granatelli-chicago-store 2

By: Wm. R. LaDow

Daily Trackside Reports from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Published in the Post-Tribune / Chicago Sun-Times News Group
Originally Published on May 22, 2008 — Speedway, Indiana

When racing fans hear the name Granatelli, the first image that usually comes to mind is that of a large, jovial man wearing a white sport coat, covered in red, oval-shaped, STP decals. Although an accurate image of Andy Granatelli, it is a far, far cry from what the Granatelli name really means to the legacy of American motorsports.

You see there wasn’t just one Granatelli, there were three and each contributed significantly to how Americans eventually nurtured their cars. It was the Granatelli Brothers who brought the word “high” to high-performance, creating a multi-million dollar business based on the automotive parts aftermarket. It was the Granatellis who would create the concept of the “Speed Shop” as we would come to know it, and they would do it by example, becoming a major force in American motorsports.

Tough beginnings …

As youngsters growing up in Depression-era Chicago, the three Granatelli boys, Joseph (born 1919) Andrew (born 1923) and Vincent (born 1927), leaned about life the hard way.

Their father, Vincent, an immigrant born near Palermo, Italy, became a widower when the boys were just 16, 12 and 8, respectively. In the 1920s, Papa Granatelli worked as a grocer during the day and taught himself how to read and write English at night. It was his work ethic that seemed to catch fire in the hearts of his young sons.

As they got older, they hauled around a car battery during cold Chicago winter mornings and gave jump starts to stalled cars for a dollar. All three of the boys worked multiple jobs, pooling their money together to fund their various money making schemes until Joe was finally old enough to get a job as a mechanic. It wasn’t long till he was one of best “wrenches” on the north side. He then taught Andy and they both taught Vince.

Getting into cars …

PartsWith all three becoming master mechanics, their wallets began to thicken with cash. They bought new cars and souped them up, racing on rural roads for money. Fast cars brought easy money, and that bought the boys more high-performance parts to make their cars even faster. Again they pooled their cash and opened up Andy’s Super Service at 4506 N. Clarendon, just off Lake Shore Drive. The business was a huge success.

But as with just about every Granatelli success there came a setback. As the boys were beginning to bank some serious money, they showed up for work the morning of Aug. 6, 1944, to find that they had been the victim of a heist. Not only was everything in the shop gone — tools, equipment, parts, and cash register — but the boys’ two hot rods and tow truck also were driven away by the thieves. With no insurance, they had to start over from scratch.

They devoted their next business strictly to speed. Opening up a shop at 5058 North Broadway, they continued their mechanical mastery working on cars and began to contract out their sales services for other companies that were producing high-performance parts, such as cams, crankshafts, intake manifolds and superchargers. Their business took off as they became known for their engineering expertise building high-performance Ford V8 engines.

Their dedication to selling the “secret of speed” took them racing, first as drivers, then as promoters. The Granatelli Brothers founded the Hurricane Hot Rod Racing Association and put tens of thousands of racing fans in the seats of Chicago’s Soldier field, night after night. Short tracks, drag strips, anywhere people could race, the Granatellis were right there to manage the racing and sell racers more “speed.”

Their reputation growing, there was only one more place for the Granatellis to challenge, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Off to Indianapolis …

Granatelli Boys 1946

They showed up at Indy in 1946, right after World War II. The Granatellis ran Grancor cars out of their own speed shops from 1946 through 1954, but didn’t make it to the winner’s circle. Their best showing was a second place with Jim Rathmann in 1952. All the while they continued to grow their reputations as some of the finest engineering minds in the racing business, all with very little formal education.

By 1956, the Granatelli Brothers were doing $14 million a year with Grancor as masters of the concept of mass merchandising high-performance auto parts. In 1957, they walked away from it all and retired — or so they thought.

Relocating to California, Andy got the bug to get back in business and he and Joe purchased the supercharger business of Paxton Products Corporation.

They sold it for a hefty profit three years later to Studebaker, with Andy joining the management of South Bend automaker in the deal. (Joe reacquired the company years later, serving as president until 2003.)

