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John Andretti ( 1963 - )  Category ( Auto_Racing ) [suggest a correction]
 

John AndrettiJohn Andretti may not be the most successful driver in professional auto racing history, but he has to be among the most versatile.

If it has wheels, a motor and a crowd watching it, chances are Andretti has slid into the cockpit at one time or another. In the process, he has raced against the best that NASCAR, Indy cars, drag racing, sports car racing and truck racing could throw against him.

Of course, good genes don't hurt, and Andretti is part of auto racing's First Family. His father, Aldo, is Mario Andretti's twin, making Michael and Jeff Andretti his cousins. In 1991, Michael, John and Mario finished 1-2-3 in an Indy car race in Milwaukee, the only time family members have ever swept win, place and show there.

John was born March 12, 1963, in Bethlehem, PA, and graduated from Moravian College with a degree in business administration. He might as well have majored in racing, because his career began shortly after he received his diploma. It was the family way.

Andretti's career has had its ups and downs, but few other drivers can claim to have driven at Indianapolis, Daytona, and Watkins Glen. And while NASCAR track speeds are impressive, Andretti can boast of having once hit 300 mph -- in the national drag racing championships.

Victories have popped up here and there. Andretti has won twice on NASCAR's Winston Cup/Sprint circuit, at the Pepsi 400 at Daytona in 1997 and at Martinsville, VA two years later. His lone open-wheel victory came in Australia in 1991, and he and co-drivers Bob Wollek and Derek Bell captured the 24 Hours of Daytona in 1989.

Most recently, the 46-year-old Andretti was one of the main human interest stories at the 2009 Indianapolis 500 when he drove a Honda sponsored by Richard Petty, the first time Petty had ever entered a vehicle in that race. One of the last to make the qualifying field (one newspaper headlined dubbed him "Johnny Come Lately"), Andretti ran a solid race at the Brickyard and finished 19th.

"On one of the restarts, I got pushed up into the dirt,” Andretti said afterward. “I lost all my track position, and it caused me to not have a better finish. So it was a little frustrating from that standpoint.

"But the good point is, we didn't hit anything."

Nothing but the Andretti jinx at Indy.  Since Mario won the race in 1969, the family has been shut out of victory lane, even though at least one family member has competed in all but two years (2004-05). Mario tried 24 times to replicate his early success, but it was not to be. Michael tried 16 times, and Jeff crashed in two out of three Indy attempts.

A local favorite at the Brickyard because he has lived in Indianpolis for years (when he’s not in North Carolina during the Sprint Cup season), Andretti raised the bar even higher for himself in 1994. Amid intense national curiosity, he became the first driver to compete in the daytime Indy 500 and the under-lights World 600 in Charlotte on the same day, jumping into a helicopter immediately after the first race ended and making it to Charlotte barely in time to be strapped into his second ride. He finished 10th at Indy and 36th at Charlotte.

Andretti currently is driving on the Sprint Cup circuit for Front Row Motorsports.


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