Book Review: Racer

A. J. Foyt calls him a fighter. Michael Andretti talks about his big heart. Richard Petty considers him family. Mario Andretti talks about John Andretti the family and business man. The four legends describe their feelings toward Andretti in the forewords to his autobiography, Racer, recently published by Octane Press

John Andretti has a passion for racing, family, and life in general. His autobiography, as told to Jade Gurss, author of Beast, reflects his passions through stories about his life. From his early racing days as part of a very competitive family, to his battle with colon cancer, Andretti maintains a positive attitude.

The son of Aldo Andretti, Mario’s twin brother, John grew up in a family where competition ruled. Whether it was sledding in the backyard, trying to get better grades than his sister, or just beating Michael or Mario on the track, John competed at the highest level he could.

Early on his passion for racing appears. If he can’t win the race, he has to at least finish higher than the pother family members he is racing against. In a kart race at Pocono, John was leading his class comfortably. A tire couldn’t be removed and the crew told him to just finish the race on it. Cousin Michael begins to catch him, but John holds on for the apparent victory. After the race, John is disqualified because of the tire and Michael gets the trophy. Several times later in the autobiography, John makes reference to Michael possessing his trophy.

John’s passion for racing continued while he attended Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. John drives back to Indianapolis to race, then returns to school. Still he maintains a high grade point average. He has 17 races scheduled in May of his senior year. John receives permission to take his final exams early, and he doesn’t return for commencement.

In 1995 John begins raising money for Riley Children’s Hospita with the Race for Riley. The race began as a challenge to Mike Hibbeln, a producer at WIBC radio. The Andretti kids were treated at Riley as kids. John wants to give back. The event grows, sponsors such as Cheerios get in volved, and in 2019 Race for Riley raises more than $600,000. Of all of John’s accomplishments, I think this was the one he was most proud of.

John drives Indycar and NASCAR, winning races in both series. He drives for Richard petty two different times and becomes an honorary member of the Petty family. He also tries drag racing for a bit. John doesn’t stay long enough to win any drag races, but he did well in his brief time.

The story about the Stinger, the Marmon Wasp tribute car built to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first 500 Mile Race, shows John’s determination. John and Tammy Whitworth, CEO of Window World, who had sponsored Andretti in the 500 have an idea to get every living driver who had riven in the 500 to sign the car. If a driver can’t get to Indianapolis to sign it, Andretti takes the car to them,l no matter where they live. The car travels to Florida, California, South Carolina, and Colorado and several othet places in order for former drivers to sign it. Only one driver refuses to sign it. Andretti does not name the driver. The car is auctioned off in 2016 fro $900,000. The proceeds went to St. Jude Hospital.

In the final six chapters, Andretti talks about his cancer diagnosis and his treatments. It is difficult to read, especially for someone who has gone through these treatments or has had a partner who has had cancer.

Andretti maintains his positive attitude until the end. Success is not always measured in how many races won, but by how much is done for the benefitof others. because of his efforts for Riley hospital and St. Jude, John Andretti is a champion.

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