Jan. 30 (UPI) -- Versatile race-car driver John Andretti, a nephew of racing legend Mario Andretti, died at age 56 after a lengthy battle with colon cancer, Andretti Autosport announced Thursday.
"It is with the heaviest of hearts we share that John Andretti has today lost his battle with cancer," Andretti Autosport said in its statement. "John was a loving husband and father, a devoted son and a trusted cousin. He was a philanthropist, an advocate for the sport, a dedicated teammate, a driven competitor and most importantly a dear friend.
"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, Jarett, Olivia and Amelia, with our entire family, and with fans worldwide."
John Andretti, a Pennsylvania native, followed in his family's footsteps. His father, Aldo, grew up racing and his uncle, Mario, rose to stardom after winning the 1969 Indianapolis 500 and 1978 world championship.
John Andretti's cousin, Michael, competed in Formula One before turning team owner and winning the Indy 500 five times. Michael's son, Marco, finished second at the Indy 500 as a rookie in 2006 and has since finished in the top-five on four occasions at Indianapolis.
Jarett Andretti, John's son, made his Indy 500 debut last May in Indy Lights. He finished sixth in the race, becoming the seventh member of the family to race at Indianapolis.
Rest In Peace #JohnAndretti. The best godfather. Your passion for Motorsport was admirable. Always the good ones we lose too soon. #checkit4andretti pic.twitter.com/WtpSPDzdsV— Marco Andretti (@MarcoAndretti) January 30, 2020
John Andretti made 476 career starts on the Cup and IndyCar circuits, winning three times. He raced for 17 seasons in NASCAR before retiring in 2010. Of his 12 appearances in the Indy 500, his best finish came in 1991 when he placed fifth.
John Andretti was diagnosed with colon cancer in April 2017. He is survived by his wife, Nancy, son Jarett and daughter Olivia.