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Richard Petty reflects on the impact of Andy Granatelli

Dec 30, 2013, 5:30 PM EDT

1980 Daytona 500 Getty Images

Andy Granatelli, who passed away at 90 years old yesterday in a California hospital, will always be remembered in the open-wheel world for helping to revive the Novi engine in the early 1960s, rocking the Indianapolis 500 with his turbine-powered cars, and kissing Mario Andretti on the cheek after their famous Indy victory in 1969.

But in the NASCAR world, his biggest claim to fame will always be the $250,000 deal he struck as chairman of STP with seven-time Winston (now Sprint) Cup champion Richard Petty, which effectively transformed the sponsorship aspect of the sport.

From the beginning of the partnership in 1972 through the end of Petty’s driving career in 1992, STP was there to back NASCAR’s “King” on his car, which often sported both STP’s day-glo red and the famous shade of “Petty blue.”

The car became iconic to millions of race fans, and it is still one of the most important representations of NASCAR today; recently, the Smithsonian Magazine named a 1984 Pontiac Grand Prix version of Petty’s No. 43 as one of the “101 Objects That Made America.”

And even now, STP continues to back both Petty himself and the Richard Petty Motorsports team that currently races in the Sprint Cup Series – ensuring that a key part of Granatelli’s legacy endures.

“Andy was one of the best at public relations and marketing in all of motorsports,” Petty said Monday to NASCAR.com’s David Caraviello. “He was ahead of his time and set the standard for selling his products. We still enjoy our relationship with STP today and it was our meetings with Andy that started it all.

“He was really determined about how he wanted to market his product, and he never stopped wanting to get his way, but that’s what made him successful too.”

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