The Nice Guy’s Gone

Photo by Tom Pidgeon/Getty Images

John Andretti died from colon cancer yesterday. He was 56.

Andretti was one of the nice guys. His racing career lacked the glory of his uncle Mario or first cousin Michael; in 393 Cup starts he won only twice, the final victory coming in 1999. The final years saw him bouncing from team to team. He wasn’t the flashiest or fanciest, and it can be safely argued much of his popularity stemmed from his last name more than any on-track accomplishments.

But he was unarguably a genuinely nice guy.

Genuinely nice guys are distinguishable from self-proclaimed ones by what they do, not how they run their mouths. Andretti raised millions for, ironically, cancer research and treatment for children. His public mention of his own cancer when first diagnosed was done not for gaining sympathy, but to encourage men his age to get the dreaded colonoscopy needed to catch early warnings of problems. Because that’s what nice guys do. They look out for others.

John Andretti’s death won’t garner 1/100th of 1% of the lamentations Kobe Bryant’s has. This is to be expected. Bryant was a universal figure. Andretti was known but to devoted auto racing fans. But he was known, and he was loved.

Rest in glory, John.