American Championship car racing

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1994 Indianapolis 500, a National Championship race

American Championship car racing, also known as Indy Car racing, is a genre of professional-level automobile racing based in the United States and North America. As of 2014, the top-level American open wheel racing championship is sanctioned by IndyCar.

Competitive events for professional-level, single-seat open-wheel race cars have been contested under the auspices of several different sanctioning bodies dating back to about 1902. A season-long, points-based, National Championship of drivers has been officially recognized in 1905, 1916, and since 1920. The Indianapolis 500, which itself debuted in 1911, is the marquee event of Indy Car racing.

The open-wheeled, winged, single-seater cars have generally been similar to those in Formula One, though there are important differences. Due to the fame of the Indianapolis 500, the cars that would typically compete in U.S. Championship car racing are often called Indy Cars (or IndyCar, Indycar); these cars were popularized during the rising popularity of CART PPG Indy Car World Series racing in the early 1990s.

Sanctioning bodies[edit]

AAA (1904–1955)[edit]

The national championship was sanctioned by the Contest Board of the American Automobile Association (AAA). The AAA first sanctioned automobile motorsports events in 1904 and introduced the first track season championship for racing cars in 1905. Barney Oldfield was the first champion. No official season championship was recognized from 1906-1915, however, single races were held. Official records regard 1916 as the next contested championship season. Years later, however, retroactive titles were awarded back to 1902.[1][2] The status of these post factum seasons (1902-1904, 1906-1915, and 1917-1919) is a point of serious contention for statisticians and historians.

Championship Car racing did not cease in the United States during WWI, but the official national championship was suspended. The Indianapolis 500 itself was voluntarily suspended for 1917–1918. In 1920, the championship officially resumed, and despite the difficult economic climate that would later follow, ran continuous throughout the Depression. Shortly after Pearl Harbor, all auto racing was suspended. From 1942 to 1945 no events were contested, banned by the U.S. government primarily on account of rationing. Racing resumed in 1946.

AAA ceased racing participation after 1955 following a quick succession of high-profile fatal accidents — Manuel Ayulo during practice at Indianapolis on May 16; Alberto Ascari at Monza on May 26; two-time defending Indianapolis 500 winner Bill Vukovich during the Indy 500 itself on May 30; and the Le Mans disaster on June 11.[3]

Through 1922 and again from 1930 to 1937, it was commonplace for the cars to be two-seaters, as opposed to the aforementioned standard single-seat form. The driver would be accompanied by a riding mechanic (or "mechanician").

USAC (1956–1978)[edit]

The national championship was taken over by the United States Auto Club (USAC), a new sanctioning body formed by the then-owner of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Tony Hulman. Championship racing continued to grow in popularity in a stabilized environment for over two decades, with the two traditional disciplines of paved oval tracks and dirt oval tracks. During the 1950s, Indy Roadsters became the dominant cars on the paved oval tracks, while "upright" Champ Dirt Cars continued to dominate on dirt tracks. In the 1960s, drivers and team owners with road racing backgrounds, both American and foreign, began creeping into the series and the paved oval track cars evolved from front-engine roadsters to rear-engine formula-style racers. Technology, speed, and expense climbed at a rapid rate. The schedule continued to be dominated by oval tracks, but a few road course races were added to assuage the newcomers. For example, the 1970 USAC Championship schedule comprised 18 races, with 11 paved oval tracks, 5 dirt tracks, and 2 road courses. The road racers were not interested in dirt track racing and eventually convinced USAC to drop the dirt tracks from the Championship schedule following the 1970 season. However, there was not enough interest in road course racing and it did not expand to fill the void created by dropping the dirt tracks. By 1977, the USAC Championship schedule had shrunk to 14 races with 13 oval tracks and 1 road course.

During the 1970s, the increased expense drove a lot of the traditional USAC car owners out of the sport. The dominant teams became Penske, Patrick, Gurney, and McLaren, all run by people with road racing backgrounds. There was a growing dissent between these teams and USAC management. Events outside of Indianapolis were suffering from low attendance, and poor television coverage. The Indy 500 was televised on a same day tape delayed basis on ABC, however, many of the other races were not covered extensively, or at all, on television.

Towards the end of the decade, the growing dissent promoted several car owners to consider creating a new sanctioning body to conduct the races. Meanwhile, two events had a concomitant effect on the situation. Tony Hulman president of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and founder of USAC, died in the fall of 1977. A few months later, eight key USAC officials were killed in a plane crash. By the end of 1978, the owners had broken away and founded Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) to wrestle control of Championship racing away from USAC.

