American Motorsports Timeline (continued)
January 6, 2010
Compiled by Gene Crucean
In order to reduce engine power at Indy, USAC required the use of widely unpopular pop-off valves which were said to favor the Ford over Offy engines. The valves were set to open at 39 pounds of pressure per square inch. Foyt’s pole speed in his Ford engined Coyote was 191.632 mph, nine mph slower than in 1973. Twenty-fifth starting John Rutherford in a McLaren Offy won the race (his early race charge took him to third place by lap eleven).
Peter Revson was killed while testing his Shadow prior to the GP at Kyalami, South Africa.
USAC banned rear engine sprint cars and midgets. Top of page
Colin Chapman, with his Lotus cars unsuccessful in GP competition, conceived a “wing car” concept – a far sighted idea that he explains in a long, written document to Lotus technical director Tony Rudd. The idea is to design the whole car aerodynamically to function as an inverted wing, thereby holding the car to the track.
AJ Foyt became the USAC national driving champion for a record sixth time.
Penske driver and Indy 500 winner Mark Donohue was killed while practicing for the Austrian GP at Seltweg.
Rain shortened the Indy 500 which was won by Bobby Unser in Dan Gurney’s Eagle. Top of page
After dominating GP racing for a decade, Cosworth Engineering entered Indy racing with their DFX engine, an adaptation of their successful DFV. It is a 2.65 litre (162 ci) turbo-charged engine that produced 880 hp @ 9,200 rpm. Car owner Parnelli Jones, after abandoning his Formula One project, put the engine in his Parnelli chassis. John Rutherford in a McLaren won the pole and the 500 in a rain shortened race. Al Unser in Jones’s Cosworth powered Parnelli chassis was seventh. Unser later scored Cosworth’s initial victory at Pocono (6-27-1976).
Roger Penske’s foray into GP racing produced what would be his only Formula One victory when John Watson won the Austrian GP in a Penske chassis. Penske then concentrated on Indy. Top of page
Colin Chapman unveiled his “wing car”, the Lotus 78 (December, 1976). Mario Andretti won the U.S. Grand Prix (West) with this car at Long Beach (the first of 4 GP wins in the car that year). The car was the product of much research, including over 400 hours of wind tunnel time. Its monocoque chassis was made of Cellite, an aluminum honeycomb sandwiched between two layers of Duralumin, a very strong and stiff material used in aircraft. On each side were pods with an air intake at the front, which contained the radiators, and “upside down wings”, which provided the downforce. The wings were hollow and doubled as fuel tanks. The crucial point was that they were enclosed within the pods, creating inside a low-pressure area, or partial vacuum, which literally sucked the car down toward the track, giving the car 15% more downforce than conventional wings. Goodyear had to develop special tires with much stiffer sidewalls because of the extra downforce.
Tom Sneva, in a McLaren Cosworth became the first to practice in excess of 200 mph at Indy. The first woman to qualify and race was Janet Guthrie; and track owner Tony Hulman died in October. Joe Cloutier became the president of the Speedway and was responsible for day to day operations.
The 500 was won by AJ Foyt in a Foyt engined Coyote – he dueled all race long with Gordon Johncock in his DGS Wildcat. Foyt became the first to win the 500 four times. Top of page
Andretti, in Chapman’s “wing car” (now a Lotus 79), won the world GP championship. Chapman’s aero concept became known as “ground effects”; and others began to copy the idea, including McLaren who developed their M28 chassis. Andretti’s world championship gave him a unique triple with wins in the Indy 500 and the Daytona 500.
At Indy, all of the fast teams including newcomer Jim Hall’s Chaparral, used Cosworth’s DFX engines. Sneva was first to qualify above 200 mph. Al Unser in the Chaparral won.
Dan Gurney wrote a “White Paper” in which he called for an alliance of car owners to govern the sport. He noted the huge growth of F1 after the owners formed the Formula One Constructors Assn. under Bernie Ecclestone. Gurney called for the owners to run and promote racing while USAC provided the sanction. “Let’s call it CART, or Championship Auto Racing Teams” he wrote.
