When you are born into the Andretti motorsport dynasty, it is almost a foregone conclusion that you’ll end up racing for a living. Son of Aldo Andretti, Mario’s brother, it didn’t take long for John to follow in the family business. Not only was he pretty damn good at it, but he would drive just about anything with wheels and an engine. After a lengthy public battle with colon cancer, Andretti has passed away.
He got his start in karting and graduated through junior stock cars and USAC midgets. He did a stint as a factory BMW racer in IMSA GTP before joining Michael, Mario, and Jeff in CART (where he was the 1987 rookie of the year). John later won the 1989 24 Hours of Daytona in a Porsche 962 with Bob Wollek and Derek Bell. Throughout his career he also raced NHRA top fuel dragsters, every series of NASCAR, and Indycar. John had twelve starts in the Indianapolis 500 and fifteen starts in the Daytona 500.
John Andretti was the first driver to compete in both the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR race at Charlotte in the same day. He finished 10th and 36th, respectively.
He doesn’t have a ton of wins to his name, even with all of that racing, but that might be because he was kind of saddled with second-tier cars most of his career, and had a good share of bad luck. For example, Andretti raced for Porsche for the 1990 CART season in what should have been an incredibly competitive carbon monocoque “Project 2708" chassis. But the new tech was protested by Penske and Lola and Porsche was forced to revert to an aluminum honeycomb chassis. Porsche pulled out of its Indy obligations for 1991, citing politics, unceremoniously dumping Andretti in the process.
Andretti was diagnosed in 2017, and was told twice that he had beat the disease. Twice the scans showed a resurgent and spreading cancer. John took his own cancer as an opportunity to publicly promote colonoscopies. He was optimistic that he could save lives by getting stubborn people in to see the doctor.
According to the IndyStar, John’s family made visits to see him in his final days. He is survived by his wife Nancy, and children Jarett, Olivia, and Amelia. Both Jarett and John’s younger brother Adam have followed him into racing.