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Andy Granatelli, Auto Racing Innovator and Santa Barbara Philanthropist, Dies at 90

Known as 'Mister 500' for his racetrack success, the longtime Montecito resident was a high-profile supporter of local charities and the arts

Auto-racing legend Andy Granatelli, a Montecito resident and high-profile supporter of local charities and the arts, died Sunday at age 90.

His son, Vince, told the Los Angeles Times that Granatelli died of congestive heart failure at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.

Granatelli, former CEO of the STP fuel additives company, was a major figure in racing as a car owner and promoter.

Among his many accomplishments, he revolutionized the sponsorships for race cars, which today are ubiquitous on the racing circuits.

He became known as "Mister 500" for his exploits at the Indianapolis 500 race, which his driver, Mario Andretti, won in 1969.

Granatelli was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1992; the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 2001; the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in 2011; and the National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 2013.

Locally, Granatelli lent his name and financial support to many charitable organizations, helping to raise thousands of dollars for their good work.

He also served in a leadership role with the now-defunct Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Council. The private, star-studded group that raised millions of dollars for equipment and other support for the Sheriff's Department disbanded in 2006 amid controversy over how it was being run.

Dolly and Andy Granatelli at a 2011 Opera Santa Barbara benefit. (Melissa Walker / Noozhawk photo)
Dolly and Andy Granatelli at a 2011 Opera Santa Barbara benefit. (Melissa Walker / Noozhawk photo)

J. Douglas Boles, president of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, had high praise for Granatelli.

"Andy Granatelli — appropriately known to many of us 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," he said.

"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 is survived by his wife, Dolly, and sons Vince and Anthony.

Funeral arrangements are under the direction of McDermott-Crockett Mortuary.

Noozhawk executive editor Tom Bolton can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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