Granatelli is consumed by the idea that he must make good, that a guy from an NRA Chicago slum background has to prove himself, has to grow up to be somebody—like maybe the winner of the 500. He is already a big somebody in business, a success, selling $30 million worth of STP a year, earning $125,000 plus stock options doing it. He lives in a house that rambles all through Northbrook, Ill., complete with three cars, six bathrooms, a radar oven, an absolutely stunning Lebanese wife named Dolly, one son at home, one Chinese housemaid, a kitchen full of linguini with white clam sauce, and a plaque over the mantel saying Amore E Sempre. Granatelli is not a millionaire, but he comes close. He would be a millionaire if it weren't for the 500.
Andy being what he is, there are wildly pro-Granatelli people and there are fiercely anti-Granatelli people, but there aren't any don't-knows.
"Tha's fine," Andy will say, spreading his hands out in the oldest salesman's gesture in the world. "The only thing I wanna do is race."
Exactly. And Andy knows this about auto racing: it is not a beauty contest. Nobody is going to elect a Miss Congeniality out there. Racing is a dirty, grinding, perilous pursuit involving a lot of head-knocking, infighting, sidestepping the rules. Everybody in racing does it, and those who do it best are the winners. Goodness, as Mae West used to drawl, has got nothing to do with it.
Granatelli is a product of racing's pure, unregulated days, when every man was a mechanic, a driver, a drinker and a lover and took part in a little interpretive fighting with tire irons on the side. The game is subtler now, but you would not choose Andy as a model to demonstrate that point.
Anthony Joseph Granatelli grew up tough in the Chicago slums with two brothers, Joe, now 49, four years older than Andy, and Vince, four years younger. "We were broke, on relief—ever try that NRA oatmeal?—and had to support the family," says Andy. "And we could only do what we did best, which was to fix cars. All the Granatellis have that touch with cars; it's like a gift.
"Joe was the best mechanic in those days and we learned from him. He was noble enough to give up a lifelong ambition to be a Greyhound bus driver to teach us. We didn't have any garage, any tools. But we were fast and cheap. In the winter we would patrol those streets during storms, our fannies hanging out, and we would spot people in trouble and run up and say, 'Start yer car for a buck, mister? For twenny-five cents? How about a dime?' It made enough money to buy a lot of spaghetti and potatoes, the only food I knew as a kid.
"Finally it got to where we could overhaul a whole engine right there in the street in front of somebody's tenement. Joe would lie under the car in the snow and we'd drop the whole block, and Vince and I would dance around fixing things and blowing on our fingers to keep them warm."
The perils of those early days welded the Granatelli brothers into such a firm unit that they are like a separate Italian nation today—they embrace and kiss in the grand old Palermo manner whenever they meet—and all their fortunes are still tied together. The old hungers still haunt them, and together they can make a shambles of a restaurant menu. Andy has grown into the biggest of the three, the size of two Joes and half a Vince, and he will occasionally say, "Ya know, I just gotta lose some weight sometime. But when I was comin' up to this size it came on by 10s. I mean, I would gain a few pounds and then I'd tell myself, 'O.K., when it gets up to an even 10 more, I'll level off there.' But each 10 made me feel better. And right now I feel marvelous."
"The doctor," says Dolly, "tells him he is in great shape and maybe shouldn't lose too much weight. Besides, he's beautiful like he is." And when Andy's oldest son, Vince, 26, complained recently about putting on too much weight, she patted him on the stomach and said, "Now you're getting handsome, like your daddy."