INDYCAR is an American-based auto racing sanctioning body for Championship auto racing. The organization sanctions four racing series: the premier IndyCar Series (often abbreviated ICS) with its centerpiece Indianapolis 500, and developmental series Indy Lights, the Pro Mazda Championship and the U.S. F2000 National Championship, which are all a part of The Road To Indy.
The sanctioning body was formed in 1994 under the name Indy Racing League, and began competition in 1996. The trademark name INDYCAR was officially adopted on January 1, 2011.
The League's premier series was named the Indy Racing League IndyCar Series in 2003. In 2013, IZOD announced that they would be leaving the series. Verizon took over as title sponsor in 2014, and the name became the Verizon IndyCar Series.
The series initially raced exclusively on oval tracks, as the series was founded partly in response to the increasing prominence of road and street courses on the CART schedule. In 2005, the series abandoned its unofficial ovals-only stance, and added three road-street course events. By 2009, the series had a roughly 50/50 split of ovals and road/street courses. Presently, the series currently runs one-third of its schedule on ovals and the rest on road and street circuits.
Indy Lights is the development series for the IndyCar series. It originally started in 2002, as the IRL Infiniti Pro Series coincidentally in the same year as CART's own Indy Lights series came to an end. Since the 2008 reunification, the Indy Lights name returned. The Indy Lights run as support races to IndyCar Series races. In the past, a round during the United States Grand Prix was also a part of the schedule, and the League also added a stand-alone race as part of the Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres. The series is now promoted by Andersen Promotions.
The Pro Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear is an open-wheel racecar driver development series in North America. Competitors use spec Formula Mazda race cars built by Star Race Cars. The original series, using first-generation tube-frame cars started in the early 1990s, with the current, high-tech, carbon-fiber car released in 2004. The series has historically included road courses, street courses, and ovals. The series' primary sponsors are Mazda and Cooper Tire and the cars, while purpose built for the track with carbon fiber monocoques, are powered by 250 horsepower Mazda 'Renesis' rotary engines. The series' stated goal is "to develop new race driving talent." In 2010, the series became a part of The Road to Indy. In 2013 the series' promotion was taken over by Andersen Promotions.
USF2000 is a series the organisation started sanctioning in 2010. Originally started in 1991 and folded in 2006, it was restarted in 2010 as part of the "Road to Indy" ladder series promoted by Andersen Promotions. The series utilizes tube frame Formula Ford chassis fitted with larger Mazda MZR four cylinder engines and wings and slicks and was originally based on the Formula Continental rules formula.
Like other governing bodies, IndyCar awards points based upon where a driver finishes in a race. The top three drivers are separated by ten and five points respectively (see this section table). The fourth through tenth-place finishers are separated by two points each. Eleventh through twenty-fifth are separated by one point each. All other drivers who start the race score five points. Bonus points are awarded as follows: one point to the driver that earns the pole each race (except at Indianapolis), one point to any driver that leads at least one lap in a race, and two additional bonus points to the driver that leads the most laps each race.
For the Indianapolis 500, qualifying points are awarded for all 33 cars at the Indianapolis 500. The point scale slides based on the teams that qualify for the top-nine shootout, then descending by speed and position.
As of 2014, the Indianapolis 500 now awards double points for finishing place.
"IndyCar" or "Indy Car" are sometimes used as a descriptive name for championship open-wheel auto racing in the United States. The Indy car name derived as a result of the genre's fundamental link to the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race (often referred to as the "Indy 500"), one of the most popular auto races in the world.
Beginning in 1990, the term Indy car was often used to describe the race cars in the events sanctioned by CART, which had become the dominant governing body for open-wheel racing in the United States. The Indianapolis 500, however, remained sanctioned by USAC. CART recognized the Indy 500 on its schedule, and awarded points for finishers in the race from 1990 to 1995 despite not sanctioning it. The two entities operated separately, but utilized the same equipment.
In 1992, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway registered the IndyCar trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office and licensed it to CART, which renamed its championship the IndyCar World Series. All references to the name "CART" were decidedly prohibited, as the series sought to eliminate perceived confusion from casual fans with the term kart.
During the 1996 season, the IndyCar mark was the subject of a fierce legal battle. Prior to the 1996 season, Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Tony George had created his own national championship racing series, the Indy Racing League. 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.
Following a six-year hiatus, Indy Racing League, LLC announced it would rename their premier series the IndyCar Series for the 2003 racing season. Brickyard Trademarks, Inc., a subsidiary of Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corporation, is the current owner of the IndyCar mark and licenses that mark to the Indy Racing League for use in connection with the IndyCar Series. CART (and its successor Champ Car) races outside the United States were still permitted to use the Indy moniker, such as the Toronto Molson Indy and Lexmark Indy 300, though the distinction is moot now, as the two series have unified. Post-unification, a heavy emphasis has been placed on deemphasizing the legal entity name and its initials and replacing it with the IndyCar name. This became official on January 1, 2011, as Indy Racing League LLC adopted as its trade name INDYCAR (but not its legal business name). All legal and official documents such as race reports, investigative documents, and broadcast disclaimers state "Indy Racing League LLC." Some documents may also include "d/b/a INDYCAR."
