"I told her, 'We'll be home later,' " says Mario. "I knew damn well we weren't going to be home that night. I went to the hospital, and they'd just given him his last rites. My biggest fear was to tell the old man." Mario was 19, but when he got home, he might as well have been nine. Gigi "chased me around," and "I got a few."
Aldo says that he was unconscious for "three or four days."
"Weeks," says Nonna Rina. "Around two weeks. Every night we were going to see him. It was a terrible thing for us."
"When he was lying in bed there, you know what the hell I was whispering to him?" says Mario. "I was whispering, 'I'm building a new car.' The doctors had said to just tell him something that would get his attention. The only thing I knew that would do that was to talk about a race car again. I knew that whether he was hearing or not, his subconscious was absorbing something. I knew he was excited about it."
"I recall a nice, bright hospital room," Aldo says of the moment he awoke. "The first person I saw was my father. Right away, my wheels turned. I asked, 'Where am I?' I started acting stupid. He told me I was in the hospital, that I got hurt at Hatfield. My poor dad had tears in his eyes—and I've never been so happy to be in a hospital bed as I was at that moment, because he couldn't touch me. Otherwise he'd have beat the living you-know-what out of me."
After Gigi left the room, says Mario, "I knew Aldo was all right, because the first thing he said to me was, 'I'm glad you're the one who had to face the old man.' I knew immediately that all of Aldo's marbles were in place.
"My old man was going to disown us. If he had known his way around better, known the language better, I guarantee you he would have done something drastic," says Mario. "But as it was, we just got the silent treatment for about a year and a half."
Aldo was ready to drive again by the '60 season, but that same year he married Carolyn (Corky) Stofflet, went to work at a gas station and cut back on his racing. In 1961 Mario married Corky's best friend, Dee Ann Hoch, who had tutored him in English. Mario took Dee Ann with him, headlong toward the big time, through midget cars, sprint cars, championship dirt cars. Ci sono molte corse. "There is much racing in America!"
"Dee Ann sort of grew into this with me," Mario says of his wife of 31 years. Early on, says Dec Ann, "I knew that racing was going to come first, and I'd better make up my mind to that, if I expected to stay with him." She was there when Aldo was hurt, and says of the danger, "You got used to that." Death was commonplace on the rugged sprint car circuit in the early '60s. "We lost a lot of friends there. That was a very hard thing. After a while you just didn't even make friends with the wives anymore, because it hurt too much."
In 1964 Aldo moved to Indianapolis to work and to race sprint cars part-time. Meanwhile Mario's career flowered, and he grabbed the attention of two master mechanics, Clint Brawner and Jim McGee.