Dissident Indy car owners, led by Pat Patrick and Roger Penske, broke away from USAC and formed Championship Auto Racing Teams, Inc. (March). CART went about developing a racing series for next year. CART signed a “mutual assistance” pact to race under SCCA banner next season. This provided an affiliation with FIA. USAC and the Speedway discussed new engine regulations which would see turbocharged OFFYs and Cosworths reduce power. The move was aimed at insuring a surplus of equipment should CART owners choose to sit out the 500.
The venerable Offenhauser engine won its final championship race at Trenton with Gordon Johncock driving.
Ted Johnson, who formed the World of Outlaws sprint car association, ran the club’s inaugural race at Devil’s Bowl Speedway in Mesquite, TX. The 50 lap, non-wing race was won by Californian Jimmy Boyd (3-1978). Top of page
Indy president Cloutier announced in January that 500 entries would be open to all drivers with an international license including all CART drivers (John Cooper replaced Cloutier after the 500). CART and USAC split, announcing separate schedules. CART held its first race at Phoenix (3-11-1979) – Gordon Johncock won. Rick Mears became the initial CART champion. USAC established a new engine formula designed to encourage 355 ci rocker arm, stock block engines to be equal to Cosworths and Offys. USAC, as sanctioning body for the 500, rejected the entries of CART stalwarts Penske, Patrick , Jim Hall, Bob Fletcher and Jerry O’Connell for “not being in good standing”. Drivers Mears, Rutherford, Johncock, Steve Krisiloff, Mike Mosley, Wally Dallenback and Al Unser sat while practice began. A federal judge ruled USAC’s action in violation of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act and reinstated them.
Ground effects came to Indy, led by Chaparral and Penske. Mears was on the pole with Penske and went on to win his first 500 after Al and Bobby Unser, who had dominated the race, dropped out.
The Daytona 500, which featured “The Fight” between Cale Yarborough, Donnie and Bobby Allison, became the first auto race to be broadcast on live television (February). Top of page
CART & USAC mended fences, forming the Championship Racing League (CRL). Rutherford in a full ground effects Chaparral designed by England’s John Barnard, won the pole and race at Indy, his third win. Following the 500, the CRL fell apart (after only 5 races). But by then, CART had the upper hand and ran its own series with PPG Industries sponsorship (which enjoyed a 20 year run as series sponsor). John Frasco replaced Pat Patrick as CART president.
Offenhauser engine ran in the Indy 500 for the last time, completing 46 years of competition. Top of page
At Indy, Johncock and Andretti in Wildcat Cosworths and Bobby Unser in a Penske Cosworth had a fierce battle. Johncock dropped out. Unser won and received the full victory lane treatment. Then, the Chief Steward penalized Unser one lap for passing under the yellow and the win was awarded to Andretti. Penske and Unser protested and, in October, five months later, victory was returned to Unser (who paid a $40,000 fine).
The last Offy took the checkered flag at Indy when Jerry Sneva turned in 4 qualification laps at 187.784 mph in Rolla Vollstedt’s turbo-Offy. Although his speed was fast enough to make the race, Sneva was disqualified. Top of page
At Indy, 29 of the 33 starters used the Cosworth DFX engine and 17 chassis were built by March in England. Even though Penske built his PC10 in his own shop, it too was located in England. The race was between Johncock in one of Patrick’s Wildcat Cosworths and Rick Mears in a Penske Cosworth. Johncock won by only .16 seconds. This was the last time an American built chassis would win the 500 for many years. Joe Cloutier once again assumed the presidency of the Speedway following John Cooper’s resignation.
Colin Chapman died suddenly of a heart attack at age 54.
USAC sanctioned only one championship race – the Indy 500. Top of page
Mark Alderson became the last to drive an Offy at the Speedway. Rolla Vollstedt entered the lone Offy and, although it ran fast enough to make the race (190mph), it did not get into the qualification line in time and so no official attempt could be made. Top of page
Richard Petty won the Firecracker 200 at Daytona on July 4, becoming the first in NASCAR history to win 200 races.
