Firestone Indy 400

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Firestone Indy 400
Michigan International Speedway.PNG
IndyCar Series
Venue Michigan International Speedway
Corporate sponsor Firestone
First race 1968
First ICS race 2002
Last race 2007
Distance 400 miles (644 km)
Laps 200
Previous names Norton Michigan 500 (1981-1983), Michigan 500 (1984-1986), Marlboro 500 (1987-1996), U.S. 500 presented by Toyota (1997-1999), Michigan 500 presented by Toyota (2000), Harrah's 500 presented by Toyota (2001), Michigan Indy 400 (2002, 2004-2005), Firestone Indy 400 (2003, 2006-2007)

The Firestone Indy 400 was an IndyCar Series race held at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan.

Between 1970 and 2007, Michigan International Speedway (MIS) hosted at least one open-wheel race in every season, hosting 55 open-wheel races over 38 years. In July 2007, MIS announced that it would not hold an open-wheel auto race after the Indy Racing League was unable to provide a suitable date, and was not willing to return to the twin race format.

USAC Indy Car Years[edit]

In 1968, American open wheel racing debuted at the circuit with a 200-mile (320 km) USAC Champ Car event. In 1970, USAC returned with what would become a traditional July race date. In 1973, a second USAC race was added to the Champ Car schedule, a fall race usually held in September.

CART Champ Car years[edit]

In 1979, both MIS races switched to CART Champ Car sanctioning, remaining 150 - 250 miles (400 km) in length.

In 1980, Ontario Motor Speedway closed, and thus Indycar racing's quadruple crown lost one of its 500-mile (800 km) races. In 1981, the summer race at Michigan was expanded to a 500-mile (800 km) event, replacing Ontario. NBC agreed to broadcast the race live, making it the first 500-mile (800 km) Indy race to be broadcast live. Michigan joined Indianapolis and Pocono for the new Triple Crown of 500-mile (800 km) races. Following the 1986 CART season, the fall race was dropped from the schedule, leaving the Michigan 500 the track's lone Indycar event.

In 1987, the 500-mile (800 km) race began to sponsored by Marlboro. On network television, however, due to tobacco regulations, the race was still advertised as the "Michigan 500." From 1988-1991 the race was part of the Marlboro Million, a cash prize awarded to any driver who won the Marlboro Grand Prix, the Marlboro 500, and the Marlboro Challenge All-Star event in the same year. The prize was never won.

In 1996, the CART series held a second 500-mile (800 km) race, the U.S. 500, the same day as the Indianapolis 500. The race featured a capacity crowd of around 80,000, albeit aided greatly by corporate sponsors who encouraged—and allegedly, in some cases, ordered—their employees to attend.[citation needed] This race was dropped immediately after its only running, partially due to a hope of running the Indy 500 in 1997.

After debris from a crash on the track killed 3 spectators in 1998, corporate sponsorship dropped off drastically, and attendance started to wane. Worse yet, MIS started a massive grandstand expansion program to accommodate the NASCAR crowds, and the smaller crowd looked even smaller in the larger grandstands.[citation needed] In addition, Roger Penske sold the track to ISC in 1999, and ISC lacked the emotional and economic ties to CART.

In spite of a very memorable race—one of a long string of very memorable races—the 2001 CART race was the last sanctioned by that organization at MIS.

Safety concerns[edit]

During the CART era, safety was always a major concern due to the high speeds of the CART cars.[citation needed] In fact, much of the discussion by the CART Board of Directors centered on safety issues when they approved increasing the race to 500 miles (800 km) in 1981. Crashes at MIS ended the careers of Chip Ganassi, Emerson Fittipaldi, Hector Rebaque and Danny Sullivan, and crashes injured Derek Daly, A.J. Foyt, Al Unser, Jr., Gordon Johncock, Mario Andretti and Bobby Rahal among others. Most crashes resulted in a total write-off of the vehicle, and high speeds resulted in many mechanical failures.

While no drivers have been killed at a MIS open-wheel event, many drivers expressed grave reservations about racing at such speeds during the CART years, and it is fair to say that few drivers looked forward to racing at MIS.[citation needed] Michael Andretti and Nigel Mansell both complained publicly about the high speeds; ironically, both won in the years that they complained the loudest.