SCCA/CART & USAC (1979–1981)[edit]

Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) was formed by most of the existing team owners, with some initial assistance from the SCCA. Therefore, there were two national championships run each by USAC and CART. The Indianapolis 500 remained under USAC sanction. The top teams allied to CART, and the CART championship became the de facto national championship. USAC ran a "rump" 1979 season, with few cars and fewer name drivers—the only exception being A. J. Foyt. In 1979, USAC denied several of the upstart CART series entries' to the 1979 Indianapolis 500. The ongoing controversy saw a court injunction during the month, which allowed the CART-affiliated traditional entrants to participate. Due to controversy over rules enforcement during the month, a special auxiliary time trials session was held the day before the race to allow those denied a chance to qualify for the field. Two cars were added to the back of the pack, bringing the total number of starters to 35 (up from the traditional 33).

In early 1980 USAC and CART jointly formed the Championship Racing League (CRL) to run the national championship, but IMS management disliked the idea. USAC abandoned the CRL in July of that year, but remained as sanctioning body for the Indianapolis 500 itself;[4] future fields would composed of CART-based teams. CART exclusively sanctioned the remainder of the season, and the national championship.[5]

In 1981–1982, the Indianapolis 500 remained an independent race sanctioned by USAC and composed CART teams. Other independent "one-off" teams entered at Indianapolis as well. Indianapolis was not included as a points-paying round of the CART national championship. In addition, by that time USAC had designated Indianapolis an "invitational" race, offering entries only to invited teams. That moved to prevent the uproar over denied entries which occurred in 1979. One further race in 1981 was run by USAC at Pocono. This race was not supported by many CART teams, and featured a mixed field filled out by converted dirt track cars. USAC ultimately withdrew from sanctioning championship races outside of the Indianapolis 500. USAC ceremoniously created the Gold Crown Championship, an essentially meaningless title as the season consisted of only one paved championship-level round (the Indy 500) after 1981. The situation was such that the season ended with the Indianapolis 500, thus it spread over two calendar years.

CART & USAC (1982–1995)[edit]

Stability returned and the national championship was now run by CART full-time. The Indianapolis 500 was sanctioned singly by USAC, but points were paid towards the CART season championship. The Indy 500 field would consist of the CART regulars, and several one-off entries. The season was conducted similarly to the sanctioning of professional golf — the four golf majors are sanctioned by separate organizations, but they still count as the most important events on the PGA Tour calendar.

USAC's Gold Crown Championship continued, settling into an unusual June through May schedule calendar (spreading across two calendar years), which provided that the Indianapolis 500 would be the final race of the respective season. However, during that period, the USAC schedule never included more than one race (i.e., Indianapolis).

CART & IRL (1996–2003)[edit]

In 1996, Tony Hulman's grandson, Tony George, president of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway created the Indy Racing League (IRL), a separate championship that initially leveraged the fame of the Indianapolis 500, which saw the exclusion of many of CART's top teams from that event. The IRL's results are either listed alongside the existing national championship [1] or treated as an entirely separate entity and not included. [2] [3]

In March 1996, CART filed a lawsuit against the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in an effort to protect their license to the IndyCar mark which the Indianapolis Motor Speedway had attempted to terminate. In April, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway filed a countersuit against CART to prevent them from further use of the mark. Eventually a settlement was reached in which CART agreed to give up the use of the IndyCar mark following the 1996 season and the IRL could not use the name before the end of the 2002 season. George initially let the USAC continue to sanction the IRL, however after judging controversies at 1997 Indy 500 and Texas Motor Speedway, the USAC was replaced by the IRL's in-house officiating.

CART's existing national championship remained dominant after the split for some time, initially retaining top drivers, teams, sponsors, and fans. In 1998, CART went public and raised $100 million USD in its stock offering. However, in 2000, CART teams began to return to the Indy 500, eventually defecting to the IRL. CART also suffered negative publicity over the cancellation of the Firestone Firehawk 600 in 2001. For 2003, it lost title sponsor FedEx and engine providers Honda and Toyota to the IRL.