Enter the Novis …

The next few years, pushing the high-performance benefits of their superchargers, the company set more than 300 land speed and endurance records at various racing venues. These successes led to opportunities with Chrysler and ultimately, engineering a redesign of the famed Indianapolis Novi engine. It was during this time that the Granatelli Brothers started racing the fan favorite Novis at Indianapolis.

STPThen the one product that would define Andy Granatelli as the guru of auto product sales and marketing surfaced in 1963, when Studebaker’s Chemical Compound Division was looking for guidance. Andy took over as CEO, leaving his other businesses in the sound hands of his brothers and took a product by the name of STP, short for Scientifically Treated Petroleum and grew the business to a level of more than 80 percent market share.

It was a marriage made in heaven. Granatelli mass-marketed his product like none ever before. The STP logo became the most recognizable in all of advertising, as the company became the advertising “voice” for all of motorsports through its huge (and overly generous) advertising budget. So powerful was the image of Granatelli and STP’s marketing, that a cartoon was published in the New York Times of Neil Armstrong setting foot on the moon and the first thing he saw was an STP decal.

Heartbreak and triumph …

The meteoric growth of their businesses allowed the Granatelli Brothers to go racing more than ever before. They became an institution at Indianapolis. They raced at the Brickyard over the course of the next three decades.

Granatell Turbine

Their most defining moments were: 1) dominating and almost winning the 1967 Indy 500 with Parnelli Jones piloting the STP Turbine “Whooshmobile” before a $3 gearbox bearing cost them the race with just three laps to go; 2) winning the 1969 Indy 500 with Mario Andretti driving and; 3) winning the 500 in 1973 with Gordon Johncock. The Granatelli brothers were so innovative that race sanctioning bodies soon began to legislate their cars out of existence.

Next they went to stock car racing first with Nichels Engineering and Fred Lorenzen in 1971 and later with Petty Enterprises in 1972.

The myriad of their automobile related businesses kept the boys busy into the new millennium. Joe, Andy, and Vince continued to be leaders by example and amassed personal fortunes during the course of their lives.

Joe passed away in 2003, Andy this past December 29th, leaving Vincent as the sole brother still with us. Vincent is retired, residing in Arizona.

The Granatelli Brothers story is one of hard work, commitment and never giving up, all qualities they learned growing up on the streets of Chicago.

By: Jeff Majeske – Managing Editor

No. 71 — Rick Mears – 1978 CAM2 Penske PC6/Cosworth.

After trying unsuccessfully to qualify for the 500 as a rookie in 1977, Mears caught the eye of Roger Penske and was offered a ride in races that Mario Andretti could not compete in due to Formula One commitments. Mears eagerly accepted the offer, which also included the Indianapolis 500. The Bakersfield, Calif., native justified Penske’s confidence by grabbing the outside spot on the front row, setting a rookie qualifying record in the process.

Race day wasn’t great, as Mears forgot to buckle his helmet at the start and then had his engine let go just after halfway and finished 23rd. Still, the outstanding performance in time trials helped Mears earn Co-Rookie of the Year with Larry Rice.

Mears’ number, 71, is rarely used at the Speedway, but I think the reason why Penske used that number is because his other entries were 7 (Andretti) and 1 (Tom Sneva), so he just combined the two. (Dick Simon had 17 that year, in case you were wondering.)

#ThisIsMay#Indy500

By: Jeff Majeske – Managing Editor

No 89 — John Martin — 1973 Unsponsored McLaren/Offy

John Martin was one of the few drivers capable of working on his car – fairly rare in 1973 and unheard of today.

A fixture in the Indy lineup from 1972-76, the hard-working Martin made the most of his equipment. Like many others, Martin was involved in the first-lap Salt Walther accident, but was able to make repairs and wound up eighth, his best result at Indianapolis.

The next year, Martin actually landed a sponsor, resulting in the tongue-twisting Sea Snack Shrimp Cocktail Special.

