John Cardinale, the longtime community and media relations manager at the raceway at Sears Point, has died after a two-year bout of gastric cancer. He was 47.
Cardinale passed away overnight Wednesday at his Martinez home with his family, raceway spokeswoman Diana Brennan said. He leaves his wife, Andrea, and two daughters, Emma, 11, and Lauren, 7.
Cardinale grew up in San Francisco, graduated from San Francisco State University and was a sportswriter for five years at the Contra Costa Times before beginning work at the raceway in 1998.
"There is a hole in the heart of this organization," said Steve Page, the president and general manager of Sonoma Raceway. "John Cardinale was as true a friend, as loyal a colleague, as devoted a husband and father and as fine a human being as you could ever hope to know.'
Page said Cardinale had been a part of "every good thing that has happened at this track over the last 15 years."
Cardinale was respected in the business, at one point named by NASCAR as directing the best public relations staff in stock car industry.
"We are all so fortunate to have had him in our lives and to have shared in his intelligence, his wit, his integrity and his brave spirit," Page said.
In December 2010, Cardinale felt a persistent pain in his right side. Soon after, he was diagnosed with stage four gastric cancer. He was told he had six to nine months to live and that the disease had spread to his liver.
Cardinale vowed to fight the disease and began working to raise awareness and funds to research the disease, the second-leading cause of cancer death in the world, according to the National Center of Biotechnology Information.
Twice, he hosted "John's March Against Stomach Cancer," a fundraiser at the track.
A memorial fund has been set up to benefit Cardinale's family. Donations may be sent to the John Cardinale Memorial Fund, care of Sonoma Raceway, 29355 Arnold Drive, Sonoma 95476.