In 1987, a dogleg was hastily built on the backstrech, but was never used, partially due to fear of gearbox failure, but mostly due to concern over fan reaction. No effort was ever made by CART to reduce horsepower and thus slow the cars, an approach NASCAR tackled in 1987 following a bad crash at Talladega Superspeedway that injured several spectators.

Al Unser, Jr. averaged 189.727 mph (305.336 km/h) in the 1990 Marlboro 500, which is still the fastest 500 race ever run at MIS. In 1996, Paul Tracy was clocked at 256.948 mph (413.518 km/h) during a practice session.[citation needed] In 1997, Richie Hearn was clocked at 249.018. Paul Tracy set the track record for qualifying at 234.949 in 2000, which is still a track record.

In 1998, the Hanford Device was introduced. It was a spoiler attached across the back of the rear wing to greatly increase of drag. The result was a massive increase in the slipstream, and suddenly became a powerful force in Indycars. It provided wheel-to-wheel competition as well as multiple lead changes per lap. In 1998, CART counted 62 official lead changes, but since lead changes were only counted at the start-finish line, the number was much higher.

Also in 1998, three spectators were killed, and six others injured, when debris from a single-car crash flew over the 15-foot (4.6 m) fence into the grandstands. All of the injured and dead were local residents from Michigan. In spite of the improvements to the fence, subsequent attendance in races declined greatly over previous totals.[citation needed]

By 2001, it was clear that change was needed. CART drivers and teams still complained about the high speeds, with the corresponding safety and cost concerns that it generated. The Hanford Device cost $50,000, and was blamed by some[who?] for the death of Greg Moore in 1999 at Fontana. In 2001, an early attempt at a "soft wall" was tried, using tires to line the exit to turn 2, but it was ineffective, as the lone crash into the tires resulted in a total loss to the car and a trip to the hospital for the driver. The popularity of the series was also in freefall with declining attendance.[citation needed]

In the final CART race at Michigan the lead changed 63 times.

Attrition during the CART era[edit]

Attrition has always been a factor in the 500-mile CART Michigan races, all of which used the 2650cc turbocharged V8 formula.

In 1981 (the inaugural 500-mile race), only 10 cars out of 37 cars (most number of cars in modern history - four more cars than the Indianapolis 500) finished the race. The theme of the day was mechanical failures (engine, suspension, etc.), which claimed 21 cars. Crashes claimed four cars. Johnny Rutherford had a strange end to his day when he cut a tire and spun out; he did not finish. A pit fire claimed the entrant of Herm Johnson and stopped the race for over an hour.[citation needed]

1983 saw a spectacular finish and a bad wreck on the final lap; Rick Mears was lapping Chris Kneifel on the final lap when John Paul, Jr. drafted past entering Three; Mears spun out and was T-boned by Kniefel.[citation needed]

1984 was among the most brutal races of all.[citation needed] Phil Krueger's car was bent almost into itself in an early wreck, then Gary Bettenhausen was hit by Howdy Holmes and one car spun atop the other's rollbar. Chip Ganassi spun into Al Unser, Jr. and both tumbled into the backstretch guardrail, then on the final lap Pancho Carter tried to pass Rick Mears but shot head first into the backstretch armco, slicing off several foot-thick metal posts at their base as the car disintegrated and the cockpit tub tumbled to Turn Three.[citation needed]

In 1985 only 10 of 30 cars finished the race. It was an even mixture of problems as ten cars suffered mechanical failures (engine, suspension, etc.) while the other ten cars crashed. The most severe crash came when Danny Ongais tumbled down the backstretch like a stock car. Mario Andretti was forced out of a subsequent race following injury in a Turn Four crash.[citation needed]

In 1986 only 7 of 28 cars finished the race. That is still the Michigan 500 record for fewest cars to ever finish the race. Seven cars crashed out. The theme of the day was again mechanical failures, which took out 14 cars. Johnny Rutherford took his final Indycar win.[citation needed]

In 1988, 9 of 28 cars finished the race. Mechanical failures 16 cars. There was only 1 car taken out by a crash (Derek Daly). Howdy Holmes was too fatigued too continue. Johnny Rutherford's car was engulfed in flames and could not continue.