#ThisIsMay#Indy500

Photo credit: Indianapolis Motor Speedway

 

By: Jeff Majeske – Managing Editor

No. 44, Dick Simon, –1973 TraveLodge Eagle/Foyt.

I miss guys like Dick Simon around the Speedway. Energetic and enthusiastic, Simon was an outstanding ski jumper and parachutist before he pursued a career in Indy cars. Had the X Games been around in, say, the 1960s, he probably would’ve been a star.

As for Indianapolis, Simon usually was saddled with marginal equipment that he had to hustle into the show. His 1973 mount was pretty decent, though, and Simon ran up front before piston failure sent him to the sidelines for a 14th-place finish.

Toward the end of his career, Simon obtained better cars and that led to better results – he was sixth and ninth in his last two races in 1987 and 1988, respectively. Simon is bald, but during the 1970s he picked up sponsorship from LAN, maker of hairpieces, so he donned a toupee.

#This is May#Indy500

Front Row of the 103rd Running of the Indianapolis 500 — Spencer Pigot, Ed Carpenter and Simon Pagenaud — IndyCar Image by Chris Owens

INDIANAPOLIS (Sunday, May 19, 2019) – Simon Pagenaud continued on his roll this May, winning the pole position for the upcoming 103rd Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge. Two-time Formula 1 champion Fernando Alonso, however, will be a spectator for the May 26 race after failing to qualify.

In a drama-filled Sunday afternoon that featured separate qualifying sessions to fill opposite ends of the 33-car starting grid, Pagenaud completed a four-lap Fast Nine Shootout qualification run on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway superspeedway at 229.992 mph to earn the NTT P1 Award, the 11th pole position of his 11-year Indy car career and first at the Indy 500.

Meanwhile, Sage Karam, James Hinchcliffe and Kyle Kaiser drove their way into the field with the best qualifying efforts in the Last Row Shootout.

Pagenaud delivered the 18th Indianapolis 500 pole position for Team Penske, extending the benchmark NTT IndyCar Series program’s record that stands at 13 more than any other team. In addition, Pagenaud became the first Frenchman in a century to capture the Indy 500 pole, since Rene Thomas in 1919.

“Team Menards & Team Penske have been phenomenal, giving me the best equipment,” said Pagenaud, who turned 35 on Saturday. “I can’t thank them enough and my teammates for always pushing me to the limit. This is incredible. This is the biggest race in the world, so obviously I’m on Cloud Nine.”

Pagenaud is the hottest driver in the NTT IndyCar Series, fresh off a May 11 win in the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the IMS road course. Driving the No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet on the oval on Sunday, he outperformed a trio of Ed Carpenter Racing drivers who qualified second through fourth.

Pagenaud edged out Ed Carpenter, who qualified the No. 20 Preferred Freezer Services Chevrolet at 229.889 mph and narrowly missed winning the Indy 500 pole for a fourth time. Spencer Pigot, fastest in first-day qualifying on Saturday, ranked a career-best third Sunday in the No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet at 229.826 mph. Ed Jones was fourth in the No. 63 Ed Carpenter Racing Scuderia Corsa Chevrolet at 229.646 mph.

“I was hoping one of the three of us was going to get the pole, but finishing 2-3-4 is the next best thing,” team owner/driver Carpenter said. “I’m really proud of the whole team to give us the cars we had, which put us in the position to go out and qualify the way that we did.” 

Rookie Colton Herta repeated his stellar effort from Saturday, qualifying fifth on Sunday at 229.086 mph in the No. 88 GESS Capstone Honda for Harding Steinbrenner Racing. Will Power, the 2018 Indy 500 winner, rounded out the second row by qualifying sixth in the No. 12 Verizon 5G Team Penske Chevrolet (228.645 mph).

Sebastien Bourdais posted the seventh-best run in the No. 18 SealMaster Honda (228.621 mph), ahead of NTT IndyCar Series points leader Josef Newgarden in the No. 2 Shell V-Power Nitro Plus Team Penske Chevrolet (228.396 mph) and 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi in the No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda (228.247 mph).

