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Jim McIsaac

NASCAR, IndyCar and sports-car racing competitor John Andretti died on Thursday at the age of 56 after a long battle with colon cancer. The Andretti Autosport team confirmed the news. 

His family released a statement saying, "We will forever carry with us John's genuine spirit of helping others first and himself second."

During his NASCAR Cup Series career from 1993-2010 he claimed four poles and won twice. Among his many accomplishments is also a CART Series victory at Surfers Paradise, Australia, in 1991.

NASCAR President Steve Phelps issued the following statement on Andretti:

"John Andretti embodied the spirit of a champion and inspired an entire fan base through his courageous battle with cancer. He was a fierce competitor throughout his life, and we are saddened by his passing. The entire NASCAR family extends its deepest condolences and prayers to John's family."

Andretti was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer and revealed the news to fans in April 2017, explaining the many highs and lows of the journey and encouraging others to get checked, using the hashtag "#CheckIt4Andretti." He wrote a message saying given his line of work, many did not expect him to live past his 20s. 

"Growing up when you're a little bit wild in a race car, I think everybody in our family's always heard this: 'You're not going to live to see 20.' Then it was, 'You're not going to live see 25, then 30.' But here I am. Still going. Our family's already been through plenty of trials, and we're still here. To get taken down by this, well, I'm going to go out giving it the strongest fight I can give it," he said when he revealed the diagnosis.

He fought it with courage, and even when he announced the cancer had spread in May, he was giving it his best go. 

Andretti comes from a legendary family of racers. Andretti is the son of Aldo Andretti and nephew of Mario Andretti, who is the only driver who has won the Daytona 500, Indianapolis 500 and the Formula One driver's championship, and is the cousin of drivers Michael and Jeff Andretti.