In 1994, 8 of 28 starters finished the race. Mechanical failures (engine, suspension, etc.) claimed 16 cars, crashes claimed 3 more cars and a severe pit fire (eerily similar to a severe pit fire during the inaugural Michigan 500 that stopped the race for over an hour) claimed the entrant of Adrian Fernandez. Also, at the same time this was happening Michael Andretti crashed in turn 2 (one of the 3 cars eliminated in a crashes) bringing out the yellow flag allowing the CART officials to stop the fire.[citation needed]

Indy Racing League years[edit]

Starting for the 2002 season, the race became an Indy Racing League Indycar series event. In addition, the race distance was changed from 500 miles (800 km) to 400 miles (640 km). In a very memorable race, Tomas Scheckter overcame bickering with team owner Eddie Cheever to beat team mate Buddy Rice. The race featured wheel-to-wheel racing, albeit at much slower speeds than the CART-sanctioned events. In addition, Sarah Fisher became the first female driver to pass for the lead under green flag conditions in an Indy-style race.[citation needed]

The IRL was unable to rebuild the event's attendance in spite of heavy support from the Jackson, Michigan community leadership. In many cases, the attendance for supporting stock car events was as great, if not greater, than the IRL race itself.[citation needed]

For 2007, the race had to move dates. The Allstate 400 at the Brickyard was moved by ESPN up one week, and created a conflict. Originally the race at Michigan was to move to July 22, but after the Indy Racing League added a new event at Mid-Ohio for that date, the race was moved to the first weekend in August. The IRL was faced with the task of selling tickets for 3 events (Mid Ohio, Michigan, and Detroit) within 6 weeks of each other, at venues that are within easy driving distance of one other.

In July, 2007, ISC announced that they would not be hosting an IRL race in 2008. The track management was not offered their traditional date for 2008 due to the same constraints that led to the 2007 date. In addition, track management wanted to return to the twin 200-mile (320 km) race format in order to gain publicity, and the IRL refused to meet that request. Faced with very low attendance, as well as the task of a race only 2 weeks before a major NASCAR race, ISC terminated negotiations and announced that there would be no race in 2008.

Past winners[edit]

