Mr. 500- Andy Granatelli’s Love Affair with IMS

In the 1960s it was impossible to talk about the Indianapolis 500 without mentioning Andy Granatelli. His only victory came in 1969 with Mario Andretti driving, but his showmanship and innovations grabbed headlines throughout the decade. His strong presence at the track each May was felt by everyone there.

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum introduced a new exhibit, “Granatelli,” on August 1. It is running concurrently with the “From the Vault” display. The Granatelli exhibit occupies the north hall. It is a small exhibit, with about a half dozen cars and a showcase of memorabilia.

Granatelli is remembered for two things: attempting to prolong the run of the popular Novi and for bringing the turbine powered car into the race. neither car had much success, but both had fans talking about Granatelli and his team.

A Granatelli quote in the display says. “The Novi did everything but win races.”

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The Novi driven by Jim Hurtubise in 1965. 1967 was the final run for the famed car.
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Parnelli Jones driving the turbine in 1967. He started sixth and was leading by the end of the first lap. USAC rewrote the rule book over the next few years, making the turbine unable to compete.

Granatelli tried to qualify for the 1948 race. On his qualifying run he had an average of 123 mph working through three laps. The right rear tire blew and he crashed his Miller Ford Offenhauser in turn two.

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A Granatelli entry was converted to turbine power as a test car in 1955. Known as the SAC Fireboid, Henry Banks drove demonstration laps in 1955. the car then became property of Firestone as a test car.  As a Granatelli entry the Kurtis Kraft KK 3000 was driven by Pat Flaherty in 1950 and Jim Rathmann to second place in 1952. Freddie Agabashian also had a turn behind the wheel of this machine.

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The walls in the exhibit are are covered with murals with quotes and text from Granatelli’s biography, They Call Me Mr. 500. The one that stood out to me captures the essence of what every fan, driver, and car owner feels about the race and the speedway.

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Althpugh the display is not large, it packs a lot of history about a great era at IMS and one of the most intriguing figures of that time. The exhibit runs through June 20, 2021.

I will have some more photos posted on my Facebook page, The Pit Window later tonight.

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