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ANDRETTI PRAISES AMERICAN FLAG.

Byline: TIM HADDOCK Motor Sports

``I once heard a man say that the flag represents the freedom to burn it. I would disagree, and I think most Americans would, too.''

These were the words NASCAR Nextel Cup driver John Andretti offered last week to the United States Senate's Committee on the Judiciary regarding a constitutional amendment prohibiting the physical desecration of the American flag.

In other words, Andretti is fighting to protect the American flag from being burned as an act of protest.

Andretti's father, Aldo, and uncle, Mario, saw ``goodness and freedom'' in the American flag. They lived in a relocation camp in eastern Italy during World War II and eventually immigrated to the United States. For them, the American flag represented liberation and the kind of freedom they earned and fought for, not something handed to them by fortune of birth.

John Andretti spoke for not only his family, but the hundreds of thousands of NASCAR fans who share the same nationalism and pride in the American flag.

``The flag is a symbol that represents all that our nation is and can be,'' Andretti said in his testimony. ``It symbolizes what the people say it symbolizes and the great majority certainly don't believe that includes the freedom to desecrate it.''

What Andretti had to say was so much more refreshing than what Bud Selig and Donald Fehr, Moe and Curly of Major League Baseball, had to say to the U.S. Congress regarding the use of steroids by baseball players. On one hand, a popular American athlete is talking to U.S. senators on how to build honor and respect. On the other hand, a group of U.S. representatives are lecturing the caretakers of America's pastime on how to preserve honor and respect.

It's really a reflection on where the two sports in America are headed. One is adding to the moral fabric of the nation, the other attempting to cover the holes in an ever-eroding tapestry. ...

Driver Kevin Harvick is profiled in the April issue of FHM magazine. Among the topics he tackles are fighting in the pits with other drivers and who he sees as the biggest pansy in NASCAR.

Once you get past the pictorials on Rachel Reynolds (``The Price is Right'') and Jamie-Lynn DiScala (``The Sopranos''), the Harvick piece makes for an interesting read ... all one page of it. ...

Showing his New England roots, Ricky Craven described his fender- scraping, wheel-rubbing victory at Darlington, S.C. Raceway last year on par with Carlton Fisk's game-winning home run in the 1975 World Series or Doug Flutie's Hail Mary pass when he was at Boston College.

Craven and Kurt Busch were separated by .002 seconds, and not much else, as they crossed the finish line. When asked if he ever looked over at Busch's car on the last lap of the race, the driver from Newburgh, Maine, said his mind and eyes were on other things.

``I was actually pretty busy,'' Craven said. ``I had my sights on the start-finish line and honestly didn't care. I'm sure he felt the same way. Especially reflecting on it, I didn't care how I got there. I didn't care if I got there on my side or on my roof.'' ...

Busch, by the way, isn't making more friends in the South by showing his fondness for NCAA basketball teams in the Pacific-10 Conference as opposed to those from the Atlantic Coast Conference.

One of the matchups he anticipates is a possible second-round NCAA Tournament game between top-seeded Duke and Arizona.

``I look to see the Pac-10 do well,'' Busch said. ``And I like to see the ACC struggle.'' ...

Reader Jeff Longwell e-mailed to defend one of his favorite drivers, Mark Martin. He reminded me that Martin, along with Harry Gant, won four NASCAR Cup races in a row. I mentioned last week that only Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt and Darrell Waltrip were in the four-in-a-row club.

For the record, there are five drivers who have won four races in a row in the modern era. Matt Kenseth was halfway there before finishing sixth in Atlanta on Sunday.

And still no driver since 1972 has won five races in a row.

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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Mar 18, 2004
Words:708
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