Mario Andretti to be inducted into the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame

Mario Andretti

Mario Andretti is to be inducted into the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame at Toronto’s Glenn Gould Studio, as the International Category honoree of 2012.
Andretti, 73, raced in Canada almost as long as in the United States, while winning worldwide in a sparkling 41-year career.
He’ll be honored during the 19th annual Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame Induction Ceremonies presented by Canadian Tire, September 28th along with Canadian inductees the late Bob Armstrong, Jimmy Carr, John and Sharon Fletcher, Ron Fellows and Tom Walters with fans watching the ceremony and partying with the honorees afterward.

Nobody drove a Formula One car faster than Andretti at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, where he won the pole and recorded the fastest lap in 1977, the final year the Canadian Grand Prix was held at Mosport before moving to Montreal. The classic circuit’s back straight was named the Andretti straight after he was clocked there at 178 miles per hour in a 1967 USAC Indy car race.

On a global scale, Andretti was the first driver to win both the F-1 (1978) and Indy car championships (1965-66-69 and 84).
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Michael Andretti

GG_andretti

Inducted 2011

He was born into one of the most prominent racing families, and he continued with his family’s tradition of success, both on and off the track in motorsport.

And for this success, Michael Andretti has been inducted into the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame as the 2012 International Category recipient.

A Pennsylvania native, Andretti never lived in the shadow of his iconic racing father Mario, proving he could drive his own race, and was a dominate racer in the PPG/CART IndyCar era. He won a record-setting 42 races in the open-wheel series, including a seven at the former Molson Indy between 1989 and 2001, another record he still maintains.

Starting in Formula Vee and Atlantic cars, the younger Andretti also competed at Le Mans before joining up with Kraco Racing in 1983. The next year he found racing in Canada to his liking, placing third at Sanair in Quebec.

He raced in the first three Molson Indy events in Toronto, starting in 1986 and with limited success, but after signing on with Newman/Hass, the team was a strong contender, placing in the top five all but three times from 1989 to 2000. He also had a stint at Formula One racing in a McLaren, which did not enhance his career at all.

After retiring from behind the wheel in 2003, Andretti became the major shareholder in the former Green Team, and changed the name to Andretti Green. As a team owner with drivers such as Dario Franchitti, Tony Kanaan, and Danica Patrick, he was successful, winning the IZOD IndyCar championship in 2004 and 2005, including the famous Indianapolis 500 in 2005.

Not content to stay behind the wall watching his team race, Andretti donned the driving gloves once again to compete, and drove in 2006 and 2007 with a third at Indy before taking up his place as team leader once again. He also watched the budding career of his son Marco, who has become an IndyCar star in his own right for the past several years under the tutelage of his father.

In 2009 the team’s name was changed again to Andretti Autosport, a year after he purchased the assets of the Toronto Indy, keeping this important race on the IndyCar schedule.

Andretti, who is Chairman, President, and CEO of Andretti Autosport, has property in Indianapolis and Florida, but retains a fondness for Canada.

“I’m extremely honoured to be inducted into the Canadian Motorsports Hall of Fame,” he said recently. “Throughout my career, I’ve always considered Canada to be almost like my second home. The Canadian race fans have been some of the most supportive I’ve ever seen and I’m thrilled that almost a quarter of my career wins came on Canadian soil and in front of such enthusiastic fans.”

And in keeping with the Canadian theme, Andretti signed one of the series’ rising stars, James Hinchcliffe of Oakville, to drive one of the team Chevy Dallaras in the IZOD IndyCar Series this season.

Image courtesy of Gary Grant.

