IndyCar: John Andretti’s legacy still felt at Andretti Autosport

Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

The late John Andretti drove just three races at Andretti Autosport, but he was forever a part of Michael Andretti’s team.

John Andretti was one of the most versatile drivers in racing. He won a race in CART, two victories in NASCAR Cup. He was outstanding in USAC races and even competed in an NHRA Top-Fuel Dragster in 1993.

In 2010 and 2011, Andretti Autosport partnered with the legendary Richard Petty to field a car for John Andretti in the Indianapolis 500. The partnership also included John competing at Kansas Speedway in 2010.

After his racing career was over, John was a fixture at his cousin’s race team. He worked with young drivers, including second cousin Marco Andretti and John’s own son, Jarett.

The 27-year-old Jarrett Andretti became the newest Andretti to compete at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway when he raced in last year’s Freedom 100 Indy Lights Series contest.

John Andretti was known for his friendly personality and warm smile. Even during his final days on Earth as his body was ravaged from Stage 4 colon cancer, Andretti kept a positive attitude.

Andretti lost that battle on January 30 when he died in his adopted hometown of Mooresville, North Carolina.

Although his body is no longer on Earth, his spirit remains. The “Checkit4Andretti” initiative has saved numerous lives as people have underwent colonoscopies because of the program. Many of those that were checked have indicated they would have overlooked the key health check if it wasn’t for Andretti’s courageous fight.

Cousin Michael was very close to John Andretti. Drivers at Andretti Autosport has their own favorite memories of what John Andretti meant to them.

Some of those drivers shared those memories with

Ryan Hunter-Reay: “John meant a lot to me. I worked with him for a couple of seasons. I worked with him really closely at Andretti Autosport one season. He was our kind of driver coach. He’d look at the videos and go over everything. He always just taught me, and I still strive to be like John Andretti in that way.

“Just the optimism that he always had. The smile he always had on his face. How he treated other people even when he didn’t know them. He would come in the trailer in the morning and didn’t matter if I had a bad day the day before, he would say, “It’s a good day to be Hunter-Reay.’ And it would just make me smile. I would be back at him that it’s ‘Always good to be John Andretti.’

Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

“He’s got that special energy about him. He moved people. He affected people in a positive way, including myself. I learned a lot from him that way. It was more about how to approach life in general.

“It’s just unfair. It’s always the good ones that get snagged by that. Same thing with my mom. Colon cancer, got it too late, waited until she had symptoms and boom. It’s a death sentence. Yeah, he meant a lot to me in more ways than one. Just terrible situation. Hope others can actually learn from that. The ‘Check it 4 Andretti’ is no joke. Get checked, if you get it before the symptoms arrive, it’s a big deal.

“He was a great dad.  He took the time in the shop and he would be there in the back corner with Jarret from the beginning tearing apart those sprint cars. John was so selfless in that way. Very selfless. His daughters are beautiful, successful, very smart. The whole family, and that comes from the leadership of John.

“It all comes from that positivity and that attitude he had about life, not only racing but life.”

Marco Andretti: “That guy always went on with a smile, no matter what. John is the most selfless guy I have ever met. He would be disappointed in us if we started crying, so we need to go on and have fun and drive Indy cars.


“He ran a different font on his helmet. We are doing that on the back of our Nomex and on the car. It’s ‘Checkit4Andretti.’ If there is any purpose, he saved so many lives already.

“I’ve run into people all about the world that say they found something early and they had it checked because of John. The whole family hears those stories, so he saved countless families.

“From a diversity standpoint, next to Mario and the passion for the sport, John was right there. John would talk racing for hours on end. He was so passionate and diverse. He drove and won in a lot of different things. It was very admirable.”

Zach Veach: “I didn’t know John as the driver. I went to his service, and everyone was telling stories about his NASCAR races. It struck me that I never appreciated him for the driver he was. He never talked to me about that side of things.

Zach Veach. Photo: IndyCar

“John was always so positive on the personal side. Anytime I was at the shop, especially having a rough go of things, he would always make time to sit and talk to me for 15 to 20 minutes. He always made it apparent that he believed in me. I always appreciated that. That was just John as a person.

“It’s sad to say even at the service, you’re paying your respects and saying condolences, and Nancy, the first thing she said was ‘I’m glad you’re here, John thought you had so much potential.’ And it’s like, you just know that he cared. That’s a really big thing.

“The world is definitely a loss of a better person without John, but for me, especially, I want to make sure that his legacy lives on for what he was trying to do so brave with the ‘CheckIt4Andretti.’ I want to make sure that continues because it’s one of the last things he was so passionate and caring for, but it should continue.”

