Battling colorectal cancer, John Andretti takes message public

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INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana – John Andretti was given the task of placing a decal for his #checkit4andretti promotion on an Andretti Autosport car before today’s practice session at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Ever the perfectionist, he lined up the decal and prepared to apply it, perfectly plumb and square. Then he was stopped by a funny thought.

“I was going to put it on crooked so it would drive my cousin (team owner Michael) nuts,” he said with a smile.

Nevertheless, he’s John Andretti, and a crooked decal would probably drive him nuttier than it would his cousin. Perfectionism won. The decal went on straight.

John Andretti has a story to tell and, in pure John Andretti style, it’s told to benefit others. A few months ago, he went to the doctor for a colonoscopy. Almost immediately, he was in surgery to remove a tumor. Now he’s enduring another round of chemotherapy in his treatment for Stage 4 colorectal cancer. He doesn’t want anyone else to endure what he’s enduring.

“We’ve not only taken people who were not getting colonoscopies to get them, but those people have become advocates for getting them done,” Andretti said. “That’s been the bigger part of it. It’s grown. … It’s almost like a mini-movement.”

Andretti, 54, the veteran racer and 12-time competitor in the Indy 500, brought his #checkit4andretti campaign to IMS today. The message is simple: If you’re 50 or older, schedule a colonoscopy. It’s an easy procedure that can save your life.

“To me, it’s really simple,” Andretti said. “You have a plan, you have steps and you just follow them.”

Appearing with his son, Jarett, Andretti told his story and urged people to get screened.

“It’s been a struggle, but the people around me have made it much easier,” Andretti said. “Prayers and everybody who has reached out to me. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to reach back out to everybody who has.”

Andretti is the son of Aldo Andretti, whose twin brother Mario is second in all-time Indy car victories with 52. Cousin Michael, Mario’s son, is third with 42 wins. John had a 26-year racing career that covered sprints, midgets, NASCAR, Indy cars and sports cars. He competed in 15 Daytona 500s, with a top finish of 13th in 2004 for Dale Earnhardt Inc.

He competed in 83 Indy car races with one victory – the first race held at Surfers Paradise, Australia. His best Indy 500 finish was fifth in 1991. In 1994, he completed the storied double, racing in the Indy 500 and NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 on the same day for his godfather, A.J. Foyt.

In recent years, John Andretti turned his energy to his son’s racing career and various promotional projects. Before last year’s 100th Indy 500, Andretti auctioned off The Stinger, an Indy car that was signed by nearly every living participant in the Indianapolis 500, a task that took Andretti years to accomplish.

The car sold for $900,000, which went to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, and is on display at the Indianapolis Motor Museum.

Now, his goal is to sell T-shirts at shopandretti.com, with proceeds going to Race for Riley, a charity that benefits Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health in Indianapolis. Crew members for all six Andretti Autosport cars entered in this year’s Indy 500 wore T-shirts today that read “In It to Win It” on the front and “#checkit4andretti, Schedule Your Colonoscopy Today” on the back. Many teams in pit lane added a #checkit4andretti decal on their cars.

Andretti also wants to get people to a doctor for their colonoscopy. It’s already worked with his cousin.

“I’d like to think we’ve changed some people’s lives,” John Andretti said. “I thought we would get some people to go, and I did. I forced a few people to go because I wasn’t going to go public with it unless they did go and they decided it was worth it.

“One was my cousin Michael. I figured I’d never get him to go, so I’d never have to go public with it. Two weeks later, he did it.”

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