The world of motorsports lost a true icon on December 29, 2013, when Andy Granatelli passed away at age 90. Best known as the CEO of STP and an Indianapolis 500 car owner for nearly three decades from the 1940s into the 1970s, (earning him the nickname Mr. 500) Andy was involved in all forms of motorsports from dirt tracks to land speed records, to NASCAR and F1. It was Granatelli who brought his sponsorship to Richard Petty creating the most iconic paint scheme in NASCAR history, combining “Petty Blue” with STP dayglo red. Andy reportedly offered Petty an additional $50,000 to paint his car solid day-glo red like his Indy cars, but Petty refused and the classic two-tone paint scheme was born. STP would continue it’s association with Petty long after Granatelli was no longer involved with STP or NASCAR.
Next to Lotus founder Colin Chapman, Andy may have been the greatest innovator in motorsports, and in the mid 60s Granatelli and Chapman combined their talents with STP Sponsored Lotuses at Indy, driven by Jim Clark, Graham Hill, Mario Andretti and Jochen Rindt to name a few. It was Granatelli and Champman who made primary sponsorship an integral part of motorsport everywhere.
It was Andy who – although not the first – put four-wheel drive and a turbine engine in a car and nearly won the Indianapolis 500 two years in a row. The first year in a car designed by his own Paxton Corporation with Parnelli Jones at the wheel and in 1968, with a Lotus 56 and Joe Leonard at the wheel. In both cases the turbines had healthy leads in the last 10 laps only to suffer mechanical failures under caution.
After 23 years, Andy scored his first Indy 500 win as a car owner in 1969 with Mario Andretti in a backup car after Andretti crashed and destroyed his brand new Lotus 64 in practice. After the tragic events of the 1973 Indianapolis 500 – which Andy’s car also won – Andy withdrew from car ownership but never strayed from the sport. He was still a regular visitor at Indianapolis every year, and still a very vocal critic of all that is wrong with motorsports everywhere.
We don’t know what the sport might look like today if he had been put in a position of governance in the sport…. but it would certainly be more interesting.
Thank you Andy, and rest in peace.