Former STP CEO, Indy 500-winning owner Andy Granatelli dead at 90 (VIDEO)

2 Comments

UPDATE (7:58 p.m. ET): J. Douglas Boles, the president of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, has issued the following statement regarding the death of Andy Granatelli this afternoon:

“Andy Granatelli – known appropriately as ‘Mister 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.

“Andy leaves a legacy of historic moments that will live forever in Indianapolis 500 lore including his famous turbine that dominated the 1967 Indianapolis 500, the Lotus 56 of 1968, and giving the great Mario Andretti a kiss on the cheek in victory lane after his 1969 win. Our thoughts and prayers are with Andy’s family, friends and legion of fans.”

Andy Granatelli (pictured, from 2010), former CEO of the STP motor oil company and one of the more notable innovators in the history of the Indianapolis 500, has passed away at the age of 90.

According to the Associated Press, his son, Vince, confirmed that he died of congestive heart failure earlier today in a hospital in Santa Barbara, California.

A member of multiple racing Halls of Fame, Granatelli was a significant figure for the “500,” especially in the late 1960s and 1970s. In the 1967 and 1968 races, he fielded radical, turbine-powered cars that did well but ultimately lost out in both races.

In ’67, Parnelli Jones lost a potential win with only a few laps to go when a transmission bearing failed and forced him to retire. Then in ’68, Joe Leonard suffered a fuel pump shaft failure while leading and also had to retire in the final moments.

But in 1969, Granatelli finally had his day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as Mario Andretti, driving with a more conventional engine, took his STP-backed No. 2 machine to victory over Dan Gurney.

Granatelli expressed his appreciation by kissing Andretti on the cheek in Victory Lane, creating one of the most beloved images in “500” history. Andretti has tweeted the following on Granatelli’s death this evening:

Four years later, in 1973, Granatelli would earn a second and final “500” win as a car owner thanks to driver Gordon Johncock.

“The thing that gave him the most gratification in his life was what he did at the Indianapolis 500,” Vince Granatelli told the AP.

But while Granatelli made an impact on the track, he did the same off of it as well by making STP one of the most well-known automotive brands in the world. In addition to serving as the product’s spokesman, Granatelli was instrumental in bringing STP on as a sponsor for NASCAR’s “King,” Richard Petty.

After a brief disagreement over what color Petty’s car would be (Granatelli wanting his STP day-glo red, Petty wanting his traditional ‘Petty blue’), a compromise was struck with both colors set to be used on the car.

The final result was one of the most iconic paint jobs in all of American motorsports, and to this day, Petty’s partnership with STP continues even though he ended his driving career in 1992. It is considered one of the most important sponsorship deals in NASCAR history.

Granatelli also served as a promoter of racing events during World War II, and is remembered especially for his work as president of the Hurricane Racing Association, a group that fielded both hot rod and stock car events at Chicago’s Soldier Field.

Our thoughts and prayers are with Granatelli’s family and friends at this time.

Ocon picks up maiden F1 point in Australia, finishes as top rookie

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Esteban Ocon picked up his first point in Formula 1 during his maiden outing for Force India in Australia on Sunday, finishing the race 10th and as the top rookie.

Ocon made his F1 debut in Belgium last year with the backmarker Manor team, completing the final nine rounds of the season before moving into a seat with Force India for 2017.

Embarking on his first full season of F1 (and therefore still a rookie) in 2017, Ocon qualified 14th in Australia on Saturday before spending much of the race battling with Fernando Alonso and Nico Hulkenberg, the trio going three-wide down the main straight at one point.

Ocon was able to come out on top, clinching the final point on offer in Melbourne by finishing P10 to complete a double-points finish for Force India after Sergio Perez ended up seventh.

“Very happy with today. It’s been a tough weekend but a great reward at the end,” Ocon told NBCSN after the race.

“Fighting with Alonso made things difficult. It was side by side. Then I had the better pace with him. It’s so much harder to overtake, but I made the pass and got the point.

“I’m learning all the time. It’s good what we’ve done here. This is good for the team. We hope we can score many more for the championship.”

