Remembering the Other Granatelli

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The racing world lost another link to its past on Saturday, when we learned that Vince Granatelli had passed away at the age of 78. Most will recognize the famous last name and the day-glo orange that Vince Granatelli Racing cars all carried. The car driven by Roberto Guerrero in the 1987 Indianapolis 500, that could have won had fate not stepped in – was a Vince Granatelli car. Granatelli’s final IndyCar season was in 1991, when Arie Luyendyk drove a car that carried blank sidepods for most of the season (except for the 1991 Indianapolis 500, when it carried RCA sponsorship).

When we hear the name Vince Granatelli, we immediately associate him with Andy Granatelli, who reintroduced the Novi-powered cars, brought the famous turbine-powered cars to the Indianapolis 500, but won the race in 1969, with a more conventional powered Brawner Hawk driven by Mario Andretti. In 1973, his STP Corporation sponsored the winning car of Gordon Johncock, as well as the Ill-fated car driven by Swede Savage and the car driven by Graham McRae – which had a young Vince Granatelli serving as the Chief Mechanic.

There seems to be some confusion as to where Vince Granatelli fell in the Granatelli family tree. In all honesty, I had always thought that the owner of Vince Granatelli Racing was Andy’s much younger brother. I seem to recall Paul Page saying that on the CART broadcasts way back when. It’s conceivable. When Vince died on Saturday, he was 78 years old, meaning he was most likely born in 1943. On Sunday, I saw articles that referred to Vince Granatelli as Andy’s son.

Andy was born in 1923 – twenty years earlier. With that age difference, Vince could be either.

However, there are pictures from the late 1940s of the three Granatelli brothers (Andy, Joe & Vince) where all three are grown men. In 1949, the Vince Granatelli that passed away Saturday would have been around six or seven, so that was obviously not the same one.

I suppose the fact that Andy Granatelli had a brother named Vince, made me think that then car owner in the 80s was the same Vince. I never really bothered to do the math in my head, and it never dawned on me that his son may have also been named Vince. I did a little research and learned that Andy’s real name was Anthony Vincent Granatelli and his two sons were named Vincent and Anthony.

I texted and called several people yesterday, and everyone seemed as confused as I was. It didn’t help that the Wikipedia page for Vince Granatelli Racing said explicitly that Andy was Vince’s brother. Finally, my good friend Paul Dalbey texted this article from the LA Times that definitively states that this Vince Granatelli was Andy’s son. I’m glad we straightened that out. So, I’ll admit I’ve been wrong in my thinking for the past thirty-five years on the lineage of Vince Granatelli Racing.

Regardless of where Vince fell in the Granatelli family tree, I always sort of considered Vince as the other Granatelli. IndyCar and the Indianapolis 500 have lost another link to the past that I grew up with. While Vince may not be as well known as his famous father, it seems he was well thought of in IndyCar circles. Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Arie Luyendyk says that Vince Granatelli was the best team-owner he ever drove for, and that his level of preparation rivaled that of Roger Penske. His cars were immaculately polished and you could eat off of the garage floor, it was so clean (assuming you really wanted to do that).

The LA Times article describes Vince as the polar opposite of his father. While Andy carved a massive presence with his physical stature and his bigger-than-life persona, Vince was much thinner and quieter. Andy made his name when his STP Corporation could sponsor his race team in a win-win situation. Vince didn’t have that luxury. After Guerrero carried sponsorship from True-Value in the team’s first season, it went away and the team struggled with sponsorship woes most of its time in existence. When the team closed its doors after the 1991 season, Luyendyk was left on the sidelines for most of the 1992 season, except for Indianapolis and Michigan – driving for Chip Ganassi.

Most fans under the age of forty probably don’t remember Vince Granatelli or his racing team. If they’ve seen replays or highlights of the 1987 Indianapolis 500, they know that Roberto Guerrero came close to winning in a bright orange car, but they probably have no idea that the car was owned by Vince Granatelli, even though they certainly know who his famous father was.

Although I now admittedly did not know his direct relation to Andy Granatelli, I knew there was a direct relation to a very historic part of the Indianapolis 500. Now that is another link that is gone for good. It saddens me that as I grow older, more and more of my childhood spent going to the Indianapolis 500 in the sixties, is fading into the history books. I guess that’s just part of it.

George Phillips

3 Responses to “Remembering the Other Granatelli”

  1. I too was confused when I saw the name Vince Granatelli. I thought of Andy’s brother, but thought he had died several years ago. Anyway, this is another name from racing’s past that will slowly fade into history.

  2. Mark Wick Says:

    I saw my first race in 1963 . Starting with my 7th race in 1972, I covered every 500, spending nearly every day in May at IMS, through 1996, then 2001-2003. I worked on the Safety Patrol for three years after another gap. I got to know a lot of people associated with the 500, many of whom weren’t known well to the casual fans. Some of us are still alive but time has already run out for most. Many names are coming to my mind today as so many now exist only in the memories of those of us who knew them.

  3. billytheskink Says:

    By all indications Vince Granatelli was a true racer, a guy who worked tirelessly to put cars on the track and dealt fairly with his drivers and crews while fighting the never-ending war of scaring up funding for his racing efforts. Racing needs these folks as much as it needs drivers and crew members and fans, and I am always sad when the sport loses someone like Mr. Granatelli, whether they are presently retired or not.

    I wish his team had been able to accomplish more in its life, something that could raise the team’s most notable moments above coming up short at Indy in 1987 and briefly taking sponsorship from the Scientologists. But even so, it clearly left a great positive impact on many folks in the sport, notably Arie Luyendyk, and that is worthy of appreciation.

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