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"Figgered I might as well have a shot at it myself," says Granatelli. "So I took, and passed, the driver's test. Did very well."
But then things began to go bump in the night along Gasoline Alley. By the last hour of the last qualifying day, Andy's car had the miseries and its brakes were somewhat knock-kneed. Joe and Vince and Andy tried everything short of mouth-to-carburetor resuscitation, and suddenly it was then or never.
"So I was wearing this old T shirt, and I put on my Cromwell helmet with the old leather ear straps and pulled down my blue goggles," says Andy, "and rolled it out to qualify."
Both Joe and Vince, knowing the car was squirrelly, were certain that Andy was going to crash and be killed. They began to cry, and they emotionally kissed him goodby there on the track, and in a moment Andy was crying, too.
"As I started down the straightaway I was all choked up and sobbing," says Andy, "and my goddamned goggles began to fog up from the tears. As if that is not enough, I am chewing gum like crazy, see, and suddenly my mouth goes all dry. Then the gum sticks to the roof of my mouth and my tongue sticks up to the gum and I go into the second warmup lap and I am in a hell of a fix. I come around to take the green flag and I can't see too good and I hold up my arm, indicating I'm going to take the flag, and the force of the wind knocks my arm back against the cowling and I just about lose control of the car and Starter Seth Klein has to jump out of my way.
"But by now I'm really standing on that throttle, and as I roll by the entrance to Gasoline Alley I sort of glance over in that direction, you know, to see who is watching me—it is a little vanity that all drivers have—and when I glance back down at the tach it is touching 6,500 rpm, which is far too fast to take that first turn. Right away I say to myself, 'You're a dead man.'
"So I cranked the wheel hard to the left, then snapped it back right, figuring I would get the back end of the car aimed at the infield grass. At the same time I hit the brake, fast, got off it and back on the gas and got ready to crash.
"But instead of going into a spin, I took the whole first turn beautifully, going to beat hell, and I finished that lap at 127 mph. Then I did another lap at 127, and everybody was going wild watching me. Except for Joe and Vince, who knew I was going to crash.
"On the third lap I got into the first turn and suddenly the right front tire started showing white, which meant I was down to the threads already. But I figured maybe I could stroke it around for one more lap and finish just as the tire blew.
"And then—fourth lap, turn two—the tube just sort of lazily spilled right up out of the tire. I looked at it and half turned in the seat and began to crawl under the dashboard, because I knew I was going into the wall. I knew that if I was lucky the car would hit and slide along the wall, and, sure enough—slam!—I'm into that goddamned wall. My helmet flew right off. My secretary was in the stands and she thought it was my head and she fainted dead away.