One of the longest-lasting images in motorsports history is that of Andy Granatelli planting a big smooch on the cheek of Mario Andretti in victory lane after the 1969 Indianapolis 500.
Andretti had just taken the checkered flag in Granatelli's Ford-powered Brawner Hawk after leading 161 laps at a then-record speed of 156.887 mph. But by 1969, the owner of "The Cinderella Car" -- so named because of its rise from backup to glory -- already had been a highly visible fixture at the Brickyard during the month of May.
"People say, 'He's flamboyant, he's this, he's that.' That's just me," Granatelli has said of himself. "I can't help who I am. I was born supercharged."
The self-proclaimed "Mr. 500" first came to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with his brothers in 1946, driving their race car to the track from their hometown, Chicago. Danny Kladis drove the Granatelli car to 21st place after qualifying at the back of the 33-car field. Two years later, Granatelli himself crashed while trying to qualify and never made the grid.
No stranger to fast driving, he was chief driver and chief engineer at Studebacker Racing and set more than 400 world land-speed records. He also designed Studebaker Avanti engines as well as the Chrysler 300 engine and a Cadillac Eldorado engine.
Granatelli's fame, however, came in the 1960s, when he became president of the STP Corporation. By slapping the bright-orange oval STP logo on cars, driver uniforms, helmets, pit crews and even business suits, the oil additive's sales went from $2 million to $100 million a year in less than a decade.
That and STP's sponsorship of Richard Petty's NASCAR efforts, which continue to this day, made the STP logo one of the most recognizable in sports.
In 1967, Granatelli's innovative spirit and competitive nature inspired him to bring turbine-powered cars to the speedway for the first time. Parnelli Jones almost won with the "Whoosh-mobile" in '67. He led 171 laps but broke a bearing with four circuits remaining.
The next year, Joe Leonard set a track record of 171.953 mph and put the next generation turbine on the pole. He was leading the 1968 race with eight laps to go when a fuel shaft broke.
In 1969, the U.S. Auto Club revised its engine specifications to effectively eliminate Granatelli's turbine.
Despite the rules change, Granatelli got his first Indy win in 1969 when Andretti crashed his primary car and drove the backup to victory lane and accepted the kiss seen 'round the world.
Granatelli's second victory came in the rain-plagued 1973 race with Gordon Johncock at the wheel.
Now 78, Granatelli is retired from racing and other businesses. He lives in Montecito, CA.