December 30, 2013 — staff report — cover photo from RacingOne/ISC Archives, via Getty Images — SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — Mr. 500 has died.
Andy Granatelli, who led STP into the mainstream marketplace one decal at a time, died Sunday of congestive heart failure. He was 90 years old.
Granatelli’s son, Vince, confirmed his father’s death Sunday afternoon.
Granatelli served as CEO of STP after its parent company, Studebaker Corp., put Granatelli in charge of the Chemical Compounds Corp. One of its products was STP Oil Treatment.
Granatelli led STP into prominence by putting the company’s name on the Indy cars he fielded during the late 1960s. Granatelli’s STP machine won the 1969 Indianapolis 500 with Mario Andretti at the wheel and he won again in 1973 with Gordon Johncock at the controls.
A fixture at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for decades, Granatelli was one of the most popular and enduring figures in motorsports history, titling his autobiography,“They Call Me Mister 500.”
“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,” said Indianapolis Motor Speedway President J. Douglas Boles. “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.”
Granatelli was also responsible for STP’s sponsorship of NASCAR champion Richard Petty. It was a relationship that lasted more than 30 years.
Petty released a statement saying, “Andy was one of the best at public relations and marketing in all of motorsports. 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.”
Granatelli is a member of the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America, the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame, the National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame.