There are people that come into your life that have the greatest impact without any sort of advance warning / notice; they just blindside you and next thing you know, you’ve got a great friend. Andy Granatelli was that kind of friend to me.
I first met Andy in Race Control at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He always had a tour of highfalutin’ folks with him from the West Coast and he would bring them down to see Race Control. From the moment Andy & I met, he changed my life. Andy was Indy Royalty. He was Legend. He was Andy Freakin’ Granatelli! When he spoke, it was Gospel…at least for anyone who’d spent 99% of their time dedicated to motorsports. He had a way of grinnin’ at you that made you feel like you were invincible. To the world, he was famous as “Mr. Indy 500”, but to me, he’ll always be “Mr. Dave Dusick Foundation”. You see, without Andy, there may not be such a thing…
I’m not exactly sure how, but Andy caught wind of this little thing we called the “I Know Dave Dusick” Collaboration. At the time, it was a fledgling idea of a way to help the kids at Riley Hospital for Children. We had created some t-shirts, made some great friends and even raised a little bit of money. Well, if you knew Andy, a “little bit” of anything wasn’t enough! If it was on Andy’s plate, it was overflowing!!! Fortunately for us, we wound up on Andy’s plate.
I’ll never forget that phone call; in fact, I later screenshot’ed a call from Andy, just to preserve the moment. It was a Santa Barbara number on a random weekday. I answered “Hello, This is Dave.” The strong solid voice on the other line said “Hello, this is Andy Granatelli.” Initially, I wanted to respond with “Cool, well in that case, I’m Dale Earnhardt!!!”. Fortunately, I didn’t. Instead, I listened. What ensued on that short phone call would change my life forever. Andy had learned of our I Know Dave Dusick efforts and wanted to contribute. He had seen the t-shirts and offered to lend his name to us for a charitable t-shirt.
**STOP RIGHT HERE**
Okay, if you’re not business savvy or motorsports history educated, you may not understand the value of this statement from Mr. Indy 500. This is the guy that built the STP Brand. He built the relationship with Richard Petty. He’s famous for kissing Mario Andretti in Victory Lane of the Indy 500. His custom STP Logo’d Business Suit created the word “branding” well before any stupid marketing guy started using it in presentations. This man knew more about building a brand than I know about having a crooked face! In fact, the point of this Blog is that he probably knew more about having a crooked face than I do! None-the-less, that’s the severity of this phone call. The man who created branding in the sport of auto racing was offering up his brand to me…for free.
**OKAY, GOT IT? Let’s continue…**
So, Andy wanted to do a t-shirt. In hindsight, Andy didn’t want to “do a shirt”; Andy wanted to “blow the doors off this thing and tell the world about Dave Dusick!”. Well, as much as I hate to admit to it, I believe I let Andy down. If you know me, you know I’m pretty proud of myself and that I feel like I can do anything. In fact, I’ve done some pretty cool things…unless you pair me up against “Mr. Indy 500”!! Needless to say, I don’t think we lived up to the greatness that was Andy Granatelli. However, in typical Andy fashion, he still managed to leave his mark on our efforts.
In Andy’s mind, “Andy Granatelli Knows Dave Dusick” was more than a t-shirt; it was a spectacle. Heck, everything Andy believed in eventually became a spectacle! However, for reasons not important, when the day came…it was just a t-shirt. No Press. No Photographers. No Media. No admiring fans (well, actually, there were a few of those!). It was just me, Andy and a group of loyalists who donned the solid black shirts on a 90+ degree day. Most of whom were guests of Andy who wore the shirts because Andy commanded they do so; despite never having met me…
Anyway, here’s the point.
Andy’s Vision for the Dave Dusick Foundation was huge. It was millions of fans, thousands of dollars and hundreds of lives changed. If it were up to Andy, we’d had solved a Cure for Cancer by now!
However, the Dave Dusick Foundation is something that grows with those involved. We have great people who do great work, but it’s not called the Andy Granatelli Foundation for a reason; it’s not about Andy Granatelli. Believe me, if it were, it would exceed Andy’s dreams ten-fold; that’s just the Andy way. However, it’s not; it’s our foundation and it grows at our speed. It took me a long time to come to terms with this with respect to Andy. In fact, I’m not sure I ever did…until this moment.
You see, because of Andy’s Vision, we stepped up our vision. Because of Andy, we were responsible for over $100,000 being contributed to Riley Children’s Foundation in our first year…before we were even a 501(c)3. Because of Andy, we will soon be a 501(c)3 Not-For-Profit Corporation. Because of Andy, we are legitimate. Because of Andy, we will continue to grow and change the world.
The truth is, without Andy’s Vision, we may have never become a 501(c)3. Andy had a way of seeing things like nobody else saw them. He dreamed bigger than the world and made his dreams into reality.
In my case, Andy dreamed something so much bigger than even this young dreamer could imagine. I always felt like I couldn’t live up to his dreams, but now that he doesn’t have the chance to tell me I’m wrong, I feel like the only thing left to do is prove him right. If you knew Andy, you knew he was always right. He believed in me more than I believe in myself; who am I to argue?
When I learned of Andy’s passing, I quickly went to google to find something to give me solace. Here is what I found:
“When you are making a success of something, it’s not work. It’s a way of life. You enjoy yourself because you are making your contribution to the world.”
— Andy Granatelli
Thank You, Mr. Indy 500 for your contribution to my life. Because of you, I have a higher Vision for my contribution to the world.
Godspeed, my friend.