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500 

After New York whirlwind, Josef Newgarden makes special trip to simulator before Detroit


DETROIT – There’s no rest for the weary as an Indy 500 winner, but Josef Newgarden discovered there are plenty of extra laps.

The reigning Indy 500 champion added an extra trip Wednesday night back to Concord, N.C., for one last session on the GM Racing simulator before Sunday’s Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix.

After a 30-year run on the Belle Isle course, the race has been moved to a nine-turn, 1.7-mile layout downtown, so two extra hours on the simulator were worth it for Newgarden.

INDYCAR IN DETROITEntry list, schedule, TV info for this weekend

JOSEF’S FAMILY TIESNewgarden wins Indy 500 with wisdom of father, wife

“I really wanted to do it,” he told NBC Sports at a Thursday media luncheon. “If there’s any time that the sim is most useful, it’s in this situation when no one has ever been on a track, and we’re able to simulate it as best as we can. We want to get some seat time.

“It’s extra important coming off the Indy 500 because you’ve been out of rhythm for a road or street course-type environment, so I really wanted some laps. I was really appreciative to Chevy. There was a few guys that just came in and stayed late for me so I could get those laps before coming up here. I don’t know if it’s going to make a difference, but I feel like it’s going to help for me.”

After a whirlwind tour of New York for two days, Newgarden arrived at the simulator (which is at the GM Racing Technical Center adjacent to Hendrick Motorsports) in time for a two hour session that started at 6 p.m. Wednesday. He stayed overnight in Charlotte and then was up for an early commercial flight to Detroit, where he had more media obligations.

Newgarden joked that if he had a jet, he would have made a quick stop in Nashville, Tennessee, but a few more days away from home (where he has yet to return in weeks) is a worthy tradeoff for winning the Greatest Spectacle in Racing – though the nonstop interviews can take a toll.

“It’s the hardest part of the gig for me is all this fanfare and celebration,” Newgarden said. “I love doing it because I’m so passionate about the Indy 500 and that racetrack and what that race represents. I feel honored to be able to speak about it. It’s been really natural and easy for me to enjoy it because I’ve been there for so many years.

“Speaking about this win has been almost the easiest job I’ve ever had for postrace celebrations. But it’s still for me a lot of work. I get worn out pretty easily. I’m very introverted. So to do this for three days straight, it’s been a lot.”

Though he is terrified of heights, touring the top of the Empire State Building for the first time was a major highlight (and produced the tour’s most viral moment).

“I was scared to get to the very top level,” Newgarden said. “That thing was swaying. No one else thought it was swaying. I’m pretty sure it was. I really impressed by the facility. I’d never seen it before. It’s one of those bucket list things. If you go to New York, it’s really special to do that. So to be there with the wreath and the whole setup, it just felt like an honor to be in that moment.”

Now the attention shifts to Detroit and an inaugural circuit that’s expected to be challenging. Along with a Jefferson Avenue straightaway that’s 0.9 miles long, the track has several low-speed corners and a “split” pit lane (teams will stop on both sides of a rectangular area) with a narrow exit that blends just before a 90-degree lefthand turn into Turn 1.

Newgarden thinks the track is most similar to the Music City Grand Prix in Nashville.

“It’s really hard to predict with this stuff until we actually run,” he said. “Maybe we go super smooth and have no issues. Typically when you have a new event, you’re going to have some teething issues. That’s understandable. We’ve always got to massage the event to get it where we want it, but this team has worked pretty hard. They’ve tried to get feedback constantly on what are we doing right, what do we need to look out for. They’ve done a ton of grinding to make sure this surface is in as good of shape as possible.

“There’s been no expense spared, but you can’t foresee everything. I have no idea how it’s going to race. I think typically when you look at a circuit that seems simple on paper, people tend to think it’s not going to be an exciting race, or challenging. I find the opposite always happens when we think that way. Watch it be the most exciting, chaotic, entertaining race.

Newgarden won the last two pole positions at Belle Isle’s 2.35-mile layout and hopes to continue the momentum while avoiding any post-Brickyard letdown.

“I love this is an opportunity for us to get something right quicker than anyone else,” he said. “A new track is always exciting from that standpoint. I feel I’m in a different spot. I’m pretty run down. I’m really trying to refocus and gain some energy back for tomorrow. Which I’ll have time to today, which is great.

“I don’t want that Indy 500 hangover. People always talk about it. They’ve always observed it. That doesn’t mean we have to win this weekend, but I’d like to leave here feeling like we had a really complete event, did a good job and had a solid finish leading into the summer. I want to win everywhere I go, but if we come out of here with a solid result and no mistakes, then probably everyone will be happy with it.”