Richard Petty reflects on the impact of Andy Granatelli

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Andy Granatelli, who passed away at 90 years old yesterday in a California hospital, will always be remembered in the open-wheel world for helping to revive the Novi engine in the early 1960s, rocking the Indianapolis 500 with his turbine-powered cars, and kissing Mario Andretti on the cheek after their famous Indy victory in 1969.

But in the NASCAR world, his biggest claim to fame will always be the $250,000 deal he struck as chairman of STP with seven-time Winston (now Sprint) Cup champion Richard Petty, which effectively transformed the sponsorship aspect of the sport.

From the beginning of the partnership in 1972 through the end of Petty’s driving career in 1992, STP was there to back NASCAR’s “King” on his car, which often sported both STP’s day-glo red and the famous shade of “Petty blue.”

The car became iconic to millions of race fans, and it is still one of the most important representations of NASCAR today; recently, the Smithsonian Magazine named a 1984 Pontiac Grand Prix version of Petty’s No. 43 as one of the “101 Objects That Made America.”

And even now, STP continues to back both Petty himself and the Richard Petty Motorsports team that currently races in the Sprint Cup Series – ensuring that a key part of Granatelli’s legacy endures.

“Andy was one of the best at public relations and marketing in all of motorsports,” Petty said Monday to’s David Caraviello. “He was ahead of his time and set the standard for selling his products. We still enjoy our relationship with STP today and it was our meetings with Andy that started it all.

“He was really determined about how he wanted to market his product, and he never stopped wanting to get his way, but that’s what made him successful too.”

NHRA: John Force-like motor explosions get contagious during Sunday’s Gatornationals

Photo and video courtesy NHRA
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John Force is rubbing off on others – but probably not the way they or he would like.

The 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion has had spectacular motor explosions in each of the first three races of the new NHRA season, including during Friday’s qualifying for this weekend’s Gatornationals.

During Sunday’s quarterfinals of eliminations, Force’s teammate (and son-in-law and president of John Force Racing) Robert Hight squared off with fellow Funny Car driver Matt Hagan.

As the duo closed in on the finish line, both cars experienced spectacular motor explosions of their own – virtually side-by-side and nearly at the same time.

Hight’s car was the first to explode, tossing its body high in the air. A split-second later, Hagan’s car exploded, also sending the body flying.

Check out the NHRA video:

Hight wound up losing the race.

Hagan, meanwhile, and his crack pit crew rolled their backup car off the hauler, put in a new motor and went on to race through the semifinals and into the finals, losing to race winner “Fast Jack” Beckman.

“We had a pretty great race day, to be honest,” Hagan said. “I’ve never been to the finals in Gainesville.

“We obviously had a huge blow up in the second round, then to watch these guys pull the other car back out and put it together in the amount of time they had, then turn a win light on against Capps (Don Schumacher Racing teammate Ron Capps in the semifinals), then to be able to go to a final, it was huge and it speaks for itself.”

As for Hight, here’s his take on what happened with the motor explosion:

“I couldn’t see (Hagan) over there and it wasn’t like it was hazing the tires or anything else. As it turns out it wasn’t spinning at all. It kicked two rods out when it blacked the bearings in the crank then it hit the valves and blew up.

“The thing gave me no indication at all before that. What really scared me was once I got it under control and I look over and see his body is off his car. I am thinking ‘Oh man, he got gathered up in me.’ Then I stood up and looked and his injector was sideways so I realized he had an explosion as well. We are just lucky we didn’t get into each other.”

As for the guy who has had so much trouble in the motor department, John Force, he lost in the first round of Sunday’s eliminations to daughter Courtney Force.

John Force planned on shutting the motor off on his car at around the 700-foot mark of the 1,000-foot dragstrip, not wanting to risk another motor explosion – even though it meant a likely loss to his daughter.

Now John Force and his entire four-car team, including Courtney Force, Robert Hight and daughter and Top Fuel driver Brittany Force, will be off for extensive testing to try and determine what’s been causing the motor explosions.

“We have to evaluate it and go test,” Force said. “We’ll figure it out.”

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