IRL & CCWS (2004–2007)[edit]

The rights to CART's assets were purchased by a consortium called Open Wheel Racing Series (OWRS) in 2004 and the series was renamed the Champ Car Open Wheel Racing Series, later renaming it to Champ Car World Series (CCWS) LLC. However, the sanctioning body continued to be plagued by financial difficulties, In 2007, CCWS's presenting sponsors Bridgestone and Ford Motor Company withdrew and CCWS lacked the resources to mount the 2008 season.

IndyCar (2008–)[edit]

Prior to the start of the 2008 season, the CCWS Board authorized bankruptcy and Champ Car was absorbed into the IRL, creating one unified series for the national championship for the first time since 1978. The unified series competed under the name IndyCar Series. All historical record and property of CART/CCWS was assumed by the IRL. In 2011, the sanctioning body dropped the Indy Racing League name, becoming IndyCar to reflect the merged series.

Car names and trademarks[edit]

Marlboro Penske PC-23 Indy/Champ car

Race cars participating in national championship events have been referred to by various names. Early nomenclature was to call the machines "Championship Cars," which was later shortened to "Champ Cars." The ambiguous term "Big Cars" was also commonplace in early years. A term that reflected the machines being larger and faster than junior formulae such as sprints and midgets. That term has disappeared from use, and in fact many used it instead for sprints. In the post WWII era, the term "Speedway Cars" was also used, a loosely descriptive term, distinguishing the machines as those driven at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and other major speedways, as opposed to those driven at local dirt tracks, for instance.

In most years since the USAC era, the term "Indy cars" (after the Indy 500) has been the preferred moniker. Apropos to that, when CART was founded in 1979, its acronym stood for Championship Auto Racing Teams, which reflected the historical use of the term "Championship Car." Soon thereafter, CART started exclusively marketing itself with the two-word "Indy Car" term, advertising itself as the "CART Indy Car World Series."

Through the 1980s, the term "Indy car" referred to machines used to compete in events sanctioned by CART, as well as the machines competing in the Indianapolis 500 (singly sanctioned by USAC). All references to the name "CART" were being increasingly discouraged as the series sought to eliminate possible confusion from casual fans with Kart racing.

In 1992, the CamelCase term "IndyCar" was trademarked by IMS, Inc. It was licensed to CART through 1997. After the inception of the IRL in 1996, the terms of the contract were voided after a lawsuit. As part of the settlement, the term was shelved by a six-year non-use agreement. Following the settlement, and the lack of direct connection to the Indianapolis 500, CART decided to revert to the former term. It re-branded itself as Champ Car and the machines were referred to as "Champ cars."

Complicating the situation resulting from the open-wheel split, Champ Car races held outside the United States were still permitted to use the Indy moniker (e.g., Molson Indy Toronto and Lexmark Indy 300). Foreign venue promoters took advantage of the marketing power of the Indy 500 name for their events, even though the Champ Car series they were promoting no longer had any ties to that race. The exceptions created confusion, and Champ Car gradually phased out the usage to distance itself further from the IRL.

After the settlement expired in 2003, the IndyCar term was brought back. The top level of the Indy Racing League was re-branded as the "IndyCar Series." The machines in the series were also referred to as "IndyCars." Despite the official acknowledgment, media and fans alike would continue to use the term "IRL" to describe the series, and to a lesser extent, "IRL cars" to describe the machines. Removing the "IRL" term from use proved difficult.

In 2008, when Champ Car merged into the Indy Racing League, the term "Champ Car" was abandoned, and all open wheel racing fell under the "IndyCar" name once again. On January 1, 2011, the name "Indy Racing League" (and "IRL") was officially abandoned, with the sanctioning body re-branded as IndyCar.

Comparison with Formula One[edit]

At first, American and European open-wheel racing were not distinct disciplines. Races on both continents were mostly point-to-point races, and large ovals tracks emerged on both continents. But in America, racing took off at horse-race tracks and at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, while in Europe, racing from point to point and around large circuits gained in popularity. Grand Prix racing (which became Formula One) and rally racing then diverged in Europe. Formula One was established after World War II as the World Championship for road racing, and F1 cars became increasingly specialized and high-tech.