Ocon emerged as the top rookie in Melbourne, with Antonio Giovinazzi and Stoffel Vandoorne finishing 12th and 13th respectively. Williams’ Lance Stroll – making his first start in F1 – retired due to a brake disc issue.

F1 Paddock Pass: Australian Grand Prix post-race (VIDEO)

Getty Images
Leave a comment

And so, the 2017 Formula 1 season is officially underway with the Australian Grand Prix. Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari are on top, having beat Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes both on strategy and on pace to kick off this new era in the sport’s history.

A recap of the day from the Albert Park circuit in Melbourne occurs below in the latest edition of the NBC Sports Group original digital series, Paddock Pass, as F1 pit reporter and insider Will Buxton and producer Jason Swales go into the paddock to run down the stories of the day.

MORE: Full Australian Grand Prix event replay; Mosaic replay

The podium saw Vettel ahead of Hamilton, with Mercedes’ new driver Valtteri Bottas coming third on debut for the team.

Other interviews that occurred during NBCSN’s post-race coverage on F1 Extra included with Kimi Raikkonen and Max Verstappen, who came fourth and fifth respectively, with Force India’s Esteban Ocon who scored his first career point, and with McLaren’s Fernando Alonso, who doggedly dragged his McLaren Honda into a potential points-paying finish before a late-race retirement.

Paddock Pass is in three parts and can be viewed below.

Haas’ sophomore F1 season starts badly with double DNF in Australia

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Haas Formula 1 team’s sophomore campaign got off to a bad start on Sunday as drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen were both forced to retire from the Australian Grand Prix.

NASCAR team co-owner Gene Haas took his eponymous operation into F1 last year, making its debut in Australia 12 months ago.

Grosjean scored a memorable sixth-place finish on that day in Melbourne, and looked poised to repeat the result in 2017 after qualifying sixth on Saturday.

A poor start was Grosjean drop to seventh, but he managed to hold position through the opening stint of the race ahead of the pit stop cycle.

However, Grosjean had no chance to wield some strategic genius as Haas did last year, with a water leak forcing him to retire while inside the top 10.

“I suddenly lost a lot of power. I told the guys, then the next thing I knew I had to slow down the car,” Grosjean explained.

“It’s a pretty disappointing result, but again, right now I’m hot and we’re all disappointed to lose a seventh-place position, but the car was there in qualifying in P6. The start wasn’t ideal, so we need to improve that. I felt I was faster than the Williams, so there’s huge potential in the car.

“I guess the key for us is to keep the momentum and get the consistency we didn’t have last year, where I’d be fifth in Bahrain then 19th in China. I really want to improve on that and get more consistency in terms of results. If we do that, then I’m sure there are going to be plenty of races where we can score good points.”

Grosjean’s new teammate for 2017, Kevin Magnussen, suffered an early setback when he clashed with Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson on the first lap, and ultimately retired due to a suspension issue stemming from the incident.

“I had Ericsson on the outside and I understeered into the side of him, which was unfortunate. I lost my front wing and damaged the car a little bit,” Magnussen said.

“We changed the front wing and then I went for a long test session to feel the car and learn a bit more about it, which was good. It feels good and the car is fast.

“That’s the really positive thing from this weekend. The car is there. We just have to make it finish and score points.”

Team principal Guenther Steiner added: “Not the race we wished for, or we expected. With Romain it looks like we had a water leak. We don’t know yet where that came from.

“Obviously, Kevin’s race was destroyed in the third corner after the contact with Ericsson. He then ended up later with a suspension failure, which we still have to investigate why.

“The good thing we take out of here is that the car seems to be fast. We need to work on a few parts and, hopefully, we can get back strong again in China in two weeks.”

Sam Posey previews 2017 with ‘The Winds of Change’ (VIDEO)

Leave a comment

As the 2017 kicks off from Australia, our resident poet laureate Sam Posey has penned his latest essay on what’s to come ahead of the new year.

Here’s a look ahead to the new season, with Posey’s “The Winds of Change” looking at the vast transformation in the sport that occurred over the winter, from the change in ownership, to the change in cars, to the change in the lineups… and to the change in the pecking order.

An archive of Posey’s 2016 essays are linked here.