Vincent Joseph Granatelli, son of the charismatic STP promoter Andy Granatelli, was a crew chief when STP drove the famous turbine cars, and was also involved in the STP team’s brief flirtation in Formula 1, where Mario Andretti scored a podium in a March 701.
But Vince really came out of his father’s shadow when he took over Dan Cotter’s Indy car team in the 1980s and found success almost immediately.
After winning the 1983 Indy 500 with Tom Sneva, the Bignotti-Cotter team’s fortunes dwindled when Sneva left and Bignotti retired. Roberto Guerrero scored just four podium finishes in three seasons.
Vince Granatelli of STP, Bill Dunne, Mario Andretti and March designer Robin Herd at Kyalami F1 GP in 1970.
Photo By: David Phipps
With Vince Granatelli at the head of 1987, however, the team only won race two, with Guerrero attacking from the back of the field in Phoenix (his car had not been inspected after qualifying) to take the win.
At the next race, the Indy 500, Guerrero took the lead after dominant Mario Andretti pulled out with 23 laps to go, but his car’s clutch was damaged in a collision with the errant wheel of another car – which the flew into stands and killed a spectator. Leaving the pit lane after his final stop, Guerrero’s clutch failure caused him to come to a stop twice, giving Penske’s Al Unser his fourth Indy 500 win. Guerrero came home second.
He was further disappointed in Milwaukee and Portland despite taking pole for both, and a pole in Cleveland only yielded fifth, but at Pocono Guerrero scored a podium and two races later he was a winner in Mid-Ohio.
A massive shunt test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway put the Colombian star in a coma, putting him out of action for the last three races of the season, but still finished fourth in the championship.
By comparison, 1988 was a failure, full of bad luck and accidents, with only two podium finishes. At the end of the season, Guerrero left, and Granatelli switched to Buick engines for 1989, but the aging Tom Sneva, John Andretti and Didier Theys barely managed a top 10 finish and 1990 wouldn’t prove much better.
Arie Luyendyk with Vince Granatelli after their second and final win together at Nazareth in 1991.
Photo by: Dan R. Boyd
At the end of the year, Granatelli merged with Doug Shierson Racing, now owned by Bob Tezak, acquiring the services of most recent Indy 500 winner Arie Luyendyk and a contract with Chevrolet. Luyendyk-driven Lola-Chevrolet won in Phoenix, Granatelli somehow kept the team through the summer despite arguing with Tezak, and was rewarded for his perseverance with another win as Luyendyk took the win in Nazareth and finished sixth. finished in the championship.
Despite this, Granatelli was unable to find the funding to continue and therefore shut down the team.
A saddened Luyendyk, who stayed in touch with his former boss, tweeted: “Just heard Vince Granatelli passed away today, I am heartbroken, devastated by this sad news. We have lost an icon of our IndyCar community and a good friend.”
Vince Granatelli with Parnelli Jones and Mario Andretti in 2014.
Photo By: Brad Hoffner