The only native of Hawaii to get started the Indianapolis 500, Ongais was nicknamed “Danny On-The-Gas” and the “Flyin’ Hawaiian” for his bravery and motivation in overpowered late ’70s Indy cars and trucks, but his like of pace experienced proven by itself far before.
At the age of 18, he earned a Hawaiian state title in motorcycle racing, and he went on to develop into a drag racing ace. He completed runner-up in the Top Fuel class at the 1966 NHRA U.S. Nationals right after beating legend Don Prudhomme in the semifinals at Indianapolis Raceway Park, and 3 yrs later he clinched the Humorous Car class acquire in the exact occasion.
He and renowned innovator Mickey Thompson established nearly 300 national and worldwide pace documents on the Bonneville Salt Flats in a Mach 1 Mustang in the course of the 1960s. Ongais was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of The usa in 2000 in the Drag Racing category.
Company in the U.S. Military in the early 1960s had exposed Ongais to sportscar racing in Europe, and he at some point switched his emphasis from dragstrips to ovals and street courses in the mid-’70s. Ongais dominated in SCCA competition in 1974, catching the eye of media mogul Ted Subject, who experienced lately launched the Interscope Information label.
Ongais and Discipline teamed up with good results in Method 5000 and the Indy motor vehicle Sequence in the late 1970s. He also competed in 4 Components 1 races in 1977 and 1978, like two begins with Interscope, with a most effective finish of seventh in the ’77 Canadian Grand Prix.
That was the very same yr that Ongais turned an Indy car winner. Just after setting fastest lap of the race at the Indy 500 inspite of his rookie position, he went on to clinch victory at Michigan. 3 pole positions quickly followed, but the Interscope Parnelli-Cosworth’s unreliability prevented more triumphs.
Extra of the similar followed in ’78. The Cosworth was hugely impressive, Ongais regularly appearing to dance the auto on the rim of disaster on his way to eight pole positions, and when it hung with each other he tended to acquire: he racked up 5 triumphs that 12 months. But the point that he could end only eighth in the championship attests to the car’s poor finishing history.
That 1978 time also provided Ongais starting off in the center of the first all-200-mph front row at Indianapolis, in between pole sitter Tom Sneva and rookie Rick Mears, but his ideal end in his 11 commences at the Speedway was a fourth in 1979.
He did acquire a person legendary race that year, nevertheless, signing up for forces with Discipline and Hurley Haywood to acquire the Daytona 24 Hours in an Interscope Porsche 935.
As a statement from Indianapolis Motor Speedway pointed out, Ongais was recognised not only for his enormous speed, but also surviving some violent crashes. A head-on shunt in the 1981 Indy 500 remaining him recuperating for the remainder of the year although four yrs afterwards at Michigan he went into a barrel-roll after launching off the again of one more motor vehicle.
Arguably Ongais’ ideal possibility to acquire the Indy 500 arrived in his mid-40s in 1987, when Interscope partnered with Workforce Penske to operate a Penske-Chevrolet at the Memorial Working day Weekend vintage. Unfortunately, Ongais crashed in observe and experienced a concussion that sidelined him. His entry was taken in excess of by 3-time Indy 500 winner Al Unser, who took the substitution device – a just one-yr-aged clearly show-automobile – and created himself a 4-time 500 winner.
At the age of 54, Ongais was an unlikely connect with-up to exchange Group Menard’s Indy 500 polesitter Scott Brayton who had perished in a crash in a post-qualifying exercise session. Inspite of getting to begin from 33rd and previous and even with getting retired from Indy motor vehicle level of competition nine many years previously, Ongais drove his way to seventh.
Ongais’ final endeavor at Indianapolis came in 1998, when he unsuccessful to qualify in a Group Pelfrey car or truck.
– Co-creator Paul Kelly, IMS