By Rick Johnson-Indianapolis Star, May 24, 1964
The Granatellis…Andy, Joe, and Vincent…are not car owners, crew chiefs, or mechanics. They are keepers of V-8 supercharged beasts that for more than two decades have proved they are untamable, unpredictable mechanical monsters.
Now and then, the 700-horsepower dragons are caught unaware by mortals, and show what they are capable of doing, as they did yesterday when Bobby Unser and Jim McElreath caught two of them napping and qualified them for the race.
But the qualification of the No. 28 and No. 9 Studebaker Spls. wasn’t accomplished without incidents.
The blue brute best known as the No. 3 Studebaker STP Spl. roared out of its cage docile as a house cat, with McElreath in the saddle applying the spurs.
For two laps, the Novi responded dutifully to Jim’s touch on the throttle and the steering wheel, and ticked off laps of more than 153 miles an hour.
But then as Jim toured the oval in an earthbound orbit of more than 154 miles an hour, the car quit running as it hurtled down the home stretch.
It was the second time that the blue brute had quit on Jim while he was on a qualification run…the first time came last Sunday. Yesterday’s trouble was diagnosed as supercharger malfunction; similar to the difficulty encountered last Sunday.
The Granatellis placed a halter on the faltered blue brute, and towed it to the garage area while they tried to soothe the disgusted McElreath’s feelings by putting him into the seat of No. 28.
Jim McElreath (IMS Photo)
Unser’s mount, a four-wheel drive machine, has proved to be the most dependable in the Granatelli stables.
But this red monster had to show the mortals who was boss last week, by blowing an engine apart and spilling its entrails all over the racetrack and sending Unser into a 693-foot skid.
After Unser's slide, the Novi crewmen pushed the car into the garage and would issue only the statement that the car lost power.
Retired driver Jack Turner kibitzed, "Yes, it did lose power...right through that hole in the block."
Bobby Unser (IMS Photo)
The Novi crew’s battle plan for a qualification attempt can only be compared to a Julius Caesar siege of a city.
Rick Johnson Photo
Andy stands in the pits dressed in a white sports coat that is covered with STP insignias, and with a pudgy finger, points at various members of his crew while barking an endless stream of nervous commands.
Rick Johnson Photo
“You…take that board…you get a clock on him as he comes out of the fourth turn…three of you get down into the first turn and get his turn speeds…I’ll handle the flag…you time his laps.”
Then for a moment, he will crouch down beside the car and intently watch a crewman perform his job. Rising, he sheds his white jacket and loosens his tie, and again rattles a stream of orders and questions.
“Are we OK on fuel? Wheels tight? Oil heater hooked up? Get the plugs out of this thing…I want to look at ‘em. Let’s change the tachometer…get the one from the 3 car. Get the cowl off. Drop the underpan and change the gears…”
Andy then turns from the crew and puts his arm around the driver’s shoulder and says, “OK…it has to be 152 or better…see? I’ll give you an OK on the board if you get it going that good. Then you raise your hand to start the run. I’ll give you your speeds on the board like this… If you are running 154.700 miles an hour, I’ll give you a board that reads 4-7… See? Ok, hop in.”
Nervously pacing about, Andy gives a final bombardment to the crew: “Who’s starting this car? Who’s going to push it away from the line?”
After each of the Novi qualification runs, Andy, a 240-pounder, bounced like a ballerina from the pit entrance to the starting line, almost ecstatic with his temporary victories over the freakish beasts.
Andy knows the victories are temporary, for he knows better than anyone how many dollars, men, and hours of work the Novis have devoured.
Heart of the Novi beast (Photo courtesy CraftsmanshipMuseum.com)