Pour yourself a cocktail and make a toast in honour of Formula 1’s one and only Hawaiian driver, Danny Ongais, who turns 70 years old today!
While he’s better known for his IndyCar exploits, Ongais made six Formula 1 World Championship appearances, starting 4 races between 1977 and 1978.
An extremely versatile driver, Ongais’ formative motorsport career was spent in drag racing, where he won three national titles and was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 2000 for his achievements in this area.
Nicknamed ‘On-Gas’ for his flamboyant “balls to the wall” driving style, backing from long-time Interscope helped Ongais made his F1 debut in a privately-entered Penske in the 1977 United States and Canadian Grands Prix, achieving his sole F1 finish (seventh) in Canada.
Interscope acquired an Ensign for the following season, but Ongais retired from the Argentine and Brazilian Grands Prix. The outfit then picked up a Shadow chassis, but he failed to pre-qualify at the United States West Grand Prix, and achieved the same result later in the season at Zandvoort.
Ongais returned Stateside and in 1981, suffered a massive accident at the Indianapolis 500, which almost cost him his life. Breaking his arms and legs in several places, and suffering internal injuries, he was kept out of the sport for a considerable period while he recovered to full fitness.
He had another accident at the 1985 Michigan 500, barrel-rolling down the back straight.
Ongais’ last Indy 500 appearance came in 1996 – aged 54! – when he was the replacement driver for Scott Braydon, who had been tragically killed in practice. Starting last, he finished an impressive seventh by the flag-fall.
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