Friday, June 5, 2015

INDYCAR: Thy Vanderbilt Cup runneth Over - The Sequel

Gil de Ferran's Vanderbilt Cup winning Penske Marlboro 2001 Reynard/Honda. (Image source:
As typical here in Nofendersville, your master 'O the short story as done I-T again; Hooah! With the first draft clocking in at five pages and still miles to go...

Borg Warner trophy
Yeah, know Y'all got this esteemed trophy on your minds right now, but, as mentioned in part one, the Borg Warner trophy didn't come into existence until 1936, some 32-years after the prestigious Vanderbilt Cup's unveiling, with the inaugural Indy 500 winner's trophy being awarded to Louis Meyer after then track owner Eddie Rickenbacker had had the trophy commissioned by the Borg Warner automotive company.

An surely Y'all know, A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears are tied for most Borg Warner trophies at four apiece, which hopefully some despised racer named singularly as 'HULIO here at No Fenders will NEVER join that list! (Having written these sentiments prior to this year's Indy 500 race...)

With the advent of then America's premier Open Wheel Racing sanctioning body USAC (United States Auto Club) being usurped by the new rival Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) series, a new championship trophy was established, and dutifully named after the series primary title sponsor PPG, i.e.; Pittsburg Paint & Glass, for which I know the yearly champion was awarded the PPG Cup between 1979-99, albeit I cannot find anything definitive upon this distinct trophy.

Vanderbilt Cup Returns
A new copy of the esteemed Vanderbilt Cup was commissioned in 1996 to be awarded as the trophy of the winner of the U.S.500, which was announced on April 25th.

The CART sanctioned race held at Michigan Speedway would be in direct competition to Mother Speedway's epic 500-miler, as that dastardly 'lil Napoleon, aka Tony George had started his rival Indy Racing League, with the CART race being born out of the angst over George's infamous 25-8 Rule.

The U.S.500 would last for three years, albeit four events being hosted, ironically being sponsored by Toyota; Hooah! As the event would be known as the US 500 Presented by Toyota between 1997-99 after the inaugural running of the U.S. 500.

Recall that 'Top Jimmy (Vasser) won the debutant 500-mile race at Michigan International Speedway in a backup chassis after "All of the Stars," a pointed reference to the Indy 500's field that year had managed to be collected in a multi-car first lap pile-up, reportedly started by 'Yo Adrian! (Fernandez) With some ten cars involved...

After a lengthy break, Drivers were allowed to re-start the race in backup chassis, a most Non-Indy 500-ish move then, (since I'm pretty sure that competitors can now drag their chassis to their garages, work on them and then return to the race...) as I can still vaguely remember 'El Zorro, aka Alex Zanardi who'd been playing leapfrog with team-mate Vasser for the lead, having his Ford/Cosworth XB V-8 turbo 'lump DONE BLOWN UP!

Whilst I was unawares' that winners of the Vanderbilt Cup had their faces adorned upon I-T, having read of Vasser's mug being added in '96; Hmm? May be this is where the idea for the Borg Wagner trophy came from?

The following year, CART moved its 500-mile Indianapolis 500 alternative named race to July, running a competing Oval race at Gateway International Speedway on Saturday, the day prior to the Indy 500 instead, which would be short lived. Alex Zanardi won the July 27th U.S. 500 for Cheep' Ganassi.

For '98, the late Greg Moore won the US 500 for Forsythe Racing on July 26th, ironically followed home by the previous  two year's winners; Chip Ganassi's duo of Jimmy Vasser and Alex Zanardi respectively. As the CART Franchise teams, sponsors, etc pondered the wisdom of the U.S. 500 race moniker which was shrinking in popularity.

'TK "Follow-your-Schnoz!" Kanaan, then only in his Sophomore B-I-G' CARZ (IndyCar) season won the final US 500 driving the No. 44 MacDougal's' Reynard-Honda for Forsythe Racing on July 25, 1999 before the US 500 moniker was retired...

Interestingly, Forsythe ran a three car team, with two 'KuhNucks, nee "Pat-the-Carpenter" (Patrick Carpentier) and Greg Moore both running Reynard-Mercedes, whilst Kanaan's mount was run in conjunction with the folding Tasman Motorsports Reynard chassis powered by a Honda turbo 'lump instead. As the win would be Kanaan's debutant IndyCar victory.

In 2000, interim CART President Bobby Rahal re-introduced the Vanderbilt cup as the series championship trophy, which I’ve seen presumably a replica several times at the Penske Racing Museum over the past years. As The Captain was able to capture it two years in-a-row with Gil de Ferran as his driver, who was the CART champion in 2000-01.

Thus, presumably, the Vanderbilt Cup was next awarded to 'Shorty, aka Cristiano da Matta who won the CART championship in '02 for Newman Haas Racing.

Next, that Oh So 'LUV-able 'KuhNuck simply known as 'PT, aka Paul Tracy put his mitts upon thee 'Ol Vandy' Mug in 'Twenty-oh-Three when driving for Gerald Forsythe, before the final Vanderbilt Cup recipient claimed it a record setting consecutive four years in-a-row, circa 2004-07, won by "The Thrill from the West Hill's Mr. Chrome Horn's" chief protagonist le 'Hamburgular, aka 'SeaBass, nee Sebastain Bourdais driving for Newman Haas Racing.

As Bourdais surpassed Ted Horn's feat of winning three consecutive USAC National Championships between 1946-48, while some may argue that Dario Franchitti also won four consecutive IndyCar titles between 2007-2011, as the Scot departed for "Taxicab Racing" Down South, i.e.; 'RASSCAR for the 2008 season before returning to Indy Cars in 2009...

Astor Cup returns...
Appropriately, the Vanderbilt Cup was once again retired with the long overdue Mergification' of Champ Car and the Indy Racing League in 2008, as apparently the Indy Racing League Cup became the de facto championship trophy circa 2008-10 before a new tradition was begun prior to the resurrection of today's IndyCar Astor Cup championship trophy IN 2011...

While Y'all might also enjoy my past IMS Hall of Fame museum visits trilogy. (2010-12) For which 'Offical No Fenders Photographer' CARPETS was kind enough to take me and serve as my museo guide along with taking multitudes 'O pictures!

Vanderbilt Cup Incarnations
1904-06: Nassau County, New York
1908-10: Long Island Motor Parkway, New York
1911: Savannah, Georgia
1912: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
1914: Santa Monica, CA
1915: San Francisco, CA
1916: Santa Monica, CA
1936-37: Roosevelt Raceway; Long Island, NY
1960: Roosevelt Raceway
1965-68: Bridgehampton Raceway; Sag Harbor, NY
1996-99: CART US500 trophy.
2000-07: CART-CCWS Championship trophy.