Pagenaud will lead the closest field in Indianapolis 500 history to the green flag. The time separating Pagenaud’s four-lap qualifying attempt and that of slowest qualifier Pippa Mann was 1.8932 seconds, breaking the previous mark of 2.1509 seconds in 2014. The 228.240 mph speed average of the 33 qualifiers is fourth fastest in Indianapolis 500 history.

Rain delayed the start of Sunday’s two qualifying sessions more than four hours. The Last Row Shootout to decide the final three drivers in the field preceded the Fast Nine Shootout, and it ended with Alonso and McLaren Racing on the outside looking in. Returning to the Indy 500 for a second time in a bid to win the last leg of racing’s Triple Crown, Alonso was knocked from the field when Kaiser posted a four-lap qualifying run 0.019 of a mph faster.

Six drivers vied for the last 3 positions in the field. Alonso, the third to try, completed his run at 227.353 mph in the No. 66 McLaren Racing Chevrolet. It placed the Spaniard second to Hinchcliffe at the time.

Karam qualified at 227.740 mph in the No. 24 DRR WIX Filters Chevrolet, dropping Alonso onto the bubble as the 33rd qualifier. In a backup car cobbled together by his Juncos Racing crew after Kaiser crashed the primary No. 32 Chevrolet in Friday practice, Kaiser ran four laps at 227.372 mph to take the last spot away from Alonso.

“Obviously, it would be nice to be in the race next Sunday,” Alonso said. “We came here to race and to challenge ourselves, and we were not quick enough. I congratulate all the other guys that did a better job, and hopefully we’ll see a nice show next Sunday.

“We are all disappointed, and we will try to do better next time. But it’s that kind of things that you learn. I said before, I prefer to be here – even 34th – than being at home like last year.”

Kaiser called the days since his crash “the most emotional 48 hours of my life.” The 2017 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires champion qualified for his second Indianapolis 500 with the small-budget Juncos team.

“I don’t think I can wrap my mind around what we just did,” Kaiser said. “Like I keep saying, all the credit to the team. They’ve been working nonstop trying to get this car ready for us and they did everything we needed to get us in this field. I’m so proud of them, so proud of everybody that helped make this happen.”

The field of 33 has a two-hour practice scheduled for noon ET Monday that streams live on INDYCAR Pass on NBC Sports Gold. The final practice, held traditionally on Miller Lite Carb Day, has been expanded to 90 minutes starting at 11 a.m. Friday and will be televised on NBCSN.

The 103rd Running of the Indianapolis 500 airs live at 11 a.m. Sunday, May 26 on NBC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Sunday 19 May

“This experience will only make us stronger as a team, and we want to come back”

McLaren Racing and Fernando Alonso will not progress to the 2019 Indianapolis 500, following the Last Row Shootout today. The shootout for the final three spots followed a challenging qualifying weekend for the team and resulted in Fernando posting an average speed of 227.353mph which at the time of his run placed him 32nd. Sage Karam then put in a 227.740mph to go fastest in the session and pushed Alonso down to the ‘bubble’ position in 33rd. Patricio O’Ward was not able to better Fernando’s time but it was then Kyle Kaiser who pushed Fernando out of the field by just 0.019mph.

Fernando Alonso, #66

“It has been a very long qualifying, nearly 56 hours from yesterday morning. Yesterday, we were 31st instead of 30th. Today, 34th instead of 33rd by a very small margin, and unfortunately, we were not fast enough on both days. I’m disappointed now, obviously, it would be nice to be in the race next Sunday.

“I want to thank the team for all the efforts, we kept pushing. We came here to race and to challenge ourselves and we were not quick enough. I congratulate all the other guys that did a better job, and hopefully, we’ll see a nice show next Sunday, with everyone safe. I will be enjoying from the TV, unfortunately.”

