12/29/2013 - Andy Granatelli 1923-2013
Santa Barbara, CA - Racing impresario, entrepreneur and p.r. genius Andy Granatelli died Sunday, Dec. 29 of congestive heart failure at the age of 90. The STP "Racer's Edge" pitchman whose cars won the Indy 500 twice (Mario Andretti 1969, Gordon Johncock 1973) may be best remembered for introducing the only gas turbine-powered cars to qualify for the "500" (and nearly won both years) as well as fielding the screaming and crowd-pleasing Novi V8 Indy cars.
As president of STP Corporation, Granatelli brought an outrageous new flair to racing sponsorship, from his crew's outlandish multi-logo STP "pajamas" and his trademark raincoat as he walked toward the camera pitching the lubricant in commercials, to smooching Andretti on the cheek in victory lane, to printing millions of oval STP stickers that adorn tool boxes and beer coolers to this day. He also orchestrated the STP sponsorship (and compromise red/blue livery) with stock car legend Richard Petty, one of the longest sponsor deals in NASCAR's history.
Born in Dallas in 1923 but raised in Chicago, he and his brothers Joe and Vince had a successful hot rod speed shop, and their Grancor brand led them to enter cars at Indy from 1946-74. In the late '40s and early '50s they formed a sanctioning body for hot rod track roadsters giving them access to drivers such as Jim Rathmann, Johnnie Parsons, Freddie Agabashian.
The groundbreaking, 4-wheel-drive helicopter turbine car nearly won in 1967 but Parnelli Jones was forced out with transmission failure on lap 196. In the 1968 followup, Granatelli returned three Lotus-built "wedge" turbine cars, to the field, and Joe Leonard held the lead until his and teammate Art Pollard's cars snapped their fuel pump driveshafts on lap 191. A savvy businessman, he left STP in 1974 after growing sales 50 times to $100 million, then in 1976 turned a $300,000 investment in Tuneup Masters into a $53 million business.
He is survived by his wife Dolly, brother Vince, sons Vince and Anthony and three grandchildren. In contrast to his extroverted life, Granatelli requested that there be no services to mark his passing.