The now very popular Richmond International Raceway started life as a little track known as ‘Strawberry Hill’. It was first used as a racetrack venue in 1946 when Ted Horn drove his champ car to victory on the 0.5-mile dirt track that came to be known as ‘Strawberry Hill Speedway’. These races were usually held once a year on the third Saturday of April. In the period that followed between 1953 and 2000, the track had three name changes and four configuration changes. The surface was changed from dirt to asphalt and lights were added to the facility in 1991. Ever since then, all races have been held ‘under the lights’ – something which helps make Richmond International Raceway somewhat unique.
Today the Richmond International Raceway is known for hosting some of the best NASCAR and IndyCar Series racing. The raceway features a D-shaped, 0.75 mile (1.2 km) asphalt track and is part of the 800-acre, multi-purpose Richmond Raceway Complex. Although the track is fairly short, it’s layout allows for excellent side-by-side racing and drivers are able to reach speeds similar to that of a superspeedway. This means that only the most skilled drivers can make their way to first place and there is plenty of action during the course of the average race. The Richmond International Raceway currently hosts the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup, the Busch Series, the Indy Racing League, the United States Auto Club Silver Crown and National Sprint Car Series. The last 30 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series races have been sold out and the track is known for producing some of the best racing in the sport.
In the past, Richmond International Raceway has been known as the ‘Atlantic Rural Exposition Fairgrounds’, the ‘Atlantic Rural Fairgrounds’, the ‘Virginia State Fairgrounds’ and the ‘Richmond Fairgrounds Raceway’. From these various names it is easy to tell that the Raceway complex is not only used to host racing events. It is also used to host a number of agricultural shows, expositions, sports and crafts shows and seasonal fairs. This means that the raceway complex is almost always busy with some major event but the most popular of these are the races.
The Indy Racing League, or IRL, is a sanctioning body for open-wheel auto racing in America. Best known for the popular Indianapolis 500, the IRL endorses the IZOD IndyCar Series, Firestone Indy Lights and, as of 2010, the U.S. F2000 National Championship.
Tony George was responsible for the establishment of the IRL back in 1994, with racing beginning in 1996. George’s goal was to found a lower-cost alternative to CART, which was only accessible to wealthy teams who could afford the expensive technology. As of 2008 Champ Car racing (previously CART) was merged into the IRL.
IndyCar vehicles look similar to open-wheeled formula racing cars, featuring wings and large airboxes. The cars have strict specifications, with all cars using the same parts. Every three years, the chassis and engine manufacturers are reviewed. Originally built just for oval racing, the new generation of IndyCar machines are made to deal with road racing too.
The Indianapolis 500-Mile Race, or Indy 500, takes place each Memorial Day weekend at America’s Indianapolis Motor Speedway. One of the oldest motorsport races, the Indy 500 draws large crowds each year. It is an event avid racing fans would not want to miss. Winners of the Indianapolis 500 have included Dario Franchitti, Emerson Fittipaldi, Rick Mears, Helio Castroneves, Dan Wheldon, Juan Pablo Montoya, Sam Hornish, Jr. Scott Dixon, and others.
Watkins Glen International is situated near Watkins Glen, New York. Over the years Watkins Glen has been host to a variety of different races, including a lot of the IMSA series, SCCA series, Formula One, NASCAR and Indycar.
Watkins Glen Schedule is made up of a couple of SCCA National races, quite a number of SCCA regionals take part on the track throughout the year as well as many Club Dates put on by BMW Car Club of America and Porsche Club of America. Pro races only make up a small percentage of the Watkins schedule.
In 1948 road racing was introduced to Watkins Glen through Cameron Argetsinger, an Ohio resident but who often stayed at his father’s summerhouse on the Seneca Lake. Argersinger was one of the early members of the SCCA, he proposed to the Watkins Glen Chamber of Commerce an amateur Road Race to be called “Watkins Glen Grand Prix.” The proposal was happily accepted, and soon Argetsinger had arranged a 6.6 mile course, which used dirt, gravel and paved roads. He also had to arrange for permission to close one New York City track and any roads needed.
The first race to ever take place there was held mid-day on the second of October 1948. All competitors had to complete a 4 lap-qualifying race with a standing start. That day 15 cars took part and completed the 8 laps or 52.8 mile Grand Prix with ten finishing the entire race. Frank Griswold from Wayne, Pennsylvania won the race. The following year Miles Collier won the Grand Prix, just beating Briggs Cunningham. The 1950 Grand Prix saw its first fatal tragedy when Sam Collier was killed, from that day on his brother Miles never took part in a race again. That was not the only incident; another car left the track, injuring two spectators and a fireman.
