Jerry Grant, a 10-time competitor in the Indianapolis 500 and the first person to turn an official lap faster than 200 mph in an Indy car, died Sunday at the age of 77, speedway officials said.
Grant turned his historic 201.414-mph lap in 1972 at Ontario, Calif., but he is probably best remembered for nearly winning the 1972 Indianapolis 500.
Driving as a teammate to Bobby Unser on Dan Gurney's All-American Racers team, Grant led at the 188-lap mark when he had to pit to replace a tire which was losing air.
Instead of pitting in his stall, he went to the adjoining one of Unser, who had retired much earlier in the day. Whether or not Grant actually took on any fuel from Unser's refueling tank is up for discussion, track officials said, but the hoses were momentarily hooked up, and it became known that the tank in his own pit was apparently empty, the maximum allotment of 275 gallons having been exhausted.
While Grant did finish the 500 miles, taking the checkered flag in second place behind Mark Donohue, officials subsequently disallowed Grant's final 12 laps, thus dropping him from second to 12th.
Grant also diversified, climbing from 43rd to fifth in the 1967 Daytona 500, finishing fifth in the 1966 Dixie 400 at Atlanta, co-driving a Ford Cobra in the 1964 Targa Florio and finishing in the top 10 three times at the Indianapolis 500.
Grant later became part of Champion Spark Plug Company's Highway Safety program, speaking on highway safety to students and service personnel.
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