In the 1960s, road racing gained popularity in North America, and Formula One-style design ideas changed IndyCars, which until then had all been classic-styled front-engined roadsters. When North America's road racing championship, Can-Am Challenge, collapsed in the 1970s, the IndyCars were ready to fill the void. IndyCar was a combination road- and oval-racing championship from this time until the Split. Compared to F1 cars, IndyCars were partly specialized for oval-racing: they were larger and had other safety features, and were designed to run at the higher speeds necessary for oval racing. Because IndyCars were usually "customer" cars that the teams purchased from constructors, and because of rules to contain costs, they were considerably less expensive than F1 cars, each model of which was designed by the team that used it. After the Split in the 1990s, CART maintained the old formula while the IRL drifted toward the "spec" design that has been the only IndyCar model since 2003 (though this is slated to change in 2012).

As engine formulas have changed, and as engine technology has developed over time, F1 cars and IndyCars have each produced more power than the other at different times. But for the foreseeable future, F1 cars will have considerably more power than the spec IndyCar.

Alex Zanardi, who drove both in F1 and CART, said that the lighter, naturally aspirated F1 car was more responsive and accelerated off the turns faster, while the turbocharged CART car was more stable and accelerated to top speed faster.

There is debate on which series is more demanding. Some point out that champions that retired from F1 have won CART championships, and that drivers that did not excel in F1 have continued their careers and succeeded in IndyCar. In fact, since IndyCar's heyday in the 1990s, the difference between the money and attention spent on IndyCar and on F1 has become more pronounced. Others argue that IndyCar is more demanding because the cars are more difficult to drive as they do not handle as well, IndyCar races on both road/street courses as well as high-speed ovals, as well as the similarity between the cars places more demands on the drivers and engineers to come up with competitive car setups rather than simply having better equipment. Oval racing, which is a part of the IndyCar schedule but not Formula One, requires skills that road racing does not (and vice versa) and has proven to be far more dangerous.

Caution periods are also done differently in Formula One and IndyCars. Largely because of IndyCar's oval-racing heritage, incidents that leave a hazard on or near the track always draw a full-course caution period. Because the entire field of cars gathers behind the leader for each restart, IndyCars that have fallen back in the field can earn a chance to challenge the leaders by making strategic pit stops. IndyCar-style caution periods also force the leader to withstand a possible challenge with every restart. By contrast, caution periods are usually only called in F1 for hazards on the track itself, so F1 drivers are by comparison more likely to be judged by their lap driving ability alone than by their pit strategy or aggression during restarts. However with a recent change in racing tyre for F1, pit strategies have played a much larger role in more recent races and have contributed to a more varying and unpredictable race.

Open-wheel cars[edit]

  • In general, Indy cars of both CART and IndyCar are slower on street and road courses, being less expensive and technology-centric platforms than their Formula One counterparts. This was even the case during the CART PPG era during the mid to late 1990s. Currently, with the bid to keep costs down around teams, a competitive Indy car team like Newman/Haas Racing operates on approximately US$20 Million per season, while the McLaren-Mercedes F1 team has an annual budget of US$400 million.[6] In particular, the Formula One chassis was required to be built by their respective team/constructor, whereas an Indy car chassis could be purchased. The dominance of a select few manufacturers has essentially turned the IndyCar Series into a spec series. CART/CCWS became a spec series more intentionally for cost savings purposes.

Racing description[edit]

  • Indy car racing historically tended to take place on high speed ovals, while Formula One used primarily permanent road courses. Recently, however, Champ Car had no oval tracks for the 2007 season which was its last, while the IRL added street courses to what was originally an all-oval series, and currently IndyCar has a nearly equal balance of ovals and non-ovals. Recently, however, IndyCar has seen fewer ovals on its schedule than non-ovals.
  • Indy car racing was dominated by North American drivers until the 1990s, which saw incursions from European and South American drivers. This led to Tony George forming the IRL in order to promote American drivers. Conversely, American drivers have never found great success in Formula One since the 1970s, the last drivers' champion and race winner was Mario Andretti.
  • Due to the lack of American drivers, Formula One has struggled to establish itself in that market, at certain years not having a United States Grand Prix on the calendar (before the return of F1 to the United States in 2012,[7] the most recent was from 2000 to 2007). In a parallel, CART/CCWS/IRL has made little headway outside of the United States and Canada, even though it regularly has a handful of tracks around the world.

Types of circuits[edit]

The American National Championship is notable for the wide variety of racetracks it has used compared to other series, such as Formula One and the various forms of Endurance sports car racing. The mainstays of the championship are as follow:

Until 1970 the championship frequently raced on dirt and clay tracks, but all such tracks were removed permanently by USAC before the 1971 season.

