Danny Ongais, the Hawaiian driver admired by supporters and competitors for his speed and bravery in an Indianapolis 500 profession spanning three many years, died Feb. 26 of congestive heart complications in Anaheim Hills, California. He was 79.
The flexible Ongais produced 11 Indianapolis 500 starts off among 1977 and 1996, with 4 best-10 finishes. His best yrs at Indianapolis Motor Speedway arrived with Interscope Racing and its eye-catching No. 25 Parnelli and Penske chassis driven by Cosworth engines, with a ideal finish of fourth in 1979 and a prime commence of 2nd following to pole sitter Tom Sneva in 1978.
Ongais is the only native of Hawaii to get started in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” Followers included his heritage in his nickname “The Flyin’ Hawaiian,” and nicknames “On-Gas” and “On the Gas” were being word performs on his last name.
Born May possibly 21, 1942 in Kahului, Hawaii, Ongais started one of the most multipurpose occupations of any driver in his period as a teen, earning a Hawaii point out title in motorcycle racing in 1960.
Ongais also began drag racing in the early 60s and became a person of the leading straight-line opponents in The united states into the early 1970s.
He finished runner-up to Mike Snively in the Top rated Gas course at the 1966 NHRA U.S. Nationals just after beating the famous Don “The Snake” Prudhomme in the semifinals at Indianapolis Raceway Park.
Ongais then gained the Humorous Car or truck class in the 1969 NHRA U.S. Nationals at IRP, drag racing’s most prestigious function, in a exclusive blue Ford Mach 1 Mustang fielded by Mickey Thompson. That victory came 1 year soon after Thompson tried to enter Ongais into the 1968 Indianapolis 500, but Ongais was denied mainly because he had just about no expertise in open-wheel race cars.
Thompson and Ongais also teamed up to established approximately 300 nationwide and global pace information on the Bonneville Salt Flats in a Mach 1 Mustang in the course of the 1960s.
Ongais’ accomplishment in straight-line competitiveness led him to be inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of The usa in 2000 in the Drag Racing classification.
Assistance in the U.S. Army in the early 1960s exposed Ongais to sporting activities car racing in Europe, and he moved from dragstrips to ovals and street classes in the mid-1970s. Ongais dominated in SCCA competitiveness in 1974, catching the eye of youthful media mogul Ted Subject, who experienced not long ago started the Interscope Data label.
Ongais and Industry teamed up with accomplishment in Formulation 5000 and the IndyCar Series in the late 1970s. He also competed in 4 Formula One races in 1977 and 1978, which include two commences with Interscope, with a most effective end of seventh in 1977 at the Canadian Grand Prix.
The very best season for Ongais and the Interscope workforce came in 1978, when he gained 5 races and eight poles en route to an eighth-put complete in the USAC standings.
That 1978 season also involved Ongais commencing in the middle of the 1st all-200-mph entrance row at Indianapolis, between pole sitter Sneva and rookie Rick Mears.
Ongais and Field’s results with the Interscope workforce also extended to athletics auto racing, with Field also driving. They teamed up with the famous Hurley Haywood to acquire the Rolex 24 At Daytona in 1979 in the Interscope Porsche 935 prototype.
Although Ongais was known for his blazing speed at Indianapolis and in other places, he also captivated attention for surviving some of the most violent crashes of his period. Ongais suffered severe accidents in a head-on crash in the 1981 Indianapolis 500, missing the relaxation of the period to get well.
In 1985, he also survived a impressive barrel roll at Michigan Intercontinental Speedway after hitting the again of the slower car of Phil Krueger on the backstretch.
Ongais crashed in practice and endured a concussion in 1987 at Indianapolis even though driving for Crew Penske, forcing him to pass up the race. Al Unser was named as Ongais’ substitution and drove to his fourth 500 victory in a backup car or truck that was a show vehicle earlier in May possibly in a resort in Reading through, Pennsylvania.
The tragic instances of an incident also led to Ongais’ ultimate commence at Indianapolis, in 1996. Pole sitter Scott Brayton experienced fatal injuries in a submit-qualifying follow crash, and crew owner John Menard employed Ongais as the replacement driver. Ongais, racing at age 54 in his very first “500” considering that 1986, finished a creditable seventh immediately after setting up from the rear of the discipline.
Ongais’ last endeavor at Indianapolis arrived in 1998, when he unsuccessful to qualify in a Crew Pelfrey automobile. Ongais’ Indy 500 occupation finished with him primary in 4 races for 79 total laps. He also recorded the fastest lap of the race, 192.678 mph, as a rookie in 1977.
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