Bobby Rahal

Bobby Rahal at 2011 ALMS awards banquet

Bobby Rahal at 2011 ALMS awards banquet


Inducted 2010

Robert “Bobby” Woodward Rahal was born in Medina, Ohio, in 1953, and worked his way up through the racing ranks starting with the SCCA’s feeder series to Formula Atlantic and then onto European Formula Two. In an 18-year career spanning F1, Can-Am, Le Mans/IMSA, and CART, Rahal notched three CART championships, including a win at the 1986 Indy 500, along with wins at the 1981 24 Hours of Daytona and the 1987 12 Hours of Sebring endurance races.
One of open wheel racing’s most consistent drivers during his career, Rahal started 264 races for five teams and he took 18 poles and scored 24 wins. He collected back-to-back CART championships in 1986 & ’87, and picked up his third in 1992. When Buddy Rice won the 2004 Indy 500, Rahal became only one of a handful of individuals to win the Indy 500 as both a driver and a team owner.
Following his retirement from competitive racing after the 1998 season, Rahal spent time with Jaguar’s F1 effort and in mid-2000, he returned to the U.S. to become the interim boss of CART. Along with late night talk show icon David Letterman, he is a principal in Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing where Rahal has overseen the growth of the team from a one-car program to a multi-car, multi-discipline organization. Rahal has been responsible for finding and developing some of the top-young talent in open-wheel racing. Among his current and past protégées are Ryan Hunter-Reay, 2004 Indy 500 winner Buddy Rice, Danica Patrick and Vitor Meira. It also was Bobby Rahal who was responsible for bringing Honda into North American open-wheel racing in the early 90s, an involvement as a manufacturer that has produced eight championships and over 100 victories including three Indy 500 triumphs.
In addition, his team won the 2010 GT team and manufacturers championships in the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) with BMW, and Rahal is the driving force behind the new HMP Legends of Motorsports historic racing series. Along with his leadership of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, he operates Rahal Automotive Group, a string of car dealerships in Pennsylvania, and is very active in the community through the Bobby Rahal Foundation.

Bobby Rahal Racing Record

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS:
-1974 SCCA B/Sports Racing National Champion
-1975 Formula Atlantic National Champion (SCCA President’s Cup)
-1981 24 Hours of Daytona winner
-1982 CART Rookie of the Year
-1986 Indianapolis 500 winner
-1986 CART champion
-1986 Driver of the Year
-1987 CART champion
-1987 12 Hours of Sebring winner
-1992 CART champion
-1992 Driver of the Year
-Only driver/owner to win CART championship
-One of three drivers to win three CART/Champ Car championships
-First IndyCar driver to win $1 million in a single season
-First IndyCar driver to surpass $12 million in career earnings
-Recorded IndyCar/CART victories in ten seasons (eight straight)
-Introduced Honda to North American open-wheel racing
-Inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2004

WINS (Driver 1982 – 98 Owner 1992—present) 1982 – Cleveland, Michigan 1983 – Riverside 1984 – Phoenix, Laguna Seca 1985 – Mid-Ohio, Michigan, Laguna Seca 1986 – Indianapolis, Toronto, Mid-Ohio, Montreal, Michigan, Laguna Seca 1987 – Portland, Meadowlands, Laguna Seca 1988 – Pocono 1989 – Meadowlands 1991 – Meadowlands 1992 – Phoenix, Detroit, New Hampshire, Nazareth 1998 – Laguna Seca 1999 – Laguna Seca 2000 – Homestead 2001 – Motegi, Milwaukee, Portland, Chicago, EuroSpeedway, Laguna Seca 2002 – Fontana 2003 – Milwaukee, Montreal 2004 – Indianapolis, Kansas, Michigan 2008 – Watkins Glen 2009 – Road America, Okayama 2010 – Road America

POLES (Driver 1982 – 98 Owner 1992—present) 1983 – Mid-Ohio, Michigan 1984 – Montreal 1985 – Cleveland, Mid-Ohio, Michigan, Michigan, Montreal, Laguna Seca, Miami 1986 – Elkhart Lake, Phoenix 1987 – Toronto 1990 – Nazareth 1991 – Elkhart Lake 1992 – Milwaukee, New Hampshire, Toronto 1997 – Mid-Ohio, Laguna Seca 1998 – Long Beach, Portland, Laguna Seca 1999 – Chicago, Laguna Seca 2001 – Monterrey, Texas, Milwaukee, Portland, Michigan, Elkhart Lake, Rockingham 2002 – Long Beach 2003 – Long Beach 2004 – Homestead, Indianapolis, Portland, Kansas, Nashville, Milwaukee, Kentucky 2005 – Kansas, Kentucky, Chicagoland 2007 – Texas.

Image via Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing

Jim O’Donnell

Inducted 2009

Wishing to create a brand identity for his financial firm, Jim O’Donnell took his love of auto racing and merged this love with his business acumen to provide a solid marketing tool in motorsports sponsorship.

O’Donnell worked with Ron and Rob Fellows in the Players GM Series, and then, with the MacKenzie Financial backing, entered into the world of Trans Am racing with Ron Fellows driving for the teams of Jack Roush and Tom Gloy.

Then O’Donnell ramped up his involvement with a foray into Indy car, promoting the MacKenzie name in major centers across North America.

The familiar blue and silver cars were part of the Dick Simon, Ron Hemelgarn, Doug Shearson, and Derrick Walker teams.