From 1915 to 1931 board tracks were frequently used for championship races, however safety concerns and cost of maintenance, especially with the onset of the Great Depression, and nearly all were demolished in the 1930s.

The Pikes Peak Hillclimb was a round of the championship in the years 1947—1955 and 1965—1969.

In 1909 a point-to-point race from Los Angeles to Phoenix was included in the championship.

Airport runways have also been used to create temporary circuits. The most notable used for open wheel racing was the Cleveland Grand Prix at Burke Lakefront Airport. St. Pete and Edmonton also utilize airport runways for parts of the course, however, they lead back to streets for the rest of the lap.

Non-US races[edit]

For the majority of the National Championship, the races have been held inside the United States. American championship cars raced on the Monza oval in 1957 and 1958 alongside Formula One and sports cars in the non-championship Race of Two Worlds.[8] Also, in 1966 there was a non-championship USAC race at Fuji Speedway in Japan. The first championship events outside of US took place in 1967 at Mosport and Saint-Jovite in Canada. In 1971, the USAC season-opening race was held at Rafaela, Argentina, at the Rafaela Oval (Rafaela Indy 300). In the autumn of 1978, two races were held in England, the first at Silverstone, then a week later at Brands Hatch.

Beginning in the mid-1980s, CART expanded throughout North America, venturing into Mexico (Mexico City) and Canada — Sanair, Toronto and Vancouver — the latter two becoming mainstays. Eventually international expansion reached overseas with Surfers Paradise (Australia), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Motegi (Japan), as well as Lausitz (Germany) and Rockingham (England), among others.

Currently, the IndyCar Series holds races in São Paulo (Brazil) and Toronto (Canada).

Trophies and Awards[edit]

Astor Cup[edit]

Main article: Astor Cup (auto race)

In 2011 IndyCar revived the Astor Cup, first awarded in 1915 as the series championship trophy. A black granite base has been added displaying the names of all the American Championship car racing series winners since 1909.

Vanderbilt Cup[edit]

Main article: Vanderbilt Cup

The 1916, 1936 and 1937 Vanderbilt Cup races were included in the National Championship. The 1909–1915 races were retrospectively added to the championship in 1926. CART resurrected the Cup in 1996 as the winner's trophy for the US500 race. When that race was discontinued in 2000, the Cup changed roles and became the championship trophy. Champ Car retained the rights to use the trophy after CART's bankruptcy, but use of the trophy was discontinued after Champ Car's merger with the Indy Racing League.

Indianapolis 500 and 'The Split'[edit]

From its inception in 1911, to creation of the Indy Racing League in 1996, the Indianapolis 500 was a round of the National Championship. The exceptions are the 1981 and 1982 races, which were removed from the CART championship for political reasons by the USAC. However, when the race still attracted all of the regular teams despite its lack of championship status USAC relented and allowed CART to run at Indianapolis.

Winning the Indianapolis 500 has always had at least an equal profile with the winning the National Championship, although direct comparisons are difficult as many of the National Champions also won the Indy 500. 1993 is a good example of a year when the winners of each title received the same amount of attention. That year former Formula One champion Emerson Fittipaldi won the 500 but the current F1 champion Nigel Mansell won the National Championship, becoming the only driver to win both titles consecutively.

The creation of the IRL in 1996 with the Indianapolis 500 as its centerpiece race removed the race from the existing National Championship. This of course was a hugely controversial move in racing circles, with opinions at the time ranging from praise to ridicule—in 2004 the US Sports Illustrated magazine named the IRL's formation as one of the 'Ten Dumbest Moments in Sports'.[9] This assessment was based on the notable decline in the number of television viewers, car entries and estimated grandstand ticket sales (the Speedway does not officially announce sales figures), since the impasse began in 1996.

By late 2007, both entities had fallen far behind NASCAR in popularity, participants, and media coverage. Several top drivers, including Americans A. J. Allmendinger and Sam Hornish, Jr. and 2007 IRL Champion Dario Franchitti, had switched to or were seriously contemplating a switch to stock cars. Neither the Champ Car World Series nor the Indy Racing League seemed to have an edge over the other in terms of credibility or prestige. Neither series had more than 20 cars outside of Indianapolis (compared with 25–28 as late as 2001), so a merger was the only logical move.

