Racing legend Mario Andretti is looking to buy the Liberty Vermilion Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep dealership in Vermilion, Ohio.
The deal "is not done, but it's close," said Patty Reid, Andretti's publicist. Andretti, 65, hopes to set up a meeting later this week to finalize the terms, she said.
Mike Claphan, who runs Nick's Place, a used car lot in the Cleveland suburb, said he will become the dealership's general manager once Andretti completes the acquisition. He was reluctant to discuss his relationship with Andretti and referred questions to Reid.
This would be Andretti's third dealership. He purchased a Ford Dealership in Newton Falls, Ohio, in February, and he also owns a Toyota dealership in Coraopolis, Pa., outside Pittsburgh.
Todd Wendt, the sales manager for Sharpmack Chevrolet Oldsmobile in Vermilion, said he thinks Andretti's presence would be a boon to the city's auto dealers. "The added advertising would bring more people this way," he said.
Chuck Cyrill Jr., spokesman for the Greater Cleveland Automobile Dealers Association, said the prominent Andretti name would give the dealership "a head start into some marketing."
Andretti is "on the lookout all the time for new business opportunities," Reid said. He also owns a winery and a petroleum company in California, and two car washes in Lehigh Valley, Pa.
Andretti has won some of the most prestigious honors in auto racing, including the Indianapolis 500 in 1969, the Daytona 500 in 1967 and the Formula One Championship in 1978. He and A.J. Foyt were named co-drivers of the century by the Associated Press in 1999.