John Andretti celebrated for his passion, persistence at memorial

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HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. – Whether excelling in myriad racing disciplines, tirelessly raising awareness (and money) for passionate causes or relentlessly wooing his wife, John Andretti and his indomitable will were celebrated Monday night.

The versatile racer, who died of colon cancer at 56 last Thursday, was remembered during a three-hour visitation and 45-minute memorial service at Saint Mark Catholic Church that drew hundreds (including NASCAR president Steve Phelps and several drivers, crew chiefs and team executives) to a suburb just north of Charlotte, North Carolina.

NASCAR on NBC analyst Jeff Burton, who entered the Cup Series with Andretti as rookies in 1994, eulogized his close friend as a fierce competitor with bedrock principles, a redoubtable spirit and a devoted family man.

“To be blunt, I didn’t know why an Andretti was coming to NASCAR racing,” Burton said, drawing chuckles from an audience that included IndyCar legends Mario and Michael Andretti. “I wanted to understand what he was about. We were always together and became really close. We spent a lot of time at racetracks, on airplanes and at holidays together.

“I knew John to be a guy who made stuff happen. If something was on his mind, he’d make it happen.”

Burton recalled the best example as Andretti’s pursuit of his wife, Nancy, who initially rejected his overtures. When her parents got her to relent after Andretti’s nonstop phone calls, they went to dinner at an expensive French restaurant.

“It was a complete failure,” Burton said with a laugh. “Nancy decided no more with this guy, but that wasn’t what John had on his mind. A year later, Nancy agreed to go out with John again, they got married for 30 years and had great kids. That was John’s persistence. The smartest thing John ever did was marry Nancy.”

The most impressive was his diverse resume, which included wins in Cup, IndyCar, the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona and sprint cars. He also reached the semifinal round of an NHRA Top Fuel event. In 1994, Andretti became the first to race the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 on the same day.

“For an Andretti that might be normal, but for the rest of us you don’t do that,” Burton said. “It’s just amazing what he was able to do. John had a huge impact on motorsports.

“When he ran the doubleheader on the same day, that was crazy. The exposure that gave our sport was unbelievable. That’s legacy stuff, and 25 years later, we still are talking about the potential of someone doing that. Two of the biggest events in motorsports, he started it. He was the first to come up with that idea who was brave enough and tough enough to do that. The whole racing world and more were watching that.”

Andretti leveraged the awareness to help causes that were both charitable and personal.

Jamie McBride, a board member for Window World (which sponsored Andretti in three Indy 500s and NASCAR), began working closely in 2011 with Andretti as he spearheaded a five-year project to have every living driver who raced the Indy 500 sign “The Stinger,” a replica car of the Marmon Wasp (which won the inaugural Indy 500 in 1911).

John Andretti signed autographs on May 25, 2010 in New York in a celebration of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indy 500 (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images).

After Andretti traveled thousands of miles to secure the signatures of more than 250 drivers, the car was auctioned in 2016 for $1 million that was donated to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. In August 2018, Window World gave Andretti a humanitarian award that was inscribed with “Love deeper. Dream bigger. Reach higher.”

“When something was on his mind or in his heart, John got it done,” McBride said. “I’ll remember his infectious smile, tenacity and uncompromising work ethic and dedication, love of his family. I will remember John for what he did to help others, not just what he accomplished on the racetrack.

“His heart was huge. He wanted to make the world a better place, and he did just that.”

It was evident even in the three-year battle with the disease that took his life. Andretti became an outspoken advocate for colon cancer screening and created the “#CheckIt4Andretti” hashtag to encourage early detection and prevention.

“John could have decided that, ‘My family and I are going to deal with this and be private about it,’ and that would have been easier,” Burton said. “He didn’t do that. He had a conversation with Nancy and decided, ‘Maybe this isn’t fair but maybe this is my calling. Maybe we can take this and turn it into something positive to help other people.’ Think of the lives saved by John Andretti deciding I’m going to do this publicly.”

The service also had lighthearted moments, particularly when Burton recalled Andretti’s zeal for his children’s sporting events (which was manifested in an incessant berating of officials) or his razor-sharp wit (“You better be looking at him when he was cracking a joke at you because if you weren’t, you didn’t know it.”).

Burton laughed about NASCAR’s preseason safety meetings when drivers and emergency services workers discussed how crash scenes and injuries from wrecks would be handled.

“Typically this was a 20- to 30-minute deal,” Burton said. “John did it in 30 seconds. He said, ‘OK, if I get in a wreck with Dale Earnhardt, someone needs to come help me, you can’t just help the most popular driver.’ He turned around and walked out.

“That’s John Andretti. That’s who he was. He loved and adored Nancy and felt the same way about his kids.”

Father Alfonso Gamez, the parochial vicar who presided over the service, said Andretti told him that he knew death was imminent but felt guilty for his family and not being able to be part of their future.

“He fought heroically for his life,” Gamez said. “He did not fight for it selfishly. He fought for his life with a sole purpose of giving it away to his family to spare them of any pain and agony that this day brings.”

Said McBride: “For someone who accomplished so much in his professional life, I believe that what made John most proud was seeing the successes of his family.”

Burton closed his address with a message for Andretti’s three children, Jarrett, Olivia and Amelia.

“You had a father that left with you the things that will carry you for a lifetime: Goodness, ethics, hard work, dedication,” Burton said. “When you find yourself in a spot you don’t know what to do, take a step back, and take a breath, and 99 times of 100 this will work.

“Just ask yourself, ‘What would my dad do?’ That will be the right thing.”

Another service will be held Thursday for Andretti in downtown Indianapolis.