The Indy Racing League was founded in 1994 by Tony George and began racing in 1996. CART had sanctioned Indy car racing since 1979, when the organization broke away from USAC. George blueprinted the IRL as a lower-cost open-wheel alternative to CART, which had become technology-driven and dominated by a few wealthy multi-car teams, much like Formula One. It initially attracted some of the smaller teams who believed in the vision presented by Tony George.
The split between the IRL and the CART governing body was acrimonious, and both series suffered because of it. The rivalry between competing groups of fans was most active on the Internet, especially on motorsports message boards, and tended to affect any attempts at impartial views of either racing series.
The most bitter point of conflict between CART and the IRL was the Indianapolis 500, long considered the crown jewel of North American motorsports. Although it was unquestionably the flagship race on the CART schedule, CART treated it just like any other race, and awarded the same number of driver points as for other races. Starting with the first IRL season, Tony George reserved 25 of the 33 spots in the Indy 500 starting grid for cars from full-time IRL teams. In retaliation, CART scheduled what was supposed to become its new showcase event, the U.S. 500, at Michigan International Speedway on the same day, but it drew far less fan interest and was discontinued after its 1999 running. Although modified in 1999, the initial Indy 500 policy toward CART is held up as proof of George and the IRL's ill-intent towards CART.
In 1997, Tony George specified new technical rules for less expensive cars and "production-based" engines that outlawed the USAC/CART-spec cars that had been the mainstay of the race since the late 1970s. For the next few years almost all of the CART teams and drivers did not compete in the race. While this situation allowed many American drivers to participate in an event they might otherwise have been unable to afford, the turbulent political situation and the absence of many top IndyCar drivers, big-name sponsors and faster CART-spec cars cast something of a shadow over the race. It was certainly arguable that to the average fan, the replacement of at least fairly well known foreign drivers by almost-unknown American ones was not perceived as a gain.
At its inception, the series and George himself were criticized by members of the media and some CART competitors. The IRL's early seasons consisted of sparse schedules, mostly unknown drivers, and inexperienced teams, even in the Indy 500. Eventually, the schedule expanded and the caliber of drivers improved. The IRL began to draw teams from CART starting in 2000, contributing to the latter's bankruptcy, re-branding as Champ Car in 2003, and ultimate demise and absorption by the IRL in 2008.
NASCAR has since supplanted open-wheel racing as the most popular auto racing sport in the United States, and from 1995 onward, NASCAR's Daytona 500 has surpassed the IRL's Indianapolis 500 in U.S. television ratings. The split has also hurt overall sponsorship of US open-wheel racing. In 2006 and 2007, several top CART and IRL drivers left for the more lucrative NASCAR, including Dario Franchitti, A. J. Allmendinger, Sam Hornish, Jr., and most recently Danica Patrick, although Franchitti returned to the IRL for the 2009 season due to a lack of sponsorship in NASCAR.
The IndyCar Series has become similar in many ways to the CART series from which it separated and its related European open-wheel counterparts in GP2 and Formula 1: former prominent CART teams such as Chip Ganassi Racing and Team Penske are frequent race winners, there is a strong contingent of foreign-born drivers, the cars are increasingly electronic and aero dependent and the schedule includes more road or street races than ovals.
On January 23, 2008, Tony George offered Champ Car management a proposal that included free cars and engine leases to Champ Car teams willing to run the entire 2008 IndyCar Series schedule in exchange for adding Champ Car's dates at Long Beach, Toronto, Edmonton, and Australia to the IndyCar Series schedule, effectively reuniting American open wheel racing. The offer was initially made in November 2007. On February 10, 2008, Tony George, along with IRL representatives Terry Angstadt and Brian Barnhart, plus former Honda executive Robert Clarke, traveled to Japan to discuss moving the Indy Japan 300 at Twin Ring Motegi. Moving that race, or postponing it, would be required in order to accommodate the Long Beach Grand Prix, which was scheduled for the same weekend. Optimism following the meeting was high.
In February 2008, Indy Racing League founder and CEO Tony George and owners of the Champ Car World Series completed an agreement to unify the sport for 2008. The result was that the Champ Car World Series was suspended except for the Long Beach Grand Prix. Many of the former Champ Car teams moved to the IndyCar Series using equipment provided by the League.
Driver safety has also been a major point of concern, with a number of drivers seriously injured, particularly in the early years of the series. There have been five fatal crashes in the history of the series. Compared to road racing venues, the lack of run-offs on oval tracks, coupled with higher speeds due to the long straights and banked turns, means that there is far less margin for error. Car design was attributed as a leading cause of early injuries, and the series made improvements to chassis design to address those safety concerns. Following a series of spectacular high-profile accidents in 2003, including American racing legend Mario Andretti and former champion Kenny Bräck, as well as the death of Tony Renna in testing at Indianapolis, the IRL made additional changes to reduce speeds and increase safety.
IndyCar was the first racing series to adopt the SAFER soft wall safety system, which debuted at the Indianapolis 500 and has now been installed at almost all major oval racing circuits. The SAFER system research and design was supported and funded in large part by the Hulman-George family and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
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