The inaugural event's purse of $536,000 made it the richest race in CART history apart from Indianapolis. The race carried high expectations, was televised nationally, and came on the heels of high-profile successes at former Formula One events in Long Beach and Las Vegas. A crowd of 50,000 was expected. During practice and qualifying, drivers criticized the tight nature of the course. The race began on a damp track, and Mario Andretti led all 100 laps to win. Despite the rainy weather, 34,388 spectators watched the race.
The 1985 event saw better weather and better attendance, but still fell short of expectations. The organizers signed a 3-year contract to continue the race, but the circuit's parking lot nature, giving neither the park-like setting of a natural terrain road course nor the atmosphere of a downtown street race, began to draw criticism from drivers and journalists. In 1988, officials changed the layout to a 1.217-mile (1.959 km) semi-oval layout surrounding Brendan Byrne Arena in an attempt to improve competition and sight lines for spectators, and the race attracted a record 45,025. In addition, new race sponsor Marlboro offered a $1 million bonus for any driver who could win at the Meadowlands, Michigan, and the Marlboro Challenge in Miami in the same season; no driver would ever win the bonus.
1988: Al Unser, Jr. and Emerson Fittipaldi battled at the end. The two cars touched and Fittipaldi veered into a bank of tire barriers. Unser, Jr. went on to win. The following year at Indy, the two would be involved in another late-race duel.
1989: Bobby Rahal scores his only victory of the 1989 season. It was the lone victory for the "short stroke"Cosworth, and the 153rd and final race win overall for Cosworth in Indy car racing. The race was halted 5 laps early due to heavy rains and standing water on the course. Rahal held off points leader Emerson Fittipaldi for the victory.
1991: Bobby Rahal snaps a 34-race losing streak and wins his first CART race in nearly two years to the day of his last win (1989 Meadowlands Grand Prix). It would be the final Meadowlands Grand Prix.