On February 22, 2008, both series announced the acquisition of Champ Car assets by IRL founder and Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Tony George, effectively rolling the former series into the latter, and reuniting American open wheel racing under IndyCar Series control.[10]

Notable drivers[edit]

Notable fatalities in competition[edit]

National champions[edit]

Dario Resta, 1916 National Champion
Jimmy Murphy (right), 1921 & 1924 National Champion
A. J. Foyt, 7-time National Champion (1960, '61, '63, '64, '67, '75, '79)
Mario Andretti; 1965, 1966, 1969, & 1984 Champion
Rick Mears; 1979, 1981, & 1982 IndyCar Champion
Nigel Mansell, 1993 IndyCar Champion
Jacques Villeneuve, 1995 IndyCar Champion
Juan Pablo Montoya, 1999 CART Champion
Sébastien Bourdais, 4-time Champ Car World Series champion (2004–2007)
Dario Franchitti; 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2011 IndyCar Series champion
Year Champion
AAA National Motor Car Championship
1905 United States Barney Oldfield
1906–1915: No championships
AAA National Championship
1916 United Kingdom Dario Resta
1917–1919: No championships (World War I)
1920 United States Gaston Chevrolet
1921 United States Tommy Milton
1922 United States Jimmy Murphy
1923 United States Eddie Hearne
1924 United States Jimmy Murphy
1925 United States Peter DePaolo
1926 United States Harry Hartz
1927 United States Peter DePaolo
1928 United States Louis Meyer
1929 United States Louis Meyer
1930 United States Billy Arnold
1931 United States Louis Schneider
1932 United States Bob Carey
1933 United States Louis Meyer
1934 United States Bill Cummings
1935 United States Kelly Petillo
1936 United States Mauri Rose
1937 United States Wilbur Shaw
1938 United States Floyd Roberts
1939 United States Wilbur Shaw
1940 United States Rex Mays
1941 United States Rex Mays
1942–1945: No championships (World War II)
1946 United States Ted Horn
1947 United States Ted Horn
1948 United States Ted Horn
1949 United States Johnnie Parsons
1950 United States Henry Banks
1951 United States Tony Bettenhausen
1952 United States Chuck Stevenson
1953 United States Sam Hanks
1954 United States Jimmy Bryan
1955 United States Bob Sweikert
USAC National Championship
1956 United States Jimmy Bryan
1957 United States Jimmy Bryan
1958 United States Tony Bettenhausen
1959 United States Rodger Ward
1960 United States A. J. Foyt
1961 United States A. J. Foyt
1962 United States Rodger Ward
1963 United States A. J. Foyt
1964 United States A. J. Foyt
1965 United States Mario Andretti
1966 United States Mario Andretti
1967 United States A. J. Foyt
1968 United States Bobby Unser
1969 United States Mario Andretti
1970 United States Al Unser
1971 United States Joe Leonard
1972 United States Joe Leonard
1973 United States Roger McCluskey
1974 United States Bobby Unser
1975 United States A. J. Foyt
1976 United States Gordon Johncock
1977 United States Tom Sneva
1978 United States Tom Sneva
Year USAC Championship Year SCCA/CART Series
1979 United States A. J. Foyt 1979 United States Rick Mears
Year USAC Gold Crown ChampionshipAB Year CART Indy Car World Series
1980 United States Johnny RutherfordA 1980 United States Johnny Rutherford
1981–82 United States George SniderA 1981 United States Rick Mears
1982 United States Rick Mears
1982–83 United States Tom SnevaA 1983 United States Al Unser
1983–84 United States Rick MearsA 1984 United States Mario Andretti
1984–85 United States Danny SullivanB 1985 United States Al Unser
1985–86 United States Bobby RahalB 1986 United States Bobby Rahal
1986–87 United States Al UnserB 1987 United States Bobby Rahal
1987–88 United States Rick MearsB 1988 United States Danny Sullivan
1988–89 Brazil Emerson FittipaldiB 1989 Brazil Emerson Fittipaldi
1989–90 Netherlands Arie LuyendykB 1990 United States Al Unser, Jr.
1990–91 United States Rick MearsB 1991 United States Michael Andretti
1991–92 United States Al Unser, Jr.B 1992 United States Bobby Rahal
1992–93 Brazil Emerson FittipaldiB 1993 United Kingdom Nigel Mansell
1993–94 United States Al Unser, Jr.B 1994 United States Al Unser, Jr.
1994–95 Canada Jacques VilleneuveB 1995 Canada Jacques Villeneuve
Year Indy Racing League 1996 United States Jimmy Vasser
1996 United States Buzz Calkins Year CART Championship Series
1996–97 United States Tony Stewart 1997 Italy Alex Zanardi
1998 Sweden Kenny Bräck 1998 Italy Alex Zanardi
1999 United States Greg Ray 1999 Colombia Juan Pablo Montoya
2000 United States Buddy Lazier 2000 Brazil Gil de Ferran
2001 United States Sam Hornish, Jr. 2001 Brazil Gil de Ferran
2002 United States Sam Hornish, Jr. 2002 Brazil Cristiano da Matta
Year IRL IndyCar Series 2003 Canada Paul Tracy
2003 New Zealand Scott Dixon Year Champ Car World Series
2004 Brazil Tony Kanaan 2004 France Sébastien Bourdais
2005 United Kingdom Dan Wheldon 2005 France Sébastien Bourdais
2006 United States Sam Hornish, Jr. 2006 France Sébastien Bourdais
2007 United Kingdom Dario Franchitti 2007 France Sébastien Bourdais
Year INDYCAR
2008 New Zealand Scott Dixon
2009 United Kingdom Dario Franchitti
2010 United Kingdom Dario Franchitti
2011 United Kingdom Dario Franchitti
2012 United States Ryan Hunter-Reay
2013 New Zealand Scott Dixon
[11]
^A From 1979 to 1995, the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race and the American Open Wheel National Championship were sanctioned by separate organizations, USAC and CART, respectively, with the former running a multi-race championship series, the USAC Gold Crown Championship, independent of the latter from 1979 to 1984.
^B From 1984 to 1995, while winners of the USAC Gold Crown Championship continued to be officially declared, such championship, officially beginning just after the previous year's race, then consisted solely of the "season-ending" race at Indianapolis, thus making such winners indistinguishable from Indianapolis winners in the respective years of such championships' conclusions.

