Former Indy and drag racing star Danny Ongais has died of congestive heart complications in Anaheim Hills, Calif., the Indianapolis Motor Speedway announced Monday. He was 79 years old.
Ongais made history in the world of Indy motor racing. He is the only Hawaiian to have started in the Indianapolis 500. He has made 11 starts in total and finished in the top ten four times. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway wrote in its release that Ongais was « admired for his speed and bravery. »
Ongais, also known as « Danny On-The-Gas » and « Flyin’ Hawaiian, » started his professional career early, earning a Hawaii State title in motorcycle racing at age 18. He then moved on to drag racing and in the 1960s set nearly 300 national and international speed records driving a Mustang Mach 1 with innovator Mickey Thompson.
His service in the United States Army in the 1960s introduced him to the world of sports car racing in Europe, which took him from drag strips to oval and road circuits in the 1970s. In 1977, Ongais posted the fastest lap of the Indy 500 as a rookie and picked up a win at Michigan. His last Indy race attempt was in 1998, but he failed to qualify.
Ongais was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in the Drag Racing category in 2000.