Mario Andretti won the CART championship, his fourth (the first three were USAC titles). Andretti was the first to win titles in USAC/CART and the Formula One championship. Top of page
The field at Indy was dominated by British built cars with 24 March chassis and 29 Cosworth engines. But the fastest were a pair of Buick powered Marches driven by Scott Brayton and Pancho Carter. Brayton’s new qualifying record was 212.583 mph. Mario Andretti in a Lola T900 dominated the first half of the race but was pressured by Danny Sullivan in a Penske March 85C. Sullivan made a low pass on Andretti for the lead but spun directly in front of Mario who then re-assumed the lead. However, Sullivan pursued and made the same pass again, taking the lead with 12 laps to go and winning over Andretti by only 2.5 seconds.
In CART, Al Unser Sr. edged his son Al Jr. for the title by only 1 point. Top of page
Prize money at Indy topped $4 million; and new, larger garages were built to replace the old, wooden ones that previously formed the old Gasoline Alley. All cars were built in England by either March, Lola or Penske; and Lola began to erode March’s dominance. In the race, drivers Mears, Bobby Rahal, Mario Andretti and Kevin Cogan battled with Andretti falling back. All were in March Cosworths. The tight battle ended with Rahal winning by 1.44 seconds over Cogan who was only 1.88 seconds ahead of Mears.
In GP racing, computers began to find their way onto the cars. They monitored fuel consumption, the level of boost the driver was using and more. The computer was connected to a data link on the car which downloaded the info to the pits each lap, so the team manager could radio back instructions each lap. Honda took the concept further. They relayed real time data by satellite back to Tokyo for analysis there.
In NASCAR, Bill Elliot won a $1 million bonus for winning the three biggest races, Daytona 500, The Winston, and the Southern 500. Top of page
Cosworth’s dominance at Indy was history. Two new engines with American names came to the fore: Chevrolet with a 720 hp V-8 built by Ilmore Engineering in Britain, and Buick with an equally powerful V-6. A third challenger was the Judd-Honda, a Japanese design built with English expertise. Lola and Penske chassis continued to chip away at March’s successes. Mario Andretti in the Newman-Haas Lola-Chevy was on the pole and was fast, lapping the tail-enders after only 13 laps. Andretti lapped 21st starting, three-time winner Al Unser Sr. on the 17th lap. Andretti was a lap ahead of second running Roberto Guerrero when, on lap 178, his fuel system failed. Guerrero, looking to sew up the win, stalled coming out of the pits, handing the lead
to Al Unser Sr. A yellow set up a four lap shoot-out with sixth place Guerrero passing three cars but unable to catch Unser who recorded his fourth victory, tying AJ Foyt. It was the fifth consectutive win for March and the 10th in a row for Cosworth.
In GP racing, Lotus developed and installed a computer controlled suspension (called “active suspension”). Fed by sensors that monitored speed and acceleration, the computer adjusted the suspension through electro-magnetic valves on the damper units, giving an optimum ride.
The ubiquitous 110 ci Offy midget engine scored its final win in competition when Gary Byers steered the Dallas Garman Offy to victory at the ½ mile dirt oval at the Olney, Il fairgrounds. Top of page
For the first time ever at Indy, the front row was make up of cars owned by the same man, Roger Penske. His drivers, Mears, Danny Sullivan and Unser Sr. made up the front row. The race had many yellows (68 laps) and finished under the yellow with Mears winning his third 500.
At Daytona, Bobby Allison became the oldest (50) winner of the 500 after passing his son Davey late in the race. NASCAR used 1” restrictor plates to reduce speeds. Ken Schrader’s pole winning speed of 193.8 mph was 15 mph slower than the previous year. Top of page
Ferrari introduced a new, seven speed semi-automatic transmission that featured, for the first time, a paddle type gear selector.
Former world driving champion Emerson Fittipaldi gave Patrick Racing its first CART title and won the first of two Indy 500’s. Fittipaldi was the first foreign-born 500 winner since Andretti in 1969. The 500 winner’s earnings topped $1 million for the first time.
Tony George became IMS president in December. Top of page
Dutchman Arie Luyendyk won the Indy 500 as the race continued to become more and more international.
