John Andretti, "The King" (Richard Petty) and Dreyer & Reinbold unveil the RPM No. 43 racecar for the 2009 Indy 500. (Image source: motorsport.com)
Although he'll always be remember by the long running No Fenders moniker I've used for him as Gentleman John...
By now Y'all have heard the news that John Andretti Died from his protracted fight against Colon Cancer at the age of 56 on Thursday, January 30th.
As it seems like it's largely fallen underneath thou Radar since the Sports World is all Ah-wash' in the Kobe Bryant tragedy right now, not to mention that John presumably wouldn't be considered an "A lister" Celebrity wise by most, Righto? Even with his famous last name...
But I'd have to totally agree with 'Ol R's', nee Robin Miller's assessment of John, since he seemingly was always overshadowed by other Andretti's...
Although I was unawares' that John apparently began his professional racing career in IMSA in 1986 behind the wheel of a Factory BMW GTP racecar, partnered by another former IndyCar driver named Davy Jones, with the duo winning the Fall Watkins Glen race.
As the Works BMW two car squad also had 'Ol Hobbo', nee HobbsCap', aka David Hobbs and John "Wattie" Watson in its other GTP entry that year.
As John then made his Open Wheel Racing Debut the following year appropriately at the '87 Road America 200 CART race as Tom Sneva's replacement.
While I can still somewhat "See" that Fly; Err Pennzoil Yellow #4 Hall VDS Lola 9100 Chevrolet racecar he won his lone CART PPG Indy Car World Series IndyCar race Down Under at surfers Paradise in 1991 for the legendous' Jim Hall. Ironically the same year that his cousin Michael won his lone IndyCar Championship.
And I know I coveted a Randy Owens print of a brace 'O March/Porsche IndyCar's in Thar striking blue & white Fosters livery when John was Teo Fabi's team-mate during the 1990 CART PPG Indy Car World Series season...
Yet Arguably his Biggest Win came aboard Jim Busby's Busby Racing Miller High Life/BF Goodrich Porsche 962, when John with Co-drivers Bob Wolleck and Derrick Bell won the 1989 Sunbank 24 at Daytona 31yrs ago; Aye Karumba!
When Sunbank preceded the now well known moniker Rolex 24 for the prestigious Sports Car race held at Daytona International Speedway since 1962.
Although I suppose some would argue that his inaugural RASSCAR' victory at the 1997 Pepsi 400 at Daytona would also rank in stature, albeit it's the lesser of the prestigious DayToner' Roundy Round events...
As John spent the majority of his racing career in Stock Cars, competing in NASCAR between 1993 and 2010, amassing nearly 400 starts, claiming two victories and four Pole positions before returning to Indy Cars in 2007.
As it's hard to believe it's almost a Decade ago since his final race at Mother Speedway, contesting the 2011 Indy 500 in what became his late trademark #43 entry, endorsed by The King', nee Richard Petty himself, with Window World as his longtime sponsor.
Although I tend to recall his return to IndyCars for the Back-marker Roth Racing IRL entity, and due to No fault of his own, the estranged replacement of Jay Funnyman' Howard at Indianapolis.
While how many IndyCar Drivers have ever Strapped-on an NHRA Top Fuel Nitro Dragster? Which is exactly what John did Wayback in '93! Driving for former Major League Baseball player Jack Clark in the Taco Bell Express,. With Clark's first Driver being the late Tom "The Mongoose" McEwen.
As John's Top Fueler exploits came before becoming a Fulltime RASSCAR' TaxicabLand' Chauffer, making his debut for the totally unknown & forgotten Tex Racing in '93.
Along with making History as the first Driver to contest what became known as "The Double," when John raced in both the 1994 Indianapolis 500 and Charlotte 600 on the same Day!
And John seemingly was a Trailblazer in his own unique way, but became known to Mwah as Gentleman John for his Humble, always Positive, Smiling, Never Angry personality. And just seemed very grounded with zero Ego, especially for somebody with the last name of Andretti!
As I never got to meet him, but know he would have been most gracious to me, and it would have been a pleasure meeting him briefly...
Yet it's John's Charitable Work that sets him apart for Mwah, albeit having zero Clue what the other Andretti's due in this realm of Philanthropy? But John tirelessly campaigned for children, most notably at Riley's Children's Hospital in Indianapolis, along with other Charity's.
Since I recall seeing his Stinger' IndyCar Wayback' in 2013 at the IMS Museum, which he got multiple IndyCar Drivers to autograph before it was auctioned off for St Jude's Children's Research at the 2016 100th running of the Indianapolis 500.
And although I've got zero idea how much or who won this amazing piece 'O memorabilia, I did find out that John actually spent four years attempting to get All 273 living Indy 500 Drivers who'd competed in the race up to the 2011 Centenary!
As the car was painted to mimic the 1911 Marmon Wasp winner, replete with faux black leather cowling straps and black front nose radiator - with the No. 32 chosen in a nod to Indy's tradition of 33 Starters, in what's just one more example of John's tireless work for others...
As this car should really be on permanent Display in the IMS Museum as part of the Speedway's collection both in tribute to John Andretti and it's unique Indy 500 significance. which after a 'lil more digging, I'm happy to learn that's exactly where it landed...