Retrospectively awarded champions[edit]

In 1926 Val Haresnape and Arthur Means, Secretary and Assistant Secretary, respectively, of the AAA Contest Board, retrospectively calculated championship results for major AAA-sanctioned races run between 1909 and 1915 and for 1917 to 1920. The pair also initially changed the 1920 championship winner to Tommy Milton, but by no later than 1929 had restored Gaston Chevrolet.[1][2][12]

In 1951 racing historian Russ Catlin officially revised AAA records with championship results based on all AAA races from 1902 to 1915 and 1916 to 1919, first published in the 1952 Indianapolis 500 program. This had the effect of retroactively creating seven newly credited champions and changing the 1909 champion from Bert Dingley to George Robertson and the 1920 champion from Gaston Chevrolet to Tommy Milton.[1][2] IndyCar currently recognizes Russ Catlin's list from 1909-1919, but with Gaston Chevrolet as champion for 1920.[13]

Each year from 1909 to 1915 and in 1919, the American automobile journal Motor Age selected a "driver of the year".[2]

It should be noted that all retrospectively awarded championships named by Haresnape & Means and Catlin are unequivocally considered unofficial by accredited historians and statisticians. Furthermore, some consider them revisionist history, and discredit the entire effort made by both parties as illegitimate, unnecessary, fictional, and not consistent with contemporary accounts. These actions have made it difficult to distinguish fact from fiction regarding AAA sanctioned national racing in that proper handbooks and official statistical supplement still partially intermix the revisionist accounts with official record.

Year Haresnape & Means
(1926–27)
Russ Catlin
(1951)
Motor Age
(annual)
1902 United States Harry Harkness
1903 United States Barney Oldfield
1904 United States George Heath
1905 France Victor Hémery
1906 United States Joe Tracy
1907 United States Eddie Bald
1908 United States Lewis Strang
1909 United States Bert Dingley United States George Robertson United States Bert Dingley
1910 United States Ray Harroun United States Ray Harroun United States Ralph Mulford
1911 United States Ralph Mulford United States Ralph Mulford United States Harvey Herrick
1912 Italy Ralph DePalma Italy Ralph DePalma Italy Ralph DePalma
1913 United States Earl Cooper United States Earl Cooper United States Earl Cooper
1914 Italy Ralph DePalma Italy Ralph DePalma Italy Ralph DePalma
1915 United States Earl Cooper United States Earl Cooper United States Gil Andersen
1916 United Kingdom Dario Resta United Kingdom Dario Resta none named
1917 United States Earl Cooper United States Earl Cooper none named
1918 United States Ralph Mulford United States Ralph Mulford none named
1919 United States Howard Wilcox United States Howard Wilcox United States Eddie Hearne
1920 United States Tommy Milton
France Gaston ChevroletA
United States Tommy Milton none named
[1][2]
^A Harsnape and Means originally awarded the 1920 championship to Milton, but subsequently reverted to Chevrolet.