Season Date Race Name Driver Team Chassis Engine Race Distance Race Time Average Speed
(mph)
Report
Laps Miles (km)
USAC Championship Car history
1968 October 13 Michigan Inaugural 250 United States Ronnie Bucknum All American Racers Eagle Offy 125 250 (402.336) 1:32:42 161.812 Report
1970 July 4 Michigan Twin 200s United States Gary Bettenhausen Bettenhausen Racing Gerhardt Offy 100 200 (321.868) 1:25:20 138.67 Report
1971 July 18 Michigan 200 United States Mark Donohue Penske Racing McLaren Offy 100 200 (321.868) 1:22:09 144.898 Report
1972 July 16 Michigan 200 United States Joe Leonard Vel's Parnelli Jones Racing Parnelli Offy 100 200 (321.868) 140.685 Report
1973 July 15 Michigan 200 United States Roger McCluskey Lindsey Hopkins McLaren Offy 100 200 (321.868) 1:14:28 161.146 Report
September 16 Michigan Twin 125s United States Bill Vukovich II Jerry O'Connell Eagle Offy 63 126 (202.777) 0:56:24 134.026 Report
United States Johnny Rutherford Bruce McLaren Motor Racing McLaren Offy 63 126 (202.777) 0:48:05 157.243
1974 July 21 Michigan 200 United States Bobby Unser All American Racers Eagle Offy 100 200 (321.868) 1:14:41 160.695 Report
September 15 Norton 250 United States Al Unser Vel's Parnelli Jones Racing Eagle Offy 125 250 (402.336) 1:45:32 142.135 Report
1975 July 20 Norton 200 United States A.J. Foyt A.J. Foyt Enterprises Coyote Foyt 100 200 (321.868) 1:15:31 158.907 Report
September 13 Michigan 150 United States Tom Sneva Penske Racing McLaren Offy 75 150 (241.401) 0:51:05 176.16 Report
1976 July 18 Norton Twin 200s United States Gordon Johncock Patrick Racing Wildcat DGS 100 200 (321.868) 1:12:43 1:12:43 Report
September 18 Michigan 150 United States A.J. Foyt A.J. Foyt Enterprises Coyote Foyt 75 150 (241.401) 0:54:51 164.058 Report
1977 July 17 Norton 200 United States Danny Ongais Interscope Racing Parnelli Cosworth 100 200 (321.868) 1:20:27 149.152 Report
September 17 Michigan Grand Prix United States Gordon Johncock Patrick Racing Wildcat DGS 75 150 (241.401) 0:51:21 175.25 Report
1978 July 16 Norton Twin 200 United States Johnny Rutherford Bruce McLaren Motor Racing McLaren Cosworth 100 200 (321.868) 1:15:02 159.941 Report
September 16 Gould Grand Prix United States Danny Ongais Interscope Racing Parnelli Cosworth 75 150 (241.401) 1:01:32 146.246 Report
Indy Car / CART World Series history
1979 July 15 Norton Twin 125s United States Gordon Johncock Patrick Racing Penske Cosworth 63 126 (202.777) 0:44:13 170.796 Report
United States Bobby Unser Penske Racing Penske Cosworth 63 126 (202.777) 0:48:40 155.342
September 15 Gould Grand Prix United States Bobby Unser Penske Racing Penske Cosworth 75 150 (241.401) 0:51:22 175.211 Report
1980 July 20 Norton 200 United States Johnny Rutherford Chaparral Cars Chaparral Cosworth 100 200 (321.868) 1:20:48 148.515 Report
October 20 Gould Grand Prix United States Mario Andretti Penske Racing Penske Cosworth 75 150 (241.401) 0:53:44 167.494 Report
1981 July 25 Norton Michigan 500 United States Pancho Carter Alex Morales Autosport Penske Cosworth 250 500 (804.672) 3:45:45 132.89 Report
September 20 Detroit News Grand Prix United States Rick Mears Penske Racing Penske Cosworth 74* 148 (238.182) 1:10:30 125.957 Report
1982 July 18 Norton Michigan 500 United States Gordon Johncock Patrick Racing Wildcat Cosworth 250 500 (804.672) 3:14:54 153.925 Report
September 26 Detroit News Grand Prix United States Bobby Rahal TrueSports March Cosworth 75 150 (241.401) 1:04:03 140.515 Report
1983 July 17 Norton Michigan 500 United States John Paul, Jr. VDS Penske Cosworth 250 500 (804.672) 3:42:27 134.862 Report
September 18 Detroit News Grand Prix United States Rick Mears Penske Racing Penske Cosworth 100 200 (321.868) 1:05:49 182.235 Report
1984 July 22 Michigan 500 United States Mario Andretti Newman/Haas Racing Lola Cosworth 250 500 (804.672) 3:44:45 133.482 Report
