Danny Ongais dead at 79: Tributes paid to F1 and Indy 500 racer known as the 'Flyin' Hawaiian'

THE racing world is mourning the passing of American star Danny Ongais who has died at the age of 79.

Known as the 'Flyin' Hawaiian', Ongais' long career saw him excel in Indy cars, F1 and drag racing.

Born in Kahului in 1942, the racing star started a long journey that would ultimately lead him to the most famous circuits in the world.

Following a spell in the US Army, he returned to his native Hawaii and became the state’s 1960 motorcycle champion.

That success would see him migrate from bikes to cars, kickstarting a phenomenal career that lasted more than five decades.

Ongais could seemingly turn his hand to any discipline and made eleven starts in the iconic Indy 500.

He made a foray into the world of F1 in 1977, racing for Interscope and briefly Team Tissot Ensign.

His best racing season came in 1978, where Ongais won five races and eight poles en route to an eighth-place finish in the USAC standings.

And that led to CART in 1979, where he would stay for the next eight years.

In 1981 he cheated death after a horrendous crash in Indianapolis, which left him with multiple leg, arm and internal injuries.

Ongais retired in 1988, but was convinced to return at the age of 54 in 1996 after the tragic death of Scott Brayton in Indy 500 practice.

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Putting on a racing masterclass, Ongais guided his car from its starting place of 33rd to an eventual seventh position.

He had one last shot at the famous race in 1998, but failed to qualify in a Team Pelfrey car.

Ongais was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 2000 in the Drag Racing category.

Despite his flamboyance on the track, Ongais was notoriously camera-shy and spent much of his later years with his family in California.

He passed away aged 79 at his California home due to congestive heart failure.

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