Multiple championship winners[edit]

This list of champions includes winners of all titles awarded in the "National champions" list above (including the "USAC Gold Crown Championship" which, in some years, was awarded to the winner of the Indy 500).

Wins Driver Titles
7 United States A. J. Foyt USAC National Championship (6), USAC Championship (1)
6 United States Rick Mears SCCA/CART Series (1), CART Series (2), USAC Gold Crown Championship (3)
4 United States Mario Andretti USAC National Championship (3), CART Series (1)
United States Bobby Rahal CART Series (3), USAC Gold Crown Championship (1)
United States Al Unser, Jr. CART Series (2), USAC Gold Crown Championship (2)
France Sébastien Bourdais Champ Car World Series (4)
United Kingdom Dario Franchitti IndyCar Series (4)
3 United States Louis Meyer AAA National Championship (3)
United States Ted Horn AAA National Championship (3)
United States Jimmy Bryan AAA National Championship (1), USAC National Championship (2)
United States Al Unser CART Series (2), USAC National Championship (1)
Brazil Emerson Fittipaldi CART Series (1), USAC Gold Crown Championship (2)
United States Sam Hornish, Jr. Indy Racing League (2), IndyCar Series (1)
New Zealand Scott Dixon IndyCar Series (1), IndyCar Series (2)
2 United States Jimmy Murphy AAA National Championship (2)
United States Wilbur Shaw AAA National Championship (2)
United States Rex Mays AAA National Championship (2)
United States Tony Bettenhausen AAA National Championship (1), USAC National Championship (1)
United States Joe Leonard USAC National Championship (2)
United States Tom Sneva USAC National Championship (2)
United States Johnny Rutherford CART Series (1), USAC Gold Crown Championship (1)
Canada Jacques Villeneuve CART Series (1), USAC Gold Crown Championship (1)
Italy Alex Zanardi CART Championship Series (2)
Brazil Gil de Ferran CART Championship Series (2)

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Printz, John G.; Ken M. McMaken (March 15, 1985). "The U.S. National Championship Driving Title". CART News Media Guide 1985: 265–267. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Capps, Don (29 March 2010). "Automobile Racing History and History". Rear View Mirror. 8W. Archived from the original on June 9, 2011. Retrieved June 9, 2011. 
  3. ^ "AAA Cuts Ties With U.S. Auto Racing". The Michigan Daily (Ann Arbor, MI). AP. August 4, 1955. p. 3. Retrieved January 23, 2012. 
  4. ^ "USAC dissolves ties with league". The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, WA). AP. July 1, 1980. p. B2. Retrieved January 23, 2012. 
  5. ^ "CART will go ahead". The Leader-Post (Regina, SK). AP. July 8, 1980. p. 17. Retrieved January 23, 2012. 
  6. ^ F1i.com
  7. ^ Formula One United States home page. http://www.formula1unitedstates.com/. Retrieved May 26, 2011.
  8. ^ Galpin, Darren. "The Race of Two Worlds". 8W. Forix Autosport.com. Archived from the original on January 23, 2012. Retrieved January 23, 2012. 
  9. ^ Rushin, Steve (September 27, 2004). "Dumbest Sports Moments". Sports Illustrated 101 (12). Archived from the original on August 11, 2011. Retrieved August 11, 2011. 
  10. ^ Armour, Nancy (February 22, 2008). "IndyCar owners finally realize what everyone else has always known". USA Today. Archived from the original on January 23, 2012. Retrieved January 23, 2012. 
  11. ^ "Through The Years". Champ Car Stats. Archived from the original on June 9, 2011. Retrieved June 9, 2011. 
  12. ^ "Record of Champion Drivers 1909–1928 incl.". Official Bulletin, Contest Board of the American Automobile Association (Washington, D. C.) IV (6). February 8, 1929. Archived from the original on June 9, 2011. 
  13. ^ http://media.indycar.com/pdf/2011/IICS_2011_Historical_Record_Book_INT6.pdf

External links[edit]