To The Andretti Family,
I hope you all are doing well during these hectic times. I write you this letter for the grieving I, and many still feel for John Andretti’s passing. I’ve spent the past year thinking about this letter and what to say. I wanna start by talking about myself. I am a 22-year-old recent graduate of Texas State University, and I want to be a high school history teacher and football coach. I have been a NASCAR fan since I was three, and I was the first in my family to fall in love with auto racing. This love of racing starts from another love of mine… Cheerios. At the time I got a small Cheerios car, not knowing it was a NASCAR, but not too long after getting the car my parents were trying to get back to a Dallas Cowboys game, and while we were flipping channels and I saw the same Cheerios car on TV and I was hooked. This was in 2001, and I quickly learned that bright yellow 43 was driven by none other than John Andretti. That day I became a lifelong fan of NASCAR and more importantly a John Andretti fan, and my life was forever changed.
Fast forward to March of 2003, and I went to visit my first NASCAR track Texas Motor Speedway. That day was the first time I saw John Andretti the human, and I doubt John ever remembered this, but I could never forget it. I was in a line at his merchandise hauler, and people were being counted off to meet John. Well as fate would have it I was one of the first few people not able to meet him, and I immediately started crying my eyes out. John saw, or heard about this and my dad and I were told to meet him behind the hauler after the autograph session. John took the time to talk to me, sign everything, and made me feel special. It changed my life. John was more than a driver, but an amazing human. Being a fan of his was a rewarding experience he didn’t always get all of the attention, or accolades from fans and media, but when he did it made it all the more special. The thing that I felt watching John Andretti race is he did it for people like me, his fans.
NASCAR has always been there for me. Even after John retired NASCAR was my life. I watched NASCAR and it has been a rock in my life every Sunday. I could sit down and watch, and the person who gave me that was John. John introducing me to racing has forever changed my life racing is my passion, and now I’ve even started a podcast and writing for a website. I attribute this all to John, he gave me so much joy as a young child and even all these years later.
I’ve been crying throughout this letter but I feel you should know how I took the news of his passing. I was at my college apartment and I immediately started crying nonstop. In my grieving process I went to the grocery store and got a box of Cheerios and a jug of chocolate milk. I have since been pondering how to memorialize John, and I reached the conclusion that I want to spread the joy I got from watching John race, the happiness I got seeing him do well, I want to make other people that happy in my presence.
Lastly John is my forever favorite driver, no driver has or ever will mean to me what John means. He truly changed my life for the better. I want to thank him and his family. I hope you all continue to heal, and we are all in this together.
From a Forever Andretti Fan, Zachary Bell