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John Andretti, one of racing’s most versatile, dies after battle with cancer

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John Andretti, whose diverse resume included victories in NASCAR, IndyCar and the Rolex 24, died Thursday after a lengthy battle with cancer, Andretti Autosport announced. He was 56.

Andretti was a versatile driver who competed and won in the NASCAR Cup Series and the CART IndyCar Series. He was the first driver to attempt the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 doubleheader in 1994, finishing 10th at Indy for A.J. Foyt Racing and 36th at Charlotte Motor Speedway for Billy Hagan.

He also was among the winning sports car team in the overall title at the 1989 Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway. In the NHRA, he raced a Top Fuel dragster in 1993 and reached the semifinals of a national event at Atlanta.

Andretti is survived by his wife, Nancy, and children Jarrett, Olivia and Amelia.

MOTORSPORTS MOURNS: Andretti’s death brings outpouring of reaction

He was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2017. In a tweet posted by Andretti Autosport (owned by John’s cousin, Michael), the team said John Andretti “vowed to fight back and use his voice to help spread the word of prevention and early detection. 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. Our prayers today are with Nancy, Jarrett, Olivia and Amelia, with our entire family, and with fans worldwide. We urge all our followers to, please, #CheckIt4Andretti.”

The nephew of racing legend Mario Andretti raced in NASCAR’s premier series full time from 1994-2003, including six seasons with Petty Enterprises.

He won the 400-mile race at Daytona International Speedway in July 1997. On April 18, 1999, his last Cup win came in the No. 43 Pontiac at Martinsville Speedway, where he gave team owner Richard Petty a lift into victory lane.

He also made 12 starts in the Indianapolis 500 with a best of fifth in 1991. His lone CART victory came in the 1991 season opener at the Surfers Paradise circuit in Australia.

Andretti also was an accomplished USAC sprint car driver, winning many races on dirt before moving into the major leagues of racing.

Jarrett Andretti had followed in his father’s footsteps, racing in sprint cars and in last year’s Indy Lights event at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with Andretti Autosport. In a news conference last April, Jarrett said his father still was attending his races while undergoing chemotherapy.

“He came sprint car racing with me last weekend,” Jarrett said. “Goes to the car washes, up until 3 in the morning. He’s obviously going through chemo again, treatments and stuff. I’ve never seen it let him affect him. It’s really an inspiration.”

John Andretti initially was diagnosed with Stage 3 colon cancer after a colonoscopy in January 2017. After undergoing surgery to remove 12 to 14 inches of his colon, he thanked family and fans for their “overwhelming” support while encouraging those over 50 to be screened.

NASCAR and IndyCar honored Andretti in their prestigious Memorial Day weekend races in 2017. Every car in the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 ran “#CheckIt4Andretti” decals.

Andretti was shocked to find he had a massive tumor in his colon after undergoing a colonoscopy at 53 because his wife had been tested. He had showed no signs or symptoms before the diagnosis.

“They call colon cancer the ‘silent killer,’” Andretti said in an interview with Bruce Martin for SPEED SPORT Magazine. “They do that because you can have it and not ever know it. The only way to find out if you have it is a colonoscopy.”

Greg Zipadelli to serve as Clint Bowyer’s interim crew chief

Greg Zipadelli
Photo by Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images
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Greg Zipadelli, competition director for Stewart-Haas Racing, will serve as the crew chief for Clint Bowyer in Saturday’s Cup race at Michigan International Speedway, the team confirmed Monday.

Johnny Klausmeier will miss Saturday’s race, serving a one-race suspension because Bowyer’s car was found to have two lug nuts not safe and secure after last weekend’s race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Bowyer enters Saturday’s race at Michigan (4 p.m. ET on NBCSN) 14th on the playoff grid. The top 16 will advance to the playoffs. Six races remain in the regular season.

Klausmeier will be able to resume his role for Sunday’s Cup race (4:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN) at Michigan.

Zipadelli, who won Cup titles in 2002 and 2005 with Tony Stewart, will reprise the interim role he played earlier in the season in the Xfinity Series.

Zipadelli served as Chase Briscoe‘s crew chief for four races after crew chief Richard Boswell, the team’s car chief and an engineer were each suspended four races because ballast fell out of his car. Briscoe won three of the four races with Zipadelli as his crew chief.