The Watkins Glen International speedway was changed a couple of times over the years. Due to tragic events occurring again in 1952 a law was put in place preventing any racing on state highways and that led to the circuit being moved to the town of Dix. The fourth course that was completed is the one we still have today and is similar in outline to the third course.
Jacques Joseph Charles Villeneuve was born in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, Canada on the 9th of April 1971. At the tender age of eleven years, Jacques Villeneuve lost his well-loved and much respected father, Gilles Villeneuve, a Formula One driver, during a qualifying round at the Belgian Grand Prix in 1982. Jacques Villeneuve followed his father’s footsteps in his career choice and is currently a successful Canadian automobile racing driver having won the Formula One World Championship in 1997, the Champ Car Championship in 1995, as well as the Indianapolis 500. This makes Villeneuve one of only three drivers to ever have accomplished all three feats, the other two drivers being Mario Andretti and Emerson Fittipaldi.
Jacques‘ uncle also named Jacques, was also into racing and was moderately successful at it, even winning one IndyCar race. Villeneuve began his racing career with kart racing, quickly moving up the ranks. He went to various racing schools and his talent was clearly recognizable. He took part in the Italian Formula Three series between 1989 and 1991, then the Japanese Formula Three series in 1992.
In 1993, Villeneuve moved to the North American Toyota Atlantic racing series, where he successfully finished his debut season ranked third due to the five races he had won. The following year he moved to Champ Car Racing where he found himself Rookie of the Year. He then drove the new Reynard chasis with a Ford Cosworth engine for expatriate Australian Barry Green’s team, helping him finish second in the Indianapolis 500. Jacques’ strong performances and his family name brought him to the attention of Frank Williams, who wasted no time in signing him up into his Formula One team. This led to Villeneuve testing the Williams F1 car once the IndyCar season had ended.
The year 1996 saw Jacques Villeneuve put on a spectacular performance by becoming the second Formula One driver to ever achieve pole position as well as podium position on his maiden grand prix. That year he won four races with a total of 78 points, having reached the podium 11 times, all of which are rookie records.
Over the years, Villeneuve has taken part in and continues to take part in a variety of Motor Sports, including NASCAR, Le Mans, Speedcar and Top Race V6.
Mario Andretti – a name spoken with respect in auto racing circles. A master on the Formula One and NASCAR track, Mario Adretti has certainly left a major mark on the history of auto racing. Andretti, an Italian-American, has had a remarkable driving career with 4 IndyCar title wins and numerous F1 victories.
Mario Gabriele Andretti, along with his twin brother Aldo, was born on 28 February 1940 in Italy. In 1948 due to the occupation of his homeland by Yugoslavia, his family promptly departed, finally coming to reside in Nazareth of Pennsylvania, USA. Andretti’s racing career began in 1959 as he raced around a dirt track in a Hudson. His first year of racing saw Mario Andretti coming in 3rd place at the Indianapolis 500. 1964 was the year Andretti began racing in the USAC series. He also took part in a variety of forms of auto racing such as drag racing.
Mario Andretti also had a keen interest in Formula One. His first race was at Watkins Glen in 1968 and his first win for Ferrari was in 1971. Andretti’s focus really shifted to F1 driving in the mid-1970s. He began driving for the Parnelli team. He took the Lotus to its limit, developing a fantastic racing car that took an amazing full lap lead at Mount Fuji track. 1978 was a remarkable season with 6 wins in his brilliantly designed Lotus 79. Unfortunately after his previous grand successes as a Formula 1 driver, Andretti failed to gain victory from 1979 onwards. However his career in F1 reminded all why he was a champion as he competed with Ferrari in 1982. Andretti continued racing IndyCars during the ’80s.
Through his racing days Mario Andretti received much recognition, along with many awards and titles. Amongst these are the 1978 F1 World Champion, Inductee of the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2000 and Inductee of the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in 1996. He was even named “Driver of the Century” in 2000 by Associated Press and RACER magazine. Andretti was honored by the Italian government in 2006, by being awarded the Commendatore dell’Ordine al Merito della Repubblica Italiana.
Today Mario Andretti is a successful business man. He has set up the Andretti Winery in Napa Valley and has business interests in car dealerships, petroleum, the Mario Andretti Racing School as well as the Andretti Indoor Karting and Games center. However, Mario Andretti will always be remembered as one of the greatest race car drivers ever.