’His Fingerprints Are on This,’ He Says of Late Father John
By Jeff Olson
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - As Jarett Andretti worked his way through the sprint-car ranks, he jokingly referred to his dad, John, as his brother. The two were always together, working, planning, traveling and racing, side-by-side and fully engaged in their adventure.
"I called him my roommate," Jarett Andretti said. "For six months out of the year, he lived with me. We’d spend 12 hours a day together. We ate breakfast, lunch and dinner together. We talked constantly. For the longest time, I didn’t have an alarm clock. He would just come into my room in the morning and say, ‘OK, time to get up. Let’s go to work.’"
John Andretti died last year at 56 after a long struggle with colon cancer. In the final years of his life, though, he laid the foundation for something significant – something his son is proud to show everyone this weekend at Daytona International Speedway in the Scouts of America 145.
IMSA Prototype Challenge: Scouts of America 145 entry list
On Friday, Jarett Andretti, 28, will fire up the No. 18 Andretti Autosport Ligier JS P320 for practice in the Roar Before the Rolex 24 with teammate Tristan Herbert. The team and car carry the influences of John Andretti, and his son is pleased to continue his father’s legacy.
It’s not just his father’s memory going into the effort, either. Aldo Andretti, Jarett’s grandfather and twin brother of racing legend Mario Andretti, died Dec. 30 at age 80. Aldo, whose racing career ended after a bad crash in 1969, played a significant role in the family’s support of Jarett’s career ambitions.
"They taught me the principles and the background," Andretti said. "They didn’t so much give me a roadmap as they gave me the ability to follow the roadmap. They gave me the ability to make the right decisions – or at least feel like I’m making the right decisions – and surround myself with the right people."
Andretti’s racing journey began in 2010 in sprints and supermodifieds. In 2012, he won the track championship at Lawrenceburg (Ind.) Speedway, then moving on to USAC Silver Crown cars, sprints and midgets. In 2018, he transitioned to sports cars, eventually landing in the Pirelli GT4 America Series.
As Andretti considered the next step in his career progression in 2020, he and his dad looked at cars in the Le Mans Prototype 3-1 category in IMSA Prototype Challenge. The six-race series offers the champion a $100,000 credit applicable toward the 2022 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
Just weeks before John Andretti died, father and son watched the IMSA Prototype Challenge race at Daytona on television. They agreed that the cars and series were a proper fit.
"We watched the whole race together," Jarett said. "Afterward, he looked over at me and said, ‘Man, you’ve got to do this. You’ve got to find way to get in one of these cars and do it.’"
"I said, ‘Dad, I’m trying. I’m trying real hard.’ He said, ‘It sounds like you’re not trying hard enough.’ And then he gave me a smile."
That wry, knowing smile came from a father who knew all about various forms of racing. During his 27-year career, John Andretti competed and won in NASCAR, IndyCar, NHRA and IMSA races – the latter including the overall win in the 1989 Rolex 24 At Daytona in a Porsche 962.
The family tradition of racing success has continued for three generations, and the latest step is just what Dad would’ve wanted.
"I don’t think you can really overstate the impact he had on my life and this team," Jarett said. "He was my best friend. We did everything together. We built the whole team together. His fingerprints are on this, and I know he would be over-the-moon excited about this."
The Prototype Challenge is split into two classes for this season only. LMP3-1 is for the new-generation cars, with LMP3-2 for older-generation cars. There are 19 total entries for the Scouts of America 145: 16 in the new-car class and three in LMP3-2.
Matthew Bell and Naveen Rao return to defend their series championship. They’re moving into a new WIN Autosport Duqueine M30-D08 LMP3-1 that will carry the No. 1 signifying their 2020 title. Dakota Dickerson, last year’s runner-up, returns in the No. 54 MLT Motorsports Ligier LMP3-1, as does Bronze Cup champion Steven Thomas in the No. 11 WIN Autosport Duqueine LMP3-1.
Prototype Challenge action begins with a pair of practices Friday on the 3.56-mile Daytona road course, at 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. ET. Qualifying is set for 8:45 a.m. Saturday, ahead of the Scouts of America 145 at 12:50 p.m. A live stream of the one-hour, 45-minute race begins at 12:45 p.m. on TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold.