Jerry Grant

Jerry Grant

23/1/1935

Jerry Grant raced everything from sports cars to Indy cars, NASCAR and F5000. In USAC he raced in the 1965-1977 seasons and drove in the Indianapolis 500 from 1965 to 1968, 1970 and then from 1972 'till 1976. Grant thought that he had won the 1972 Indianapolis 500 but third-place Al Unser's team filed a protest, saying that Grant had used fuel from another driver's supply. The protest was upheld and Grant's final 12 laps were not counted, dropping him to 12th. Grant was the first USAC driver to lap at over 200 mph in qualifying at the Ontario Motor Speedway on September 3, 1972, with an average speed of 201.4mph.

Jerry Grant was born in Santa Ana, California was an American racing driver who raced everything from sports cars to Indy cars including NASCAR and F5000. He also headed Champion Spark Plugs' racing program for many years.

In 1961 he drove the ex-factory Ferrari Testa Rossa 0704, and later 0768, for Dick Hahn of Yakima Washington. Though based in the Northwest, Grant often appeared at California races.

For the 1963 Season, Grant campaigned a Bardahl-sponsored Lotus Mk.19 powered by an aluminum Buick V8. The car was blazingly fast, but not particularly reliable.

In 1966 driving with Dan Gurney, he nearly won the Sebring 12 hour race and the Le Mans 24 hour race.

Dan Gurney had been asked to set the pace for the team during practice and qualifying. He did so convincingly, setting a new qualifying record in the Shelby entered Mk II Ford GT 40 with a time of 2:54.9.

Sebring's LeMans-type start was always a spectacle, with the drivers sprinting across the track to their race cars. Despite getting to his Mk II quickly, Gurney got away slowly and lost several places. He quickly regained the lead and proceeded to follow the team strategy: he and Grant would lead the race, lapping at 2:59.0 to 3:00.0 in order to push the Chaparrals and Ferraris to their breaking point. The pair drove hard, temporarily giving up the race lead only during pit stops.

The stage was set for the "hare" to take a convincing victory until Gurney rounded the final corner of the final lap; Gurney's engine blew! He pushed the car across the finish line under the dark Florida night, only to be disqualified for doing so. Happily for Ford, Ken Miles and Lloyd Ruby inherited the victory in their Mk II.

At le Mans, Gurney took the lead from Graham Hill on the third lap and held it throughout the early hours. Gurney and Grant then built a commanding lead. Eventually however, the Miles and Hulme car caught them and the pair swapped the lead back and forth through the night.

Outside of the Ford teams, few realised that though Gurney and Grant held the lead, the car was not at all healthy, and in the 17th hour, the 7-liter Ford entered the pits and retired with cooling problems. Gurney and Grant had once again been cheated of the lead as overheating sidelined the Ford.

Jerry Grant rejoined his old friend Dan Gurney for the 1972 Indianapolis 500. Grant did not run a lap in practice until the Friday before the second qualifying weekend. He qualified in 15th spot, with a speed of 189.294 mph, the fourth fastest time in the field. When the race began, Bobby Unser took a commanding lead in his Olsonite Eagle, and Grant began moving rapidly up through the field. When Bobby Unser fell out on Lap 31, Grant moved up to 3rd, behind Gary Bettenhausen and Mike Mosley. Mosley had an accident on Lap 56 shortly after taking the lead. Bettenhausen then dominated more than half the race, with Grant the only driver who could keep in touch with him. When Bettenhausen's engine faltered on Lap 182 after a return of green flag racing, Grant swept into the lead well ahead of Mark Donohue, then in second. Although Donohue picked up his pace, the race appeared to belong to Grant. But a cut tire brought Grant in to pit on Lap 187, and during his stop the refueling nozzle from team mate Bobby Unser's car was connected to Grant's car. Grant finished the race believing that he'd won, but the scorers had Donohue in first place, with Grant in second. Grant's bad luck was not over, for a competitor protested Grant for illegally accepting fuel from a team mate's fuel supply. The protest was upheld, and Grant was stripped of all laps run after his final pit stop, dropping him to 12th place in the final reckoning. Mark Donohue won the 1972 Indianapolis 500 at a speed of 163.465 mph.

On Sept. 3, that year Grant became the first USAC driver to turn in a lap at over 200 mph. On a hot and windy day at Ontario Motor Speedway in California he drove the 1,100-horsepower Mystery Eagle Indy car around the 2.5-mile oval in 44.7 seconds to average 201.4mph, the first lap ever above 200mph, taking pole for that weekend's 500-mile race.

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