Joe Granatelli Sr.
Everyday I get up early and go to work and I'm excited. Excited about the opportunity to continue the performance legacy that is part of the racing Granatelli's. Many of you reading this may not be old enough to remember STP Oil Treatment, Tune-up Masters, factory Shelby Mustangs with Paxton superchargers, land speed record setting twin Paxton supercharged Avanti’s or the famous Paxton Products/STP Novi Turbine Indy cars (better know as whoosh mobiles). Yep, the Granatelli’s had something to do with all of that and more. My father, Joe Granatelli, Sr. of the three more famous racing Granatelli brothers (Joe, Vince and flamboyant Andy) was chief mechanic for the Indy team and president of Paxton Products. So, why should you care? Perhaps the hard work and extensive history that has formed Granatelli Motor Sports will inspire you and maybe, sooner then later you will proudly wear a Granatelli Motor Sports decal on your next Hot Rod or Modern Day Muscle Car making you an extended part of the Granatelli heritage. Every Granatelli customer becomes a part of my family's legacy in the performance racing industry. Read on...
As I was saying, I am excited about going to work everyday. But success takes dedication. How much? Many long hours that could not be done without an understanding family. Just like my father, first to work and last to leave. As I sit at my desk everyday, I sometimes glance at photographs of my father (some recent with my family and some from the 50's and 60's at Indy and Bonneville). Racing really is in my blood. I reflect on how much he inspired me and how thankful I am to be his son. I can honestly say he is my hero and was my best friend. Not just because he was an ace mechanic with a long list of accomplishments but because of the great man he was. Everyone he ever encountered was inspired by him and has a story to tell. One story I can tell from personal memory is from1991. We had just completed construction of a new Mustang drag racecar and we were readying it for a Fun Ford track event. (Back then, the fastest 5.0 Mustangs were going mid 10's)! We prepared the car in Santa Monica where Paxton Products had been since 1958. Everywhere you looked was history. The building was filled with Indy engines, one-off experimental superchargers and row upon row of components that went into a Paxton centrifugal supercharger. By 1991 my father was 72 years old and he had more then paid his dues. However this car was special to him. He was building it for me and he wanted everything to be perfect for his baby boy. After a full 20-hour day, we were all hot, tired and hungry. My father picked up a pencil and started walking around the shop taking everyone’s pizza order. Even though my father was the boss he still worked with everyone as if he had no seniority.
After a quick pizza break, we worked a few more hours before it was time to clean up and call it a night. One of the employees started mopping up the floors when my father told him, "let me give you a hand." "But Mr. Granatelli, let me do that. You shouldn't have to mop floors when you are the C.E.O. of the company," the employee remarked. Dead silence came next and then my father said the most amazing thing: "If I am too good to help you mop the floors, then I have no business owning this company." Then, the employee and my father finished mopping the floor as a team. The next day we went to the track and had a great race. It was at that moment that realized this is a simple example but it is one of dozens that demonstrate the kind of man he was. Personable, hands on, respectful, respected, a brilliant business man, a mentor and of course, an ace mechanic.
"Driving a company to success is a lot like driving a winning race car: it's takes knowledge, experience, determination, hard work, the right team, the right equipment and…a little luck," my father remarked. He explained this to me when I was very young and you know, he was right. As early as I can remember, he would take me to Indy car races and I would watch his genius as the ace mechanic on the Paxton Products Novi Turbine cars. His passion for racing and knowledge of how to extract every last drop of horsepower was simply amazing. To this day, when I walk through the pits of any Cart Race, IRL race or NASCAR event, I always get a pat on the back and a comment about my father and his abilities as a mechanic of a racing car. You might say he had the magic touch. He could take any engine and make it sing just by listening to it. Just about every conversation with him was a lesson in life or business. Whenever I asked him a question, he gave me an answer but more importantly, he always explained why. This was one of the key elements that has really helped me in business today. He used to tell me that only by understanding the reasons why something “is” can I really appreciate it and learn from it. Not only was my father the best automotive mechanic I'd ever seen but he was much more than that. Simply put, he was best teacher about life one could ask for. When I started Granatelli Motor Sports in 1989, my father was behind me all the way. He said, "If you believe you can do it, you can and never give up." In the beginning we were small with just handful of employees. Today, we are larger corporation and enjoy steady growth every year.
There are a lot of people I can thank for my success but mostly, I owe it all to my father. I am grateful he shared his knowledge and experiences with me and he will continue to have a profound impact on my life and businesses. In September of 2003, he passed away from lung cancer but I will always love and miss him. Not from smoking cigarette but smoking tires all his life. It would seem the chemicals in his racing safety suit got the better of him. I suppose the best tribute of all is to follow in my father's footsteps. And, what footsteps they are! Now, there are a few ideas I have for my next racing car. I can promise you the best is yet to come and the incredible legacy of Joe Granatelli, Sr. will continue.