Former Indy automotive, drag racing star Danny Ongais dies aged 79 - Motor Informed
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Former Indy automotive, drag racing star Danny Ongais dies aged 79

The one native of Hawaii to begin the Indianapolis 500, Ongais was nicknamed “Danny On-The-Gasoline” and the “Flyin’ Hawaiian” for his bravery and dedication in overpowered late ’70s Indy automobiles, however his love of pace had proven itself far earlier.

On the age of 18, he earned a Hawaiian state title in bike racing and went on to turn into a drag racing ace.

He completed runner-up within the High Gasoline class on the 1966 NHRA US Nationals after beating legend Don Prudhomme within the semifinals at Indianapolis Raceway Park, and three years later he clinched the Humorous Automotive class win in the identical occasion.

He and famend innovator Mickey Thompson set practically 300 nationwide and worldwide pace data on the Bonneville Salt Flats in a Mach 1 Mustang through the 1960s.

Ongais was inducted into the Motorsports Corridor of Fame of America in 2000 within the Drag Racing class.

Service within the US Military within the early 1960s had uncovered Ongais to sportscar racing in Europe, and he ultimately switched his focus from drag strips to ovals and street programs within the mid-1970s.

Ongais dominated in SCCA competitors in 1974, catching the attention of media mogul Ted Subject, who had just lately based the Interscope Information label.

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Ongais and Subject teamed up with success in Method 5000 and the Indy automotive Collection within the late 1970s.

He additionally competed in 4 Method 1 races in 1977 and 1978, together with two begins with Interscope, with a greatest end of seventh within the 1977 Canadian Grand Prix.

That was the identical 12 months that Ongais turned an Indy automotive winner.

After setting quickest lap of the race on the Indy 500 regardless of his rookie standing, he went on to clinch victory at Michigan.

Three pole positions swiftly adopted, however the Interscope Parnelli-Cosworth’s unreliability prevented additional triumphs.

Extra of the identical adopted in 1978. The Cosworth was massively highly effective, Ongais recurrently showing to bop the automotive on the rim of catastrophe on his technique to eight pole positions, and when it hung collectively he tended to win.

He racked up 5 triumphs that 12 months. However the truth that he may end solely eighth within the championship attests to the automotive’s poor ending document.

That 1978 season additionally included Ongais beginning in the course of the primary all-200-mph entrance row at Indianapolis, between pole sitter Tom Sneva and rookie Rick Mears, however his greatest end in his 11 begins on the Speedway was a fourth in 1979.

He did win one legendary race that 12 months, nonetheless, becoming a member of forces with Subject and Hurley Haywood to win the Daytona 24 Hours in an Interscope Porsche 935.

As a press release from Indianapolis Motor Speedway identified, Ongais was identified not just for his big pace, but in addition surviving some violent crashes.

A head-on shunt within the 1981 Indy 500 left him recuperating for the rest of the season whereas 4 years later at Michigan he went right into a barrel-roll after launching off the again of one other automotive.

Arguably Ongais’ greatest likelihood to win the Indy 500 got here in his mid-40s in 1987, when Interscope partnered with Workforce Penske to run a Penske-Chevrolet on the Memorial Day Weekend traditional.

Sadly, Ongais crashed in follow and suffered a concussion that sidelined him.

His entry was taken over by three-time Indy 500 winner Al Unser, who took the alternative machine – a one-year-old show-car – and made himself a four-time 500 winner.

On the age of 54, Ongais was an unlikely call-up to switch Workforce Menard’s Indy 500 polesitter Scott Brayton who had perished in a crash in a post-qualifying follow session.

Regardless of having to begin from 33rd and final and regardless of having retired from Indy automotive competitors 9 years earlier, Ongais drove his technique to seventh.

Ongais’ ultimate try at Indianapolis got here in 1998, when he didn’t qualify in a Workforce Pelfrey automotive.

– Co-author Paul Kelly, IMS 

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