Unknown Derrike Cope won the Daytona 500 after Dale Earnhardt cut a tire on the last lap and faded.
The first six finishers at Indy were powered by the Ilmor-Chevy V-8, which first appeared at Indy in Al Unser’s Penske in 1986. Ilmor was founded in 1983 by ex-Cosworth engineers Mario Ilien and Paul Morgan. Top of page
Rick Mears’ victory at Indy made him the third man to win the race four times, along with Foyt and Unser Sr.
Michael Andretti won eight races and eight poles to claim his only CART championship. Top of page
Al Unser Jr. beat Scott Goodyear at Indy by .043 seconds after Michael Andretti, who had dominated, dropped out with only 11 laps remaining. The 500 was Foyt’s last.
Richard Petty, winner of 200 NASCAR races and seven Daytona 500’s, drove his final race at the Daytona 500. The race was also the very first for rookie Jeff Gordon. Top of page
Twice world champion Emerson Fittipaldi became twice an Indy winner. Lyn St. James became second woman to race at Indy.
In a debate at Britain’s National Motor Museum, Tazio Nuvolari was voted the greatest racing driver in the history of the sport. Top of page
IMS president, unhappy with the direction of CART and talk of a boycott by car owners, resigned from CART’s board of directors. CART appointed Andrew Craig chairman. On 3-11-1994, George announced his intention to form the Indy Racing League which would have as its center piece the Indy 500.
The IMS ran its first NASCAR race, the Brickyard 400 which was won by Jeff Gordon.
A membership dispute causes the California Racing Assn. (CRA) to fold. It was replaced by the Southern Calif. Racing Assn. (SCRA) which began sanctioning Pacific Coast, non-wing, sprint car racing. The CRA was previously the Calif. Roadster Assn. and began sanctioning racing post WWII. It later changed its name to the Calif. Racing Assn. and, over the years, produced many of racing’s star drivers. Top of page
The IRL began its inaugural season – its initial race at Disney World Speedway was won by Buzz Calkins. Scott Sharp and Calkins were co-titlists for the series championship. The IRL’s first season consisted of 5 races.
Tony George guarantees 75% of the Indy starting field to IRL drivers. CART boycotted the 500 and self-promoted a competing race, the US 500, at Michigan International Speedway on May 26
AJ Foyt drove his last professional race, a NASCAR Craftsman Truck event, at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Dale Jarrett began the tradition of kissing the bricks after his Brickyard 400 victory. The tradition later carried over to the Indy 500. Top of page
The IRL’s new specifications ruled out turbochargers and called for 4.0 liter, naturally aspirated engines – CART and the IRL now raced different equipment.
USAC, which provided the officials and sanction for IRL races, was ousted following a scoring error at Texas Motor Speedway. Foyt driver Billy Boat was declared the winner although he was a lap down to Arie Luyendyk. USAC’s error was eventually corrected but it led to an ugly incident where Foyt threw a punch at Luyendyk. The IRL began scoring its own races. Top of page
CART launched an IPO and lists its stock on the New York Stock Exchange. Much cash was generated for the car owner/shareholders. The stock opened at $16 per share on the NYSE, rising years later to a high of $35.93 in 1999 before eventually being sold at bankruptcy in 2004 for fifty six cents. Top of page
Chip Ganassi became the first CART car owner to break ranks, purchasing IRL equipment and running the Indy 500 (which he won with Juan Montoya)
The IMS ran its initial US Grand Prix Formula One race – it was won by Mika Haikkenin. Top of page
Roger Penske became the second CART owner to race in the Indy 500, winning with Helio Castroneves. Top of page
Roger Penske became the first team to withdraw from CART completely and compete full time in the IRL. Top of page
Chip Ganassi became the second team to withdraw from CART and affiliate with the IRL.
CART announced that, because of losses, it had hired an investment firm to seek a buyer for the company.
In September, CART announced it had accepted a bid of $.56 a share from a group headed by CART team owner Gerald Forsythe…but the bid is withdrawn. In December, the CART board voted to file Chapter 11 bankruptcy then sell the assets necessary to keep the series going to Open Wheel Racing Series (OWRS), a group headed by team owners Paul Gentilozzi, Kevin Kalhkoven and Forsythe.
