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IndyCar, IMSA react to the death of John Andretti

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IndyCar and IMSA reacted Thursday to the death of John Andretti, who made a mark in both circuits as one of his generation’s most versatile drivers.

Andretti was a winner in NASCAR Cup and the CART Indy car series became the first driver to drive the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 doubleheader on the same day.

“John Andretti’s skills behind the wheel of any kind of race car were admired by his millions of fans around the world, and he always returned that loyalty and kindness to become one of the most popular drivers of his generation,” Penske Entertainment Corp. president and CEO Mark Miles said in a release, on behalf of IndyCar and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

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“But John’s true mission was helping others, whether through his countless hours of charity work, especially with Riley Children’s Hospital here in Indianapolis, or by the colon screening campaign he started in April 2017 after he was diagnosed with cancer. John’s positive attitude and selflessness throughout his brave fight inspired all of us and will be a legacy that will continue forever. We extend our deepest condolences to his wife, Nancy, their three children and the entire Andretti family.”

With co-drivers Bob Wollek and Derek Bell, Andretti won the 1989 overall title in the Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway. He also won later that season and finished fifth in points.

“We are devastated by the news that our dear friend, John Andretti, has passed away,” IMSA President John Doonan said in a statement. “John was an extremely talented IMSA racer, as his 1989 Rolex 24 victory and three other victories will attest.

“But he was one of the most versatile racers ever, winning races in IndyCar and NASCAR and reaching the pinnacle of top fuel drag racing as well. Our thoughts and prayers are with John’s family, friends and many colleagues, and he will be missed by many throughout our motorsports community.”

Andretti returned to the Rolex 24 in 2008 and ’12. He also won the GT class of the 2001 Bully Hill Vineyards 250 at Watkins Glen International, co-driving a Porsche GT3R with NASCAR teammate Kyle Petty.

Click here to read more about Andretti’s career and legacy.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. will race the No. 3 vs. IndyCar stars in Michigan iRacing

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The invite has been received, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. has another iRacing event on his schedule.

The NASCAR on NBC analyst tweeted Wednesday that he will make his debut in the IndyCar iRacing Challenge with Saturday’s race at Michigan Speedway. The race will be shown live on NBCSN at 2:30 p.m. ET Saturday.

The 2-mile oval was chosen by IndyCar drivers as the third track in the six-race series. Earnhardt heartily endorsed Michigan as a potential iRacing venue Monday along with Daytona and Talladega. Michigan nearly was selected by fans as the opener in the iRacing Challenge.

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Earnhardt, a longtime avid iRacing fan, had been lobbying since last Thursday that he was interested in racing with IndyCar drivers.

He has driven in the first three races of the eNASCAR Pro Invitational, finishing second to Denny Hamlin in the opener at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Last year, he attended his first Indianapolis 500, working as an analyst as part of NBC Sports’ inaugural broadcast of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

“I’d love to do it,” Earnhardt said Monday about joining the IndyCar iRacing Challenge. “I think I’d love to get to know those guys.

“I had such a great time at the Indy 500 last year, and the reception that I received from other drivers there really meant a lot to me. So I know they’re all a lot of great dudes in that series that I already know that I’d love to get to know some of them even better.”

It already has been quite the week for Earnhardt, who was announced Monday as one of 15 nominees for the 2021 NASCAR Hall of Fame.

The field for Saturday’s race at Michigan should include another  NASCAR driver in Jimmie Johnson. The seven-time Cup champion has driven the first two races of the IndyCar iRacing Challenge (and has plans to race IndyCar part time in the future).