Ned Jarrett, a two-time champion in NASCAR's premier series, said Thursday that he is cancer-free after surgery and four weeks of recent treatment for melanoma, a form of skin cancer.
Jarrett, 82, said he was diagnosed with the disease this winter but that his health prognosis was encouraging. The NASCAR Hall of Famer said he was able to participate in last weekend's festivities at Darlington Raceway without restriction, joining the NBC Sports booth to broadcast a portion of Sunday's Bojangles' Southern 500.
"It is very positive and I feel good," Jarrett told NASCAR.com. "In fact, I feel the best I've felt in a couple of years at least. Getting my immune system built up and getting toxins out of my body and the cancer, I'm really feeling good and feeling good about the whole situation. I know now how to better take care of my body, so hopefully, it won't come back."
Jarrett said that a biopsy was performed in January after dermatologists discovered a spot on his left arm during a check-up. After the diagnosis, he had successful surgery Feb. 20 to remove the cancerous areas.
After further consultation and tests at the Center for Advanced Medicine and Clinical Research in Cornelius, North Carolina, Dr. Rashid Buttar discovered additional melanoma and prescribed a four-week course of treatment in July. Jarrett was declared cancer-free after completion of the program.
"There are no limitations," Jarrett said. "I'll be a little bit more careful about what I eat and the sun exposure that I get, although I'm not going to stop playing golf or going to the races or wherever I need to go. I'll just be a little bit more careful about exposure for my skin to the sun."
Jarrett said that skin cancer wasn't even an afterthought growing up in the rural North Carolina foothills, but that cancer was part of his genealogy. He lost seven family members, including his father, to the disease during a six-month stretch in 1983.
"Of course, I grew up on a farm and worked in a sawmill," Jarrett said. "We didn't know anything about cancer or how it worked or that sun could do damage, and we went without shirts most of the time working on the farm. Then all of the years that I raced, I was outside and didn't even know about sunscreen. I feel very fortunate, especially since there has been a lot of cancer in my family, back in '83 in particular. So I was fortunate that it went as long as it did without showing up."
Jarrett said the purpose of making his story public was to raise awareness for cancer treatment, but the revelation is part of a much longer-running mission. Jarrett has helped raise more than $1 million for the American Cancer Society as host of a charity golf tournament in his home state for more than 25 years.
"I want to encourage people at the first sign of cancer, get something done about it," Jarrett said. "We were very proactive on this situation as far as I'm concerned and I feel like that helped us to treat it and get rid of it quick and I would encourage others to do the same. If there are suspicions, check it out, get a handle on it and get it taken care of."
Jarrett -- nicknamed "Gentleman Ned" for his kind, calm disposition -- scored 50 Grand National (now Sprint Cup) victories in his brief career, becoming one of the sport's earliest stars in a period of substantial growth for stock-car racing. He was crowned premier-series champion in 1961 and 1965, and also won titles in 1957 and '58 in the fore-runner to the NASCAR XFINITY Series.
Jarrett was voted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2011, the second group of five chosen for enshrinement. He was named one of NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998.
After his retirement at age 34, Jarrett moved on to business ventures, a role as track promoter at Hickory Speedway and a seamless transition to broadcasting, where his voice became a familiar sound on MRN Radio and television networks CBS and ESPN.
Jarrett's two sons -- Dale and Glenn -- followed his career arc from the track to the world of broadcasting. Dale Jarrett, premier-series champion in 1999, won the Daytona 500 three times with his father watching and making an emotional call of his first triumph in the Great American Race alongside the legendary Ken Squier in 1993. Dale Jarrett is currently part of NBC Sports' broadcast team. Glenn Jarrett, Dale's older brother, made 77 NASCAR national series starts and currently serves as a reporter for MRN Radio.
Ned Jarrett and Squier were reunited in the broadcast suite Sunday night at Darlington, with Dale Jarrett joining in as part of NBC Sports' participation in NASCAR's throwback weekend. Their vintage call of the 500-mile classic drew rave reviews across social media, but ranked as a special personal moment for the 82-year-old Hall of Famer.
"We've truly been blessed in a number of different ways over the years through the sport," Jarrett said, recalling his career highlights on the track and in the booth. "This last weekend ranks up there in the top five of highlights of my life, whether it was professional or just things that happened along the way. I'm very thankful for that."