IndyCar: Latest Covid victim – IndyCar team owner Vince Granatelli

The Chinese virus has cost the world another famous personality. It seems we hear of another dying every day or so.

Vince Granatelli has joined his brother Andy in the racing heavens after dying from the Chinese derived Covid-19 virus, and pneumonia.

Granatelli, who was a leading mechanic for two notable machines in Indianapolis 500 history and later became a race-winning team owner, died Jan. 22. He was 78.

Granatelli was a member of the famous racing family that made its name through “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” including his father, Andy, the flamboyant owner of the car that Mario Andretti drove to victory in the 1969 Indianapolis 500.

Vince Granatelli first turned wrenches at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1961 as a mechanic on the Novi-powered machines his father brought to the “500” that year. The unique engine growl of the Novi captivated fans for more than two decades.

Granatelli then worked as a mechanic on another one of the most unique cars in Indianapolis 500 history, the turbine-powered machines nicknamed the “Whooshmobile” due to the unique hissing sound 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, handing the lead and victory to A.J. Foyt.

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

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

Granatelli also worked as a mechanic at various times in STP-sponsored efforts in Formula One during the early 1970s. He left racing along with his family after the 1974 season.

His bother Andy was famous from his days with the STP sponsored Novi at the Indy 500, the turbine cars in 1967 and 1968, then finally winning in 1969 with Mario Andretti.

But Vince was with his him the entire time, working as a mechanic and Crew Chief.

1971 South African GP at Kyalami – L to R: Vince Granatelli, Bill Dunne, their driver Mario Andretti and March designer Robin Herd. Andretti drove a Herd designed March 701 car in that race before March rolled out the 711 model. Photo by David Phipps
1970 Spanish GP Mario Andretti in the Andy Granatelli STP March 701 – finished in 3rd Place and on the podium

In 1973, Vince Granatelli served as the crew chief for Gordon Johncock’s teammate Graham McRae’s car.

Vince Granatelli would start competing in racing as a car owner after buying Team Cotter from Dan Cotter, then owner of True Value hardware stores in 1987, running his cars in a day-glo red livery meant to be a tribute to Andy Granatelli’s STP-sponsored Indy cars.

The team competed in the CART PPG IndyCar World Series between 1987 and 1991.

The team’s greatest success came in their first and final seasons, as each year, their driver (Roberto Guerrero in the former and Arie Luyendyk in the latter) each won two races during the season.

1987 Vince Granatelli (L) then CART team owner at the Indy 500

They almost won the Indy 500 in 1987. Guerrero took over the lead after Mario Andretti retired with 23 laps to go, but his car’s clutch caused him to stall twice during the final pit stop, handing Penske’s a very lucky Al Unser his fourth Indy 500 victory. Guerrero got the car going and finished 2nd.

1991 Arie Luyendyk and team owner Vince Granatelli after winning the Bosch Spark Plugs Grand Prix at Nazareth. Photo by Dan R. Boyd
2014 Indy 500 Pre-Race festivities – Vince Granatelli, Parnelli Jones and Mario Andretti. Photo by Brad Hoffner

Team Owner Vince Granatelli, CART IndyCar Wins

Win Season Date Sanction Track / Race No. Winning Driver Chassis Engine Tire Grid Laps Led
1 1987 April 12 CART Phoenix International Raceway (O) 4  Roberto Guerrero March 87C Cosworth DFX V8t Goodyear 22 96
2 1987 September 6 CART Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (R) 4  Roberto Guerrero (2) March 87C Cosworth DFX V8t Goodyear Pole 12
3 1991 April 21 CART Phoenix International Raceway (O) 9  Arie Luyendyk Lola T91/00 Chevrolet 265A V8t Goodyear 9 129
4 1991 October 6 CART Nazareth Speedway (O) 9  Arie Luyendyk (2) Lola T91/00 Chevrolet 265A V8t Goodyear 11 6
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