John Anderson, who passed away today, was a rarity...In a cut-throat sport that often breeds greed, jealousy and arrogance; he was universally liked and respected.
Robin Miller | Posted December 16, 2010 Indianapolis, IN
The measure of any man, especially in motorsports, is how he’s perceived by his teammates, the competition and even his enemies.
But John Anderson was a rarity. In a cut-throat sport that often breeds greed, jealousy and arrogance; he was universally liked and respected by everyone who had the pleasure of his company.
And, since “Ando” worked for about every team in Indy car racing during the past 30 years, that’s a huge compliment.
“He was just an all-around great guy,” said Kyle Moyer, the team manager at Andretti Autosport. “I don’t know of anybody that didn’t like him. He was the best.”
The affable Aussie died suddenly on Thursday morning after playing racquetball with his pal Will Phillips. It was a shocking as it was sad because the ex-rugby player was a strong 65-year-old with boundless energy.
It was that enthusiastic approach which endeared him to people and made guys like Paul Harcus follow him from job to job.
“He was a helluva good guy who made you enjoy what you were doing,” said Harcus, who went from Galles Racing to Pac-West to Team Green to Champ Car with his mate from down under.
“John expected a huge amount from you and he got it because he was always fair and so energetic that you couldn’t help but be enthused yourself and want to get the job done.
“And he was a guy you could always have a beer with afterwards and say what was on your mind.”
Ando came to the United States in 1981 to work on the VDS team in Can-Am and then began his open-wheel career with Bill Alsup’s CART team in 1983. Since then, he worked for Rick Galles, Truesports, Gurney/Curb, A.J. Foyt, Pac West and Team Green.
Most of his jobs were as team manager, but Harcus said he had other strengths.
“Ando was excellent on the management side but he was also a good mechanic and a great fabricator. And he could keep good people because he was always willing to jump in and help you if you got behind.
“He loved to give you a hard time but he cultivated loyalty because he knew how to treat people. That’s why I followed him all over the place.”
Moyer first worked with Ando on a team owned by Dan Gurney and record mogul Mike Curb with Tom Sneva driving. In 1986, Sneva qualified seventh fastest but never made it to the green flag – crashing on the parade lap as he scrubbed his tires.
There was no closed circuit television back then so nobody saw what happened – except the guys in the ABC truck. When ABC pit reporter Bill Fleming stuck his microphone in front of Ando and asked if he would be able to fix the ’83 Indy winner’s car, John’s response was understandably pure shock.
“We didn’t know, we thought some rookie had crashed and then they told us it was our car,” recalled Moyer with a chuckle.
Anderson’s strength as a boss was rivaled by his physical prowess.
“He was the best guy to take to a technical inspection or if you had a problem with another team,” said Moyer. “He wasn’t afraid to rumble.”
Harcus remembered the time the boys tried to saran wrap Anderson to a light pole. “There were six of us and he kept knocking us down so we finally gave up. He was a bull.”
But his sense of humor and pleasant demeanor is what we’ll all remember most. Ando’s quick wit and sharp jabs didn’t discriminate; everyone was fair game, and he could find humor in about any situation.
Last winter, when he was employed by the ill-fated U.S. Formula One team in Charlotte, weekly phone calls to him got funnier and funnier.
“We don’t have any equipment yet, or a car, but the shop floor is spotless,” he cracked one day.
He loved to fly his airplane to the races and “Air Ando” usually buzzed the track and that was the signal for Moyer or George Klotz to come fetch him at the airport.
“He was a pretty good pilot,” said Moyer. “But he was a great human being and we’re all going to miss that laugh.”