September 24 Detroit News Grand Prix United States Mario Andretti Newman/Haas Racing Lola Cosworth 100 200 (321.868) 1:11:12 168.523 Report
1985 July 28 Michigan 500 Brazil Emerson Fittipaldi Patrick Racing March Cosworth 250 500 (804.672) 3:53:58 128.22 Report
September 22 Detroit News 200 United States Bobby Rahal TrueSports March Cosworth 100 200 (321.868) 1:13:19 163.647 Report
1986 August 2 Michigan 500 United States Johnny Rutherford Alex Morales Autosport March Cosworth 250 500 (804.672) 3:38:45 137.139 Report
September 28 Pepsi Cola 250 United States Bobby Rahal TrueSports March Cosworth 125 250 (402.336) 1:22:33 181.701 Report
1987 August 2 Marlboro 500 United States Michael Andretti Kraco Racing March Cosworth 250 500 (804.672) 2:54:56 171.493 Report
1988 August 7 Marlboro 500 United States Danny Sullivan Penske Racing Penske Chevrolet 250 500 (804.672) 2:46:03 180.654 Report
1989 August 6 Marlboro 500 United States Michael Andretti Newman/Haas Racing Lola Chevrolet 250 500 (804.672) 3:07:15 160.21 Report
1990 August 5 Marlboro 500 United States Al Unser, Jr. Galles/Kraco Racing Lola Chevrolet 250 500 (804.672) 2:38:07 189.727 Report
1991 August 4 Marlboro 500 United States Rick Mears Penske Racing Penske Chevrolet 250 500 (804.672) 2:59:23 167.23 Report
1992 August 2 Marlboro 500 Canada Scott Goodyear Walker Racing Lola Chevrolet 250 500 (804.672) 2:48:53 177.265 Report
1993 August 1 Marlboro 500 United Kingdom Nigel Mansell Newman/Haas Racing Lola Ford-Cosworth 250 500 (804.672) 2:39:24 188.203 Report
1994 July 31 Marlboro 500 Canada Scott Goodyear King Racing Lola Ford-Cosworth 250 500 (804.672) 3:07:44 159.8 Report
1995 July 30 Marlboro 500 Presented by Speedstick United States Scott Pruett Patrick Racing Lola Ford-Cosworth 250 500 (804.672) 3:07:52 159.676 Report
1996 May 26 Inaugural U.S. 500 United States Jimmy Vasser Chip Ganassi Racing Reynard Honda 250 500 (804.672) 3:11:48 156.403 Report
July 28 Marlboro 500 Brazil André Ribeiro Tasman Racing Lola Honda 250 500 (804.672) 3:16:33 152.627 Report
1997 July 27 U. S. 500 Presented by Toyota Italy Alex Zanardi Chip Ganassi Racing Reynard Honda 250 500 (804.672) 2:59:35 167.044 Report
1998 July 26 U. S. 500 Presented by Toyota Canada Greg Moore Forsythe Racing Reynard Mercedes 250 500 (804.672) 3:00:48 165.913 Report
1999 July 25 U. S. 500 Presented by Toyota Brazil Tony Kanaan Forsythe Racing Reynard Honda 250 500 (804.672) 2:41:12 186.097 Report
2000 July 23 Michigan 500 Presented by Toyota Colombia Juan Montoya Chip Ganassi Racing Lola Toyota 250 500 (804.672) 2:48:49 177.694 Report
2001 July 22 Harrah's 500 Presented by Toyota Canada Patrick Carpentier Forsythe Racing Reynard Ford-Cosworth 250 500 (804.672) 2:54:55 171.498 Report
Indy Racing League IndyCar Series history
2002 July 28 Michigan Indy 400 South Africa Tomas Scheckter Team Cheever Dallara Infiniti 200 400 (643.737) 2:14:03 179.044 Report
2003 July 27 Firestone Indy 400 United States Alex Barron Mo Nunn Racing G-Force Toyota 200 400 (643.737) 2:12:39 180.917 Report
2004 August 1 Michigan Indy 400 United States Buddy Rice Rahal Letterman Racing G-Force Honda 200 400 (643.737) 2:11:47 182.123 Report
2005 July 31 Michigan Indy 400 United States Bryan Herta Andretti Green Racing Dallara Honda 200 400 (643.737) 2:23:33 167.197 Report
2006 July 30 Firestone Indy 400 Brazil Helio Castroneves Team Penske Dallara Honda 200 400 (643.737) 2:03:44 193.972 Report
2007 August 5 Firestone Indy 400 Brazil Tony Kanaan Andretti Green Racing Dallara Honda 200 400 (643.737) 2:49:38 141.481 Report
  • September 1981: Race shortened due to scoring error.

Indy Lights winners[edit]

Season Date Winning Driver
CART PPG Indy Lights
1996 May 25 Canada David Empringham
1998 July 25 United States Tony Renna
1999 July 24 Austria Philipp Peter
2000 July 22 Brazil Felipe Giaffone
IRL Indy Pro Series
2002 July 28 United States A.J. Foyt IV
2003 July 27 United Kingdom Mark Taylor
2004 August 1 United States P.J. Chesson

References[edit]