Paul Tracy became the final CART driving champion. CART’s initial champ, Rick Mears, was crowned in 1979. Top of page
In January, the IRL surprised all by entering the bidding for CART’s assets in bankruptcy court. Although the IRL outbid the OWRS group, $13.5 million to $3.2 million, the OWRS group prevailed. OWRS, doing business as Champ Car, scheduled their season opening race at Long Beach in April…it was won by Paul Tracy (4-18-2004).
In November, Cosworth Racing was sold by Ford Motor Co. to Champ Car stalwarts Kevin Kalkhoven and Gerald Forsythe. In a separate announcement, Chevrolet announced that it would cease supplying an engine to the IRL following the 2005 season. Since, in a strange bedfellows story, Chevrolet’s IRL engine is actually produced by Ford’s Cosworth, the sale could have an impact on the on-going IRL vs Champ Car feud, particularly if other IRL engine suppliers Honda and Toyota decide, as rumored, to move on to other challenges such as NASCAR. Other rumors had IRL affiliated team owner Ganassi (with quiet support from Tony George) also bidding on,
but losing, Cosworth.
USAC announced it would begin sanctioning Pacific Coast, non-wing, sprint car racing in competition with SCRA.
Boundless Motor Sports Inc. CEO Paul Krueger announced its acquisition of the assets of the World of Outlaws sprint car organization from its founder Ted Johnson. Boundless planned a full schedule going forward.
Earl Baltes, owner, builder and promoter of Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio announced his retirement and sale of the track to Tony Stewart. Baltes had operated the track since it was built in 1953. Stewart would begin operating the track in 2005. Top of page
Danica Patrick, in a Honda powered Panoz chassis, became the first woman to lead the Indy 500 – (she led three times for a total of 19 laps on her way to a fourth at the finish). Also, as expected, Toyota announced it would no longer provide IRL engines after the 2005 season. Honda then agreed to supply engines for all IRL teams during the 2006 season. Chevrolet had announced it would no longer supply engines after 2005.
And Tony George announced a change in the qualification format. Only 11 starting positions will be filled on each of the first three days. Bumping would be a factor each day in that only the fastest 11 will be “in”. On the fourth day, cars can bump their way into the field. Each entrant will get 3 qual attempts per day. Also “Carburetion Day” was moved to the day before the race and the starting time for the race was moved from 11am to noon.
The Richard Petty Driving Experience announced the formation of the National SprintCar League in competition with the World of Outlaws. Twelve of the latter’s drivers, including champions Steve Kinser and Danny Lasoski, announced their support and affiliation with the new group (9-23-2005). However, in December, Kyle Petty, speaking for the family interests, announced they were pulling out. He cited differences with fellow shareholders. A week later, the remaining principals disbanded. However, on 12-3-05 west coast promoter Fred Brownfield announced the formation of the National Sprint Tour (NST). Picking up at the point where the Pettys stepped out, Brownfield and the 12 former Outlaws drivers indicated they would race in a competing series. Top of page
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway announced that the coming Indy 500 will start at 1pm…the third time change in as many years (following over four decades of green flagging the race at 11am). The change was prompted by Indiana’s move to Eastern Daylight time. (January, 2006) Also, the 90th running of the 500 will be the first time all 33 starters will be fueled by an ethanol blend. In 1927 Leon Duray experimented with ethanol (grain) alcohol and Art Sparks claimed to have used ethanol in his cars in 1937 – 1939.
NST founder Fred Brownfield was killed in an on-track accident and his fledgling sprint car club folded after one year – all NST teams retuned to the World of Outlaws for 2007.
Michael Shumacher & his Ferrari won the US Grand Prix at Indianapolis, becoming the first to win five major races at the Speedway (7-2-2006). Four time winners include AJ Foyt, Al Unser Sr., Rick Mears & Jeff Gordon. Also, his total of 338 laps led in all Formula One races in the US places him in second place behind Bill Vukovich who has led 484 laps. Formula One races have been contested at 8 US venues: Sebring, Riverside, Watkins Glen, Long Beach, Las Vegas, Detroit, Phoenix & Indy.