Team Penske extends contract with Brad Keselowski

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Team Penske announced Monday that New Hampshire winner Brad Keselowski has agreed to a contract extension. Keselowski’s contract was to expire after this season.

A media release from the team did not state the length of the extension for Keselowski, 36. The Associated Press reported that the deal was for one year through the 2021 season.

Keselowski, who won the 2012 Cup title, has been with Team Penske since 2010, winning 31 Cup and 33 Xfinity races during that time.

“We are pleased that Brad will continue to be a part of our organization,” said Roger Penske in a statement. “Brad not only demonstrates talent and skill on the track, but his leadership away from it and his dedication to our partners have had a huge impact in making our organization one of the best in NASCAR. I am proud that we will be able to able to keep the continuity we have with Brad, Ryan (Blaney) and Joey (Logano) and look forward to competing for more wins and championships together.”

MORE: Winners and losers from New Hampshire

Said Keselowski in a statement: I have been racing for Team Penske for the vast majority of my NASCAR career and to continue to represent Roger Penske, our partners and his organization is exactly where I want to be. We’ve accomplished a lot of things together over the years, including winning both the Cup and Xfinity Championships, the Brickyard 400, the Southern 500 and the Coca-Cola 600. Now, my goal is to win the Daytona 500, another championship and continue to build Team Penske into the best NASCAR team in the garage area.”

Logano is signed to at least 2022. In March, Blaney signed a multiyear extension with Team Penske.

Keselowski’s victory Sunday was his third of the season. He’s scored at least three wins in each of the past five seasons. Keselowski is second  in the points to Kevin Harvick.

GMS Racing, Brett Moffitt to honor Jimmie Johnson with special scheme

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GMS Racing and sponsor Plan B Sales have created a special paint scheme to honor seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson on championship weekend in November at Phoenix Raceway.

Brett Moffitt, the 2018 Truck Series champion, will pilot the the specially adorned truck at Phoenix.

“Brett has been a part of the Plan B family and a great ambassador for our company over the years,” said Brent Powell, owner of Plan B Sales in a statement. “Last year we partnered with Brett and GMS for the Phoenix race, but this year is different with it being the season finale and Jimmie’s final (full-time Cup) weekend. It truly is an honor for us to showcase this throwback for Jimmie and hopefully see Brett clinch his second championship in our truck.”

Said Moffitt of Johnson in a statement: “I have looked up to him, leaned on him and had the utmost respect for everything he has done for our sport. This is the coolest paint scheme I’ve had in my career because of how much respect and admiration I have for Jimmie. I’m rooting for him to go out on top, and maybe we’ll both get the chance to celebrate a championship in Phoenix later this year.”

Johnson has announced this will be his final full-time Cup season. He drove a Chip Ganassi Racing IndyCar in a July 28 test on the road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Johnson has expressed a desire to race different vehicles after this season.

 

Cup playoff grid after New Hampshire

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William Byron holds a 15-point lead on rookie Tyler Reddick for the final playoff spot in the Cup playoff grid after last weekend’s race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Six races remain in the regular season.

Byron finished 11th at New Hampshire, one spot behind Reddick, but Byron extended his advantage on Reddick by five points. Byron scored six stage points, while Reddick scored none.

MORE: Could New Hampshire be a sign of things to come in Cup?

MORE: Winners and losers from New Hampshire 

Jimmie Johnson fell to 25 points behind Byron for the final spot in the Cup playoff grid. Johnson overcame a spin after contact with Clint Bowyer to run in the top 10 but lost four spots in the final 20 laps to finish 12th.

“Good fight today guys,” Johnson told his team on the radio after the race. “Overcome a lot of (stuff) again.”

The series heads this weekend to Michigan International Speedway for two races. The Cup Series races there at 4 p.m. ET Saturday and at 4:30 p.m. ET on Sunday. Both races will be on NBCSN.

Ten of the 16 playoff spots have been secured by drivers who have won at least one race this year: Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott, Martin Truex Jr., Alex Bowman, Austin Dillon and rookie Cole Custer.

Here is a look at the Cup playoff grid. Drivers shaded in green are locked in the playoffs. Drivers shaded in yellow are in a playoff spot based on their point total. Drivers shaded in red are outside a spot in the Cup playoff grid.

 

Cup playoff grid New Hampshire