Andy Granatelli, the former CEO of the STP motor oil company, died Sunday of congestive heart failure at a Santa Barbara hospital. He was 90.
The innovator and entrepreneur who built racecars that won the Indianapolis 500 in 1969 and in 1973, was a member of the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame, the Associated Press reported
''Everything he did was bigger than life,'' Granatelli's son, Vince, told the AP. ''The thing that gave him the most gratification in his life was what he did at the Indianapolis 500.''
''Andy Granatelli – known appropriately as 'Mr. 500' – understood better than anyone the spirit and challenge of the Indianapolis 500 and had a remarkable ability to combine innovative technologies with talented race car drivers to make his cars a threat to win at Indianapolis every year,'' Indianapolis Motor Speedway President J. Douglas Boles said in a statement. ''Andy leaves a legacy of historic moments that will live forever in Indianapolis 500 lore.''
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Granatelli's cars nearly won at Indianapolis in 1967 and '68 with turbine engines. In 1969 he broke through with Mario Andretti driving a car with a conventional engine, resulting in one of the most famous images in Indy history of Granatelli kissing Andretti on the cheek in Victory Lane, the AP noted.
Granatelli began as an auto mechanic with his two brothers, Vince and Joe, souping up normal car engines to make them run like racecars. By 20 years of age, Granatelli and his brothers owned a gas station outside Chicago, from which the trio began marketing auto parts.
The gas station led to Granatelli first substantial business venture, Paxton Products, which in 1961 he sold to Studebaker and in turn became a Studebaker vice president, chief engineer and driver, The New York Times reported
In the same year, the Studebaker Packard Corporation acquired Chemical Compounds and named Granatelli president of the company which at the time had just seven employees.
The automotive legend immediately changed the name to STP, short for scientifically treated petroleum, and grew the company to the point where within a decade it had more than 2,000 employees and was selling more than 100 million cans per year making upwards of $2 million annually, The Times noted.
In addition to his leadership, a large part of STP's success was due to Granatelli's marketing of the brand which involved millions of STP stickers being visibly displayed on billboards and vehicle bumpers across the country for decades with the slogan "The Racer’s Edge," nearly everywhere you looked.
In his 1969 autobiography, "They Call Me Mr. 500," Granatelli said of himself: "People say he's flamboyant, he’s this, he's that. That’s just me. I can’t help who I am. I was born supercharged."
Granatelli is survived by wife Dolly and sons Vince and Anthony.
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