John Andretti - Racer
Author: John Andretti as told to Jade Gurss
Published by: Octane Press
This book might be called Racer, but it’s as much about family as car racing. John Andretti, as the name indicates, was one of the Andretti clan. Racing was in his blood. His father, Aldo, is the twin brother of Mario Andretti. As the book explains, all of the Andretti family are into auto racing in one form or another. John was, first and foremost, a family man, with his wife Nancy and three children the main focus of his life. As a racer, he not only competed in the open wheel, Indy-type series that the Andrettis are famous for, but just about anything and everything that provided the challenge that he needed to progress his driving skills. He competed and won in Kart racing, Indy Car, IMSA, USAC, the Rolex Sports Cup Series and the NASCAR Cup Series. In addition, he was involved in sprint car and midget racing, both as a driver and with his son Jarett as a team owner. He won the 24 Hours of Daytona and took part in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Quite remarkably, he also had a go at drag racing and was, for a period, an NHRA Top Fuel dragster driver. He even considered Funny Cars, but for once, after a couple of fatalities that season, Nancy put her foot down and said no.
John Andretti had a good memory, so was able to recount the many and varied recollections of his life with the Andrettis and the other race teams for which he drove, including A J Foyt and Richard Petty. The stories are entertaining and give a good insight into what motivated John. Nevertheless, much of this account is not about driving, but relates how important to him his charity work was, particularly the energy he put into his fundraising for sick children through his Race for Riley programme for Riley’s Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis and the St Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.
This was even more poignant when John was diagnosed with colonic cancer at the age of 53. During the following four years, until his death in 2020, John not only fought his personal battles with this increasingly malignant disease, stoically recounted in his final chapters, but also used his infirmity to raise the profile of this devastating killer. His work to publicise his efforts to beat the cancer encouraged people to get colonoscopies before the age of 50, so that potential problems could be identified as early as possible. This is a story of one man’s drive and determination to beat all-comers on the track and his own private demons in his body, while retaining his love of life, his family and his humility. While John could not beat his cancer, this is nevertheless an uplifting story and a very good read.