Chase Sexton wins Triple Crown Anaheim 2 Supercross: Levi Kitchen unseats Jett Lawrence in 250s

Supercross Anaheim 2
Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

Chase Sexton won two of the three races in the Monster Energy Supercross Anaheim 2 Triple Crown, which was enough to overcome a fifth-place finish in Race 2 and give him the overall victory. It was the second Supercross win of his career.

“Super big night for me,” Sexton told NBC Sports’ Will Christien. “After last weekend with that being a struggle, I just need to come out here and stop the bleeding a little bit and I did that tonight.”

Sexton suffered a crash on Lap 1 of his heat, sending him into Last Chance Qualifier. The bad gate pick put him in a difficult position to start the race and he was able to climb to only fifth at the checkers.

At Anaheim 2, three riders entered the final race of the Triple Crown in a winner-take-all scenario. Sexton, Jason Anderson and Eli Tomac each had a shot at victory. It raised the intensity level for all riders in an evening that featured a lot of comers and goers.

Jason Anderson took the early lead in Race 3, which set him up for the overall victory. Sexton stalked and passed him midway through the race and then a minor mistake late allowed Webb to slip around as well. Anderson’s 5-1-3 gave him second overall.

“I had a tough couple of rounds, getting off that Anaheim 1 crash and then last week weekend I fumbled a little bit, but I’m excited to get back on the box and start moving forward,” Anderson told Jason Thomas.

Anderson finished seventh in the first two rounds of 2023.

RESULTS: How they finished for the 450 Main in Anaheim 2

Ken Roczen was the model of consistency in the opening rounds and at Anaheim 2. In three races so far this year, he’s gotten progressively better each time with a fifth in A1, a fourth last week in San Deigo and a third this week.

With results of 2-3-4, he earned his first podium of the season, which lands him fourth in the standings.

“This was hard earned,” Roczen said after the race. “I completely botched the start and then to have to work my way up. I only happen on the very last lap to step up here on the podium.”

Webb’s solid second-place finish in the third race allowed him to leapfrog several riders and finish fourth overall, but a seventh in Race 1 kept him off the podium. He improved in each race in Anaheim, however, with a 7-4-2.

With a 4-6-5, Dylan Ferrandis rounded out the top five.

The intensity of the race was a little too much for Tomac.

While battling side-by-side with Webb in Race 3 at the one-third mark, Tomac jumped wide and crashed hard. He fell to 14th, doing some damage to his bike in the process. He advanced only one position in that race to 13th. His first two races, a third and second, were strong enough to give him sixth overall. He retains the points lead, but it has shrunk to a gap of only four over Sexton and Webb.

Malcolm Stewart injured late in the week and was not able to mount.

Levi Kitchen became the first rider to unseat Jett Lawrence in the Triple Crown format at Anaheim 2 and won the overall with consistency. In his three races, Kitchen finished 4-2-2 to narrowly edge the winner of the first two races.

“This whole day; this is unbelievable. I took a few good slams in practice and I was down on myself,” Kitchen told NBC Sports Jason Thomas afterward. “The first moto I got a good start and got shuffled back, then I knew I just needed to be consistent.”

Jett Lawrence saved his best for last – which wasn’t hard given the struggles he experienced in the first two races.

Despite those problems, he entered Race 3 of the Triple Crown three points behind Kitchen after suffering a pair of disappointing races by his personal measuring stick. In the first and second 250 races of the night, Lawrence hit the ground. He dropped to the final rider in the running order in Race 2 with a Lap 1 fall. But in both races, he was able to overcome his mistake and close the gap so that he had a chance to take his first Triple Crown win of his career.

Click here for full 250 West Main Results

Lawrence rode to third in Race 1 and sixth in Race 2. In the final race of the night, Lawrence did all he could. He earned the holeshot, but when Kitchen fell in behind him, Lawrence’s fate was sealed. His 3-6-1 tied him in points with Stilez Robertson, but the tiebreaker goes to the final round and his win secured second-place.

“I can definitely say Triple Crowns are not my thing,” Lawrence told NBC Sports Will Christien. “We have one more to try and fix this, so hopefully we can get that done.”

Lawrence will move into the 450 class for the Lucas Oil Motocross outdoor season and his 250 record book will be closed.

The best news for Lawrence is the other riders who entered this round in the top three had a worse night, so Lawrence leaves Anaheim with a 16-point gap on Cameron McAdoo and 17 over RJ Hampshire.

Roberston finished 6-1-3 to take the final step of the podium.

“Getting that win in the second Main meant a lot,” Roberston told Thomas. “I wish I could have done a little better in the third one, but we’re still up here on the box.”

Mitchell Oldenburg used consistency to earn fourth in the overall. He finished 5-4-6.

After missing the Main last week in San Diego, Max Vohland finished 7-8-4 to round out the top five.

RJ Hampshire set himself up as the early favorite with his Race 1 win. In Race 2, it all fell apart. He fell in the sand section and damaged his bike, finishing last in that race. The final event of the night for the 250s provided only a 13th-place finish, leaving Hampshire deep in the points.

Cameron McAdoo hard crash in qualification, which was scary news for a team that has seen three of their riders sidelined with injury. McAdoo was never quite able to get his rhythm with an 8-7-5.

2023 Race Recaps

San Diego: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence double down
Anaheim 1: Tomac wins opener for the first time

Anaheim 2 coverage

Power Rankings Week 2
SuperMotocross tightens playoff schedule
Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence go two-for-two in San Diego
Results and points after San Diego
Seth Hammaker to miss 250 E season opener with wrist injury
Jo Shimoda joins Seth Hammaker, Austin Forkner with injury
Injury sidelines Austin Forkner for remainder of 2023 SX