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Andy Granatelli: The Indomitable Showman

Though he immodestly titled his memoirs They Call Me Mister 500, Andy Granatelli actually was behind the wheel at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway just once, in the time trials in 1948. Back then, he was billed “Antonio the Great, Famed Italian Speed Ace,” even though he hailed from Chicago and had raced only a few times, on state fairgrounds and small tracks in the Midwest. Despite the hype, Granatelli’s career as an Indy driver ended ignominiously, when he crashed, breaking his shoulders and knocking out 11 teeth in the process.

Andy GranatelliBut that setback didn’t stop Granatelli, who died on Dec. 29 at age 90 in Santa Barbara, Calif., from becoming one of the most famous names in motor sports in the 1960s and 1970s. A masterful promoter and flamboyant showman, Granatelli became the president of an obscure fuel-additive company and proceeded to turn its product, STP, into “the racer’s edge,” a national brand whose logo was emblazoned on racing cars and crew uniforms. As a builder of race cars, he pushed the limits with controversial innovations that achieved new extremes of horsepower and at times vexed the sport’s rule-makers. He helped to promote the careers of scores of famous drivers, including Mario Andretti and Richard Petty, and sponsored cars that won the 500 in 1969 and in 1973.

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Here are some facts about Granatelli and his career:

 

Here’s a 2011 video about Granatelli from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. YouTube Preview Image

 

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