Indy 500 winning team owner, mechanic Vince Granatelli, dies aged 78

  • Granatelli started as a mechanic with his father Andy’s team in 1961.
  • He also worked on Formula 1 cars in the early 1970s.
  • He formed Vince Granatelli Racing in 1987 and scored four CART wins with two drivers.

    Vince Granatelli, who was a lead mechanic on two notable machines in Indianapolis 500 history and later became the owner of a winning team, died Saturday. He was 78 years old.

    Granatelli was a member of the famous racing family who made a name for themselves on ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Racing’, including his father, Andy, the flamboyant owner of the car Mario Andretti drove to victory in the 500 miles of Indianapolis in 1969.

    Vince Granatelli first spun at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1961 as a mechanic on the Novi-powered machines his father brought to the “500” that year. The Novi’s unique engine growl has captivated fans for over two decades.

    Granatelli then worked as a mechanic on another of the most unique cars in Indianapolis 500 history, the turbine machines nicknamed “Whooshmobile” because of the unique whistle of the Pratt & Whitney gas turbine engine.

    Parnelli Jones qualified sixth in 1967 in the turbine and dominated the race, leading 171 of the first 196 laps. But a transmission bearing failed on lap 197, giving the lead and the win to AJ Foyt.

    In 1968, a similar late-race calamity struck when Joe Leonard’s rear-engined, turbine-powered Lotus suffered fuel pump driveshaft failure while leading with nine laps to go.

    He also worked on the Eagle-Offy that Graham McRae rode to 16th place and Rookie of the Year honors in the 1973 Indianapolis 500.

    Vince Granatelli also owned cars for several years that raced on the USAC and CART Indy racetracks. Among its pilots were Arie Luyendyk and Roberto Guerrero. (Photo by ISC Images & Archives via Getty Images)

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    Granatelli also worked as a mechanic on several occasions as part of STP-sponsored efforts in Formula One in the early 1970s. He left racing with his family after the 1974 season.

    During his time away from racing, Granatelli focused on various business ventures. He owned Pit Stop Service in Southern California, a high-performance garage where he also built high-speed cars. He built a Chevrolet Camaro passenger car which his father drove to a record speed of 242 mph on the Bonneville Salt Flats.

    Granatelli returned to racing in 1987 as the owner of Vince Granatelli Racing, which fielded cars in CART painted in a daylight red similar to his father’s turbine-powered cars at Indianapolis.

    Roberto Guerrero won two races driving for the team in its first season of 1987, at Phoenix International Raceway and Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Guerrero led the Indianapolis 500 that year with 19 laps to go, but two stalls during a pit stop due to a damaged clutch knocked him out of first place. He finished second to Al Unser.

    Vince was the younger of his father’s two sons. Older brother Joe died in 2003. Andy Granatelli died in 2013.

    Arie Luyendyk brought the team its third and fourth wins in 1991, at Phoenix and Nazareth Speedway. Luyendyk posted about the loss of Granatelli on social media.

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    “I just learned that Vince Granatelli passed away today, I am disgusted, devastated by this sad news. We have lost an icon of our IndyCar community and a great friend.

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