John Andretti, former IndyCar and NASCAR driver, died on Thursday at age 56 after a long and public battle with colon cancer. Andretti Autosport announced his death on social media.
Andretti spent 17 years racing in NASCAR and five years in IndyCar before retiring in 2010. He started 393 races, finishing in the top ten 37 times and winning twice: the 1997 Pepsi 400 and the 1999 Goody’s Body Pain 500. Andretti’s family name is famous in racing: John is son of Aldo Andretti, nephew of Indianapolis 500 winner Mario Andretti, and cousin to Jeff Andretti, Michael Andretti, and Marco Andretti.
Andretti was first diagnosed with colon cancer in April 2017, and endured a year of treatment before announcing that his scans had come back clear in March 2018. During his chemotherapy he used the hashtag #CheckIt4Andretti on social media to spread the word about colonoscopies, which could have helped him catch his cancer early.
Unfortunately Andretti’s cancer returned a few months later, and had spread to other parts of his body.
Throughout his illness, Andretti remained dedicated to sharing his journey — even though it went against his natural instincts.
“I’m a really private person,” Andretti told Coping with Cancer magazine, “and certainly nobody but my family would have known that I even had cancer if it weren’t for being pushed that I can make a difference by telling my story. That’s the only reason I went public. Because I really didn’t want people to know. I don’t want people to feel sorry for me.”
Andretti also remained resolved to fight his illness to the end, using his family’s resilience as inspiration.
“I’m an Andretti. I already beat the age I should have lived to. Growing up when you’re a little bit wild in a race car, I think everybody in our family’s always heard this: ‘You’re not going to live to see 20.’ Then it was, ‘You’re not going to live see 25, then 30.’ But here I am. Still going. Our family’s already been through plenty of trials, and we’re still here. To get taken down by this, well, I’m going to go out giving it the strongest fight I can give it.”
On social media, Andretti’s cousin Marco and other members of the racing world paid tribute to him and his legacy.
Sad news ... Driver John Andretti has died. He had two Cup wins in 393 starts. And although I didn't talk to him after every one of the races, anytime -- win or lose -- he was gracious. He will be missed. #nascar #indycar https://t.co/hlzyUoOff6— Bob Pockrass (@bobpockrass) January 30, 2020
We mourn the passing of John Andretti after a battle with colon cancer. Our thoughts are with the @FollowAndretti family in their time of grief. We’ll continue to #CheckItForAndretti pic.twitter.com/vlFifQPgNr— Xfinity Racing (@XfinityRacing) January 30, 2020
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