NASCAR and IndyCar racer John Andretti has died. He was 56.
News of the American driver’s death was confirmed on Thursday by Andretti Autosport, an auto racing team owned by John’s cousin Michael.
“It [is] with the heaviest of hearts we share that John Andretti has today lost his battle with cancer,” the statement, which was shared on Thursday afternoon, read. “John was a loving husband and father, a devoted son and a trusted cousin. He was a philanthropist, an advocate for the sport, a dedicated teammate, a driven competitor and most importantly a dear friend.”
The racing star, who was first diagnosed with colon cancer in 2017, made it his mission to “use his voice to help spread the word of prevention and early detection,” the statement continued.
“He fought hard and stole back days the disease vowed to take away. He helped countless others undergo proper screening, and in doing so, saved lives. We will forever carry with us John’s genuine spirit of helping others first and himself second,” the statement continued. “Our prayers today are with Nancy, Jarett, Olivia and Amelia, with our entire family, and with fans worldwide.”
Family member Marco Andretti also shared a tribute to John, calling him “the best godfather.”
“Your passion for Motorsport was admirable. Always the good ones we lose too soon,” he continued, including the hashtag “#CheckIt4Andretti,” which John frequently used amid his battle with cancer as a reminder to others.
John, who raced for 17 seasons before retiring from NASCAR in 2010, came from a family of racecar drivers.
His uncle Mario Andretti, a four-time IndyCar national champion, is the only driver to have ever won the Indianapolis 500, the Daytona 500 and the Formula One World Championship. John’s father Aldo, who is Mario’s twin, is also a former NASCAR driver.
Additionally, John’s son Jarett races professionally.
Throughout his career, Kohn won two of 393 starts he competed in, and came in fifth place during the Indianapolis 500 in 1991, according to the Indianapolis Star. His final win took place in the 1999 NASCAR Cup Series.
He also made history in 1994, becoming the first driver to attempt to compete in the Indy 500 and Coca-Cola 600 on the same day, coming in 10th and 36th respectively, NBC Sports reported.
John was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer in 2017 after getting a colonoscopy that January, after putting it off for years, WTHR reported at the time. Shortly after undergoing surgery to remove a portion of his colon, doctors discovered cancer had spread to his liver.
Although John tweeted in March 2018 that he had finished chemotherapy and his latest scans had come back clean, two months later, he announced that his cancer had returned and “spread to other areas.”
“I’m an Andretti,” he told the Indianapolis Star at the time. “Our family’s already been through plenty of trials, and we’re still here. To get taken down by this, well, I’m going to go out giving it the strongest fight I can give it.”