INDIANAPOLIS — John Andretti may have made his name in Indianapolis as a Ritter High School graduate, but he was a national icon. Andretti, went to school in the shadows of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and has a famous last name. But John stood out in his own ways. He didn’t live in the Andretti shadow. He made his career on his own.
Unfortunately, Andretti, 56, the nephew of Mario Andretti and cousin of Michael Andretti, passed away on Thursday following a near three year battle with Stage 4 Colon Cancer.
Andretti, was a vastly accomplished racer. He raced everything and I do mean everything. He won races in USAC, Indy Car, IMSA and NASCAR. He also gave Top Fuel Drag Racing in NHRA a try too. Andretti, scored two NASCAR Cup Series victories, the first coming in the 1997 July Daytona race and the other at Martinsville. He also won the 1989 Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona as well.
An accomplished dirt racer, an endurance racer, a street course racer, a superspeedway racer and an oval racer. Not many drivers have Andretti’s skill set.
He’d start in Indy Car in 1987 then give NASCAR a try for the final five races in 1993. That led him to a full time ride in NASCAR’s premier series for 1994 on. His final full time NASCAR season was 2009. He’d also come back to the Indy 500 in 2007 and run five straight before retiring following the 2011 race.
Andretti, made 12 career Indy 500 starts as well as 15 career Daytona 500’s. He became the first driver to do the Indy-Charlotte double in 1994 when he finished 10th in Indy and 36th in the Coke 600.
“It is with the heaviest of hearts we share that John Andretti has today lost his battle with cancer,” Andretti Autosport said in a statement on Thursday. “John was a loving husband and father, a devoted son and a trusted cousin. He was a philanthropist, an advocate for the sport, a dedicated teammate, a driven competitor and most importantly a dear friend.
“Through Race4Riley, John spend decades dedicating his time and fundraising attention to Riley Hospital for Children. When first diagnosed with colon cancer in 2017, John vowed to fight back and use his voice to help spread the world of prevention and early detection. He fought hard and stole back days the disease vowed to take away. He helped countless others undergo proper screening and in doing so, saved lives.
“We will forever carry with us John’s genuine spirit of helping others first and himself second. Our prayers today are with Nancy, Jarrett, Olivia and Amelia, with our entire family and with fans worldwide.”