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Former NASCAR, IndyCar Driver John Andretti Dies at 56

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistJanuary 31, 2020

John Andretti during practice for the Indianapolis 500 auto race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Wednesday, May 19, 2010. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)
AJ Mast/Associated Press

IndyCar and NASCAR driver John Andretti has died at the age of 56.

Andretti Autosports announced the death in a statement Thursday:

"It's with the heaviest of hearts we share that John Andretti has lost his battle with cancer. 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 spent decades dedicating his time and fundraising attention to the 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 word 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, Jarett, Olivia and Amelia, with our entire family, and with fans worldwide. We urge all our followers to, please, #CheckIt4Andretti."

The Associated Press (via NBC News) noted Andretti was diagnosed with colon cancer in January 2017, and it later spread to his liver.

He opened up about the diagnosis in 2018, per Jordan Guskey and Nathan Brown of the Indianapolis Star:

"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."

According to the AP, Andretti became the first driver to attempt the Memorial Day double, which is competing in the Indianapolis 500 and NASCAR's 600-mile race in North Carolina on the same day.

He made 49 straight IndyCar starts from 1990 through 1992 and competed in NASCAR from 1994 through 2003.

Andretti was a member of one of racing's most famous families, as his cousin Michael owns Andretti Autosports and his uncle Mario is a famous racer.

Guskey and Brown noted Andretti did far more than just race, as he created and developed the Race for Riley, which is an annual go-kart race that serves to "pour money, time and effort into cancer research."

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