Driving the MacKenzie cars included Ludwig Heimrath Jr and then Scott Goodyear, who achieved the greatest success, winning two Indycar events, and placing second in the coveted Indy 500 by only the blink of an eye in the closest one-two Indy 500 finish in history.

Aside from winning on the track, O’Donnell was also a winner with his clients, providing hospitality at the races, successfully merging business and pleasure.

Scott Goodyear

Inducted 2002

Scott Goodyear is one of Canada’s best-known international racers, with experience in sedans, Indy cars and endurance races. In more than two decades of racing, during which he also operated a racing school, Goodyear is best known for his years driving in CART and the IRL. In his four-year Indy Racing League career, he recorded one top-five and two other top-10 finishes in the season point standings, as well as three wins, 14 other top-five finishes and seven other top-10 finishes. He finished in the top 10 five times driving in the Indianapolis 500, including two second-place efforts, the most memorable of which occurred in 1992 when he chased Al Unser Jr. to the finish line in a brilliant final two-lap charge, finishing second by just .043 of a second, the closest margin in race history. His most controversial Indy 500 race came in 1995 when he was ruled to have passed the pace car while leading late in the race. He was disqualified and the race was won by another Canadian, Jacques Villeneuve. Goodyear’s first Indy Car victory came that year at Michigan in the CART Marlboro 500. Six years after his 1980 auto racing debut, Goodyear seized his first title, the 1986 North American Formula Atlantic Championship, following a season in which he won five of nine races. That same year he was named Driver of the Year by the Canadian Race Drivers Association. Goodyear currently resides in Carmel, Indiana, with his wife Leslie and their three children.

Jacques Villeneuve

Inducted 2001

Jacques Villeneuve, the brother of Gilles and uncle of Jacques, is being inducted into the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame for his excellence in snowmobile racing as well as automobile racing. He is best known as the first Canadian to win a CART Indycar race at Elkart Lake, Wisconsin, in 1986) and has been World Snowmobile Champion three times. In fact, he is favoured to become the sport’s first four-time champion. Modest, friendly and full of fun, Jacques is known for his wide open, sometimes wild, driving style and his passionate desire to win every time out. He started racing in 1976 and was rookie-of-the-year in the Honda Civic championship. He won the title in 1977 b+A59efore going Formula Ford racing in 1978, where he finished second in the Jim Russell championship. In 1979 he was rookie-of-the-year in the Canadian Formula Atlantic series and won the Atlantic championship in 1980, the same year he won his first world snowmobile championship. He repeated as Formula Atlantic champion in 1981 and tried his hand at Formula One, failing unfortunately to qualify an Arrows at the Canadian Grand Prix and the U.S. Grand Prix at Las Vegas. In 1982, he was second in the Can-Am two-litre championship and won his second snowmobile title. In 1983, he won the Can-Am 5-litre title but again failed to qualify for the Canadian GP. He entered CART competition in 1984 with Hall-of-Fame member David Billes and the Canadian Tire racing team and set the series on its ear by winning the pole at the Phoenix round, setting (for that time) a world closed-course speed record in the process. Unfortunately, he crashed heavily while practicing for the Indianapolis 500 and was forced to skip that race but the Canadian Tire team returned to finish fifth in 1985. In 1986 his luck at Indy went sour again and a gearbox problem saw him finish 15th but, in the rain at Elkart Lake, he became the first Canadian to win a CART race, In all, he drove three seasons for the Canadian Tire team before leaving the CART series. In 1986, by the way, Jacques added his third snowmobile crown. Jacques is also known in snowmobile circles as having incredible mechanical ability in that winter sport. From 1986 until 1993, Jacques’ full-time auto racing career wound down but every time out, whether it was in Can Am, the Porsche Super Cup or Formula Atlantics, he qualified frequently on pole (Mont-Tremblant, Trois Rivieres), and either won (Trois Rivieres) or finished near the front. Now, Jacques is unable to be with us tonight. He is snowmobile racing in Winnipeg, naturally, it’s winter and that’s what Jacques does in the wintertime.

Image by Sébastien Desbordes via Flagworld

Eldon Rasmussen

Inducted 2001

Eldon Rasmussen was the second Canadian (after Billy Foster) to race in the Indianapolis 500. Eldon and Billy were supermodified drivers who went on to the big time after competing in the old CAMRA series (Canadian-American Modified Racing Association) that promoted races in British Columbia, Alberta and throughout the western United States. Eldon was a successful driver and continues to be a race engineer, designer, builder and fabricator