Captain of the auto industry, this “Horatio Alger” of the auto world became the greatest motorsports promoter of all time.
“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.” — Andy Granatelli
Andy Granatelli was born March 18, 1923, in Dallas, Texas. He grew up in Chicago during the Depression and was raised in dire poverty, along with his brothers. In time, he earned his reputation as the greatest motorsports promoter of all time, thanks to his creativity, perseverance and hard work.
Granatelli’s career in the auto industry began in 1943, when he and his brothers opened a gas station named “Andy’s Super Service.” Already showing the penchant for promotion and innovation that would spur his entire career, Granatelli drew crowds with his invention of the pit stop approach, with a handful of mechanics working simultaneously on one vehicle.
In the early 1940s, Granatelli himself raced as a hot-rodder, under the name “Antonio the Great, the Rocket Car Daredevil,” setting more than 400 world land speed records.
In 1945, Granatelli pioneered the mass merchandising of performance products with the creation of Grancor Automotive Specialists. The following year, he and his brothers entered their first car in the Indy 500. Two years later, Granatelli suffered a near fatal accident in his first turn behind the wheel in the Brickyard. He retired from driving but continued as an owner.
In 1963, Granatelli became president of little-known Chemical Compounds. He changed the name to STP Corporation and proceeded to elevate the company to household name and market dominator.
Granatelli is also noted for his role as an innovative designer and engineer, creating the engines for the Chrysler 300, Cadillac Eldorado, Studebaker Avanti and R Series. He was the first recipient of the SAE Indiana Section’s Lewis Schwitzer Award for engineering innovation at Indy 500. His NOVI racecars earned him status as laureate in the Motor Sports Hall of Fame of America.
In 1967, Granatelli designed the STP Turbine car, noted as “without dispute, the most creative, innovative, spectacular, forward thinking car in motorsports history.” His efforts were rewarded two years later when Mario Andretti drove Granatelli’s Ford-powered Brawner Hawk at a then-record speed of 156.887 mph to victory at the Indy 500.
Granatelli was elected to the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame in 1980, the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1992, the Motor Sports Hall of Fame America in 2001, the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in 2011, and the National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 2013. He passed away in 2013.