Gil De Ferran, Sporting Director

“This has been a very emotional and difficult experience, not only for me but for the whole team. I want to take this opportunity to apologize and thank the fans, not only here in the U.S. but globally, who have been following our progress. I want to thank our team: the guys been have been working for several months, and particularly this last month or so have put in a tremendous effort and worked all the hours in the day.

“This is a very difficult sport. We certainly didn’t underestimate it. We knew this was going to be a tremendously hard challenge. I’ve been here before. I’ve seen some incredible people not make the race. So we were certainly very aware of how difficult this was going to be.

“I want to apologize and thank our partners who have been fantastic, and incredibly supportive through this journey. I thank also the whole IndyCar community, who welcomed us with open arms. All the way from the officials, safety people, all the other teams, everyone in and around INDYCAR, it was nothing but a warm feeling and a lot of support.

“I think last but not least, I want to thank Fernando. We didn’t give him a car that was fast enough but he drove like the champion we know he is, particularly these last three days. It has been incredibly tense and very difficult, and we couldn’t have asked anything more from him.

“In my 35 years of racing, this is the most painful experience I’ve ever had but we are racers. We respect this place and it is one of the toughest challenges in racing. This experience will only make us stronger as a team, and we want to come back.”

Two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso is almost out of chances to make this year’s field for the Indianapolis 500 – Photo credit: Dana Garrett/Indianapolis Motor Speedway

By Jeff Majekse — Managing Editor / SpeedwaySighitngs

INDIANAPOLIS – A young American driver known only to hardcore fans of the NTT IndyCar Series and one of the most famous drivers in the world highlighted a wild first day of qualifying for the 103rd Indianapolis 500 on Saturday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Pigot, in the No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Dallara/Chevrolet, has the provisional pole after notching a four-lap average of 230.083 mph. While Pigot’s place in the field of 33 is secure, two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso is in serious jeopardy of not making the race.

Despite five attempts, Alonso failed to post a speed fast enough to make the top 30 in the McLaren Racing Dallara/Chevrolet.

“It was a difficult day and a difficult week in general,” said Alonso, who crashed on Wednesday.

All hope is not lost for the Spaniard, though. Alonso and five other drivers, including James Hinchcliffe, will fight it out for the final three spots in the field.

Weather permitting, the pole, the first three rows (positions 1-9) and the last row (positions 31-33) will be decided in qualifying on Sunday. Thunderstorms are forecast, however.

If Sunday is a total washout, positions 1-30 are considered set. The last row will be contested on the next available day, with each car getting one attempt.

In addition to Alonso, the other participants in the Last Row Shootout are:

  • James Hinchcliffe, No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Dallara/Honda
  • Sage Karam, No. 24 Dreyer and Reinbold WIX Filters Dallara/Chevrolet
  • Patricio O’Ward, No. 31 Carlin Dallara/Chevrolet
  • Kyle Kaiser, No. 32 Juncos Racing Dallara/Chevrolet
  • Max Chilton, No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Dallara/Chevrolet

In addition to Pigot, the rest of the Fast Nine Shootout is:

  • Will Power, No. 12 Verizon 5G Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet
  • Simon Pagenaud, No. 22 Menards Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet
  • Josef Newgarden, No. 2 Shell Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet
  • Colton Herta, No. 88 Harding Steinbrenner Racing Dallara/Honda
  • Ed Jones, No. 63 Ed Carpenter Racing Scuderia Corsa Dallara/Chevrolet
  • Ed Carpenter, No. 20 Preferred Freezer Services Dallara/Chevrolet
  • Alexander Rossi, No. 27 Napa Auto Parts Dallara/Honda
  • Sebastien Bourdais, No. 18 SealMaster Dallara/Honda

“It feels great to be on top of the speed charts and to have all three Ed Carpenter Racing cars in the Fast Nine Shootout again for the second year in a row,” Pigot said.

Pippa Mann, who like Hinchcliffe missed last year’s race in gut-wrenching fashion, held on to the 30th and final starting position available Saturday with a 227.244 mph average.

“All that was going through my head was, ‘Not again. Not again,” Mann said.


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