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

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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.

Mercedes, Ferrari go conservative on Austrian GP tire picks

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Pirelli has confirmed all 20 Formula 1 drivers’ tire picks for next weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, with most opting to stack up on ultra-softs.

As it does for every grand prix, Pirelli will bring three compounds to Austria next week, electing for the softest possible combination of ultra-soft, super-soft and soft tires.

In the regular pre-race release of each driver’s tire picks, Pirelli revealed that Force India, McLaren and Red Bull have gone down the most aggressive routes, stacking up on the ultra-soft tire.

Title contenders Mercedes and Ferrari have gone down a more conservative route, favoring additional sets of the super-soft compound.

Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen will take seven sets of ultra-softs to Spielberg, while Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas will have eight sets at their disposal through the weekend.

Graham Rahal survives Road America to finish eighth

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Graham Rahal and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing faced a roller coaster of a race during the Kohler Grand Prix at Road America on Sunday.

He was a rocket off the initial start, jumping from sixth on the grid up to fourth exiting turn 1, but was almost immediately ordered to surrender a position for blocking. He quickly slipped back to sixth, and then began plummeting down the order as he battled an oversteer condition that saw his car chew through its rear tires more quickly than others.

Forced to abandon the planned three-stop strategy, he and the No. 15 Gehl Honda team switched to a four-stop plan that saw him drop well outside the top ten at times.

However, they kept plugging away and rebounded nicely in the second half of the race to eventually finish in eighth. While he would have liked to finish higher up the order, Rahal knows that he and the team got everything they could out of it.

“The car was a handful today. I knew about five laps in that I didn’t have the pace for a three-stop strategy,” Rahal revealed post-race. “We tried as best we could to work with what we had during the race and overcome it. I would have obviously liked to have finished better, but eighth is about as good as we could do today. We struggled with a very loose race car all weekend and just couldn’t put a dent in the problem. We worked awfully hard but just missed it this weekend.”

The eighth-place finish keeps Rahal in the championship hunt. Rahal now sits seventh in the standings, 11 points behind fifth-place Josef Newgarden and 72 behind championship leader Scott Dixon.

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Ed Jones continues steady run with seventh at Road America

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Dale Coyne Racing’s Ed Jones has made waves in the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season with a string of solid performances that belie his rookie status.

And Sunday’s Kohler Grand Prix at Road America was no different.

The 22-year-old battled an oversteering car most of the weekend at Road America, and had to navigate a little carnage late in the race as Alexander Rossi and Ryan Hunter-Reay both fell through the field with front wing problems.

However, Jones weathered all storms to finish an impressive seventh, his fifth finish inside the top 10 this year, and his best finish since his third place at the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade MotorOil.

“It was a really tough race,” Jones said of the effort. “We had a loose car yesterday. It was loose, but fast, for qualifying, and today again the car was really loose. I was hanging on the whole race, but the team had some good pit stops and we were able to move up.

“Obviously, the strategy was pretty similar to everyone else. Everyone was aggressive out there. It was hard racing but we came out with a seventh place and we moved up a little bit in the points.”

The seventh-place run sees Jones maintain his position in the top ten in the championship. He currently sits tenth in the standings, three points ahead of Chip Ganassi Racing’s Max Chilton.

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Vilander replaces Bird at AF Corse for Nurburgring WEC round

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AF Corse has confirmed that Toni Vilander will race the No. 71 Ferrari 488 GTE in next month’s FIA World Endurance Championship round at the Nürburgring in place of Sam Bird, who is tied up with Formula E commitments in New York.

Vilander currently races full-time in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship with Risi Competizione, and appeared at the 24 Hours of Le Mans two weeks ago.

The Finn won the WEC GT drivers’ title in 2014 and last raced full-time in the series in 2015, but will return at the Nürburgring in place of Bird, who confirmed on Monday that he would be prioritizing his Formula E commitments on the July 16 weekend.

Vilander is relishing the opportunity to race alongside Davide Rigon in the No. 71 Ferrari, and is eager to bounce back from an early retirement at Le Mans.

“I’m happy to be able to return to the FIA WEC with the 488 GTE of AF Corse team. This is my chance to cancel the disappointment of the 24 Hours of Le Mans as soon as possible,” Vilander said.

“Car number 71 is in the top places of the championship standings, and I will give all I have to achieve the best possible result at Nürburgring, to help Ferrari in the manufacturers’ championship and Davide Rigon in the drivers’ ranking.”