Juan Montoya, former Indy 500 winner and current star on the world Formula One circuit announced he would depart grand prix racing, join the Chip Ganassi team and race with NASCAR for the 2007 season.
The IRL, with a history of close race finishes, enjoyed an equally fantastic finish to their national driving championship. Sam Hornish, who was tied with Dan Weldon at season’s end, won the title by virtue of a tie breaker while Helio Castroneves was third, only two points back. Top of page
After experimenting with a 10% blend of ethanol and methanol in 2006, the IRL mandated 100% ethanol in 2007. The Speedway also ran its final US Grand Prix, the initial Formula One race having been contested in 2000. And by competing in the Brickyard 400, Juan Pablo Montoya became the first driver to compete in all three major events at the Speedway. In winning the Indy Pro Series Freedom 100 prior to the 500, driver Alex Lloyd also became the first driver to win on both the oval and road course, having previously won a Pro Series race on the road course.
The season ending Pro Series race at Chicagoland Speedway was won by Logan Gomez of Crown Point, IN by a margin of 0.0005 seconds. His margin of victory over Sam Schmidt teammate Alex Lloyd computes to 1.65 inches, the closest measured margin of victory in recorded racing history (9-9-07). Had the IRL not expanded its timing to a fourth decimal point in 2001, the race would have been a tie. Sam Hornish’s 0.0024 of a second win over Al Unser Jr. at Chicagoland in 2002 remains the IndyCar’s closest finish. Top of page
Tony George and Kevin Kalkhoven announced the long anticipated merger between the IRL and Champ Car. The agreement was signed on 2-22-08. The principals began scrambling to effect the consolidation immediately. The initial race was scheduled at Homestead-Miami Speedway on 3-29-08. Prevailing contracts, however, required the groups to open their seasons separately. On 4-20-08 Champ Car ran its final race at Long Beach while on the same day the IRL competed at Motegi, Japan. Points for the yearend IRL driving title were awarded at both events. Danica Patrick became the first woman to win in championship racing when she drove her Andretti-Green, Honda powered, Dallara to victory in the Indy Japan 300 at Motegi (4-20-08). Meanwhile, Champ Car’s finale was won by Will Power in a run-away. He was driving a car owned by Kevin Kalkhoven.
Champ Car World Series LLC filed for Chapter 11 reorganization on 3-5-08. It will continue to operate its support series, the Atlantics circuit. However, in October, owners Kalkhoven and Gerald Forsythe sold the 35 year old series to Atlanta businessman Ben Johnson.
After 14 victories in the Indy 500, team owner Roger Penske scored his first win in NASCAR’s Daytona 500 when Ryan Newman led teammate Kurt Busch to a one-two finish.
Seventeen year old Californian Auston Harris won a 30 lap USAC Ford Focus midget feature at Illiana Speedway in Indiana, becoming the first African-American to win a feature race in the 52 year history of the sanctioning organization (5-28-08).
Two-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves was indicted in Miami on federal charges of tax evasion. His sister Kati and attorney Allan Miller were also indicted (10-1-08). Top of page
Helio Castroneves’ trial for income tax evasion ended with his acquittal on (4-17-09). He celebrated by winning his third Indy 500 and collecting a record purse of $3,048,315.
Tony George was relieved of his duties as IMS CEO by the board of directors. The announcement was made on June 30th by his mother Mari Hulman George, who is also board Chairwoman. George relinquished his position as CEO of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corp., the Indy Racing League and Hulman & Co. He was asked to remain in charge of the IRL but declined. He will remain a board member with on-going personal responsibility for operating his IRL racing team, currently being driven by his step son, Ed Carpenter. He was replaced by chief financial officer of the Hulman-George companies, Jeff Belskus, of Terre Haute, IN. Shortly afterward, IMS president and CEO Joie Chitwood announced his resignation, effective August 6th, in order to accept a vice presidency with International Speedway Corporation in Daytona Beach, FL.
By leading laps in the Brickyard 400 Juan Montoya completed a trifecta: he has lead at IMS in an Indy car, a formula one machine, and a stock car.
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