, who might have won races in the Marco-monopolized seat. It is clear now, and for many years, he does not race for the win. The Andretti DNA that courses through his anatomy just isn’t enough. During the race weekend of the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma, the poster child for the Lucky Sperm Club was congratulated by the IndyCar Series for his 200th career start. From his first to his 200th, in the past eleven years, he didn’t miss a race. So naturally IndyCar has given him the “Perfect Attendance Participation Trophy.” That’s pretty impressive, my kids don’t even get perfect attendance each year in grade-school. During these 200 races, he has posted two wins — for a whopping 1% win ratio!

Marco’s daddy, Michael, had a CART championship along with 42 wins, and was Ayrton Senna’s teammate for a year at McLaren in F1. Grandpa Mario won everything on four wheels, including the 1978 Formula One World Championship. Entitled little brat Marco? Not much. What’s worse, he’s not even likable. If he was a nice kid who acted appreciative for his well-endowed life and was nice to fans, he might be worthy of a pass. We are talking LOST CAUSE here folks! But not to worry, as the Lucky Sperm member of the establishment, he will thumb his nose at all of us and get right back into the car for a miserable 12th season. He is not alone though. In the history of racing there have been many lucky vs. skilled drivers — but none that have started as many races in a top-flight series.

Many years ago, in the 1990s, there was another. His name was Hiro Matsushita. “King” Hiro —a nickname that reputedly came from a radio transmission between Emerson Fittipaldi and his Penske Crew, where the first syllable (fuh) actually cut out — bought his way into the ChampCar series by way of the Lucky Sperm Club membership: His grandfather founded the Panasonic Electronics company. The rich Japanese started 117 Champ Car races. He holds the record for most starts in series history without scoring a Top 5. Hiro earned his best career finish: Sixth at the 1994 Marlboro 500 at Michigan International Speedway. Like Marco at Texas, earlier in the 2017 season, this result was made possible by an extraordinarily high rate of attrition that saw only 8 cars finish the race. Matsushita was 11 laps behind the leader at the drop of the checkered flag.

To Hiro’s credit though, he went on to start Swift Engineering, a race car chassis builder and aerospace company, that has been very successful. It should be also noted that prior to his uncompetitive ChampCar career, Hiro Matsushita was also the Pacific Formula Atlantic champion. Marco Andretti finished nearly dead last in Indy Lights prior to making the jump to Andretti Racing as per his legacy/destiny. Marco really has the potential to take his transferable skills and untold $Millions and go into a legitimate business, and probably be really successful.

ESPN journalist Jemele Hill had some kind words for our POTUS last week — completely off topic for a “Sports Journalist,” by the standards of journalism I was taught. For this, she is a hero in some circles. Now on the other hand, I make a public declaration, putting my reputation, career and taste buds at risk for a horrifically under-performing athlete in a niche sport that fewer and fewer pay attention — and I get blasted by the establishment! Of note: many of my fellow journalist friends cheer me on — but very, very quietly. The reason? Corporate BS! They are worried that by publicly taking pot shots at the heir apparent of racing royalty will preclude them from the credentials, trackside photo vests and press buffets at the races. It’s rather hypocritical, considering most are thinking it, but few are speaking up. But that is what getting to hang “on the other side of the fences” with the big timers costs: you have to be a PR person for them — and never say anything derogatory — which is polar opposite of the lessons I was taught in J-School all those years ago.

On Wednesday we shall bury the crow. Once that is done, I shall never speak of this topic again. For the record, I am not a hater. My intentions were not nefarious. My mind trails back to all those years, growing up in the paddocks of big-time racing, in a far more gilded age…watching my dad and Carl Haas invent the sports marketing business with a few other smart team owners and PR guys. In retrospect, their efforts were ultimately both the salvation – in garnering more money and interest – and ruination – in snatching most of the grassroots passion – of motorsports. Further, there were always the Lucky Sperm members. But most raced for the win and went on to other stellar careers in business.

The Crow will have a quiet space at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. He will be overlooking the lake, flanked by neighbors Hattie McDaniel — Gone with the Wind’s “Mammie”; and rock vocal zenith Chris Cornell. For those of you who ran and hid while I spoke up: from the grave now, Cornell regularly reminds me, “…I’m sure everything will end up alright. You may win or lose, but to be yourself is all that you can do…”

About the author

Tom Stahler

At eight months of age, Tom Stahler sat in a baby stroller in Thunder Valley and watched Chuck Parsons and Skip Scott win the 1968 Road America 500. He has had the car bug ever since. He has won several awards, including the Motor Press Guild’s Dean Batchelor Award and the International Motor Press Association's Gold Medal for his writing and photography. When not chasing the next story, Tom drives in vintage road racing events and spends time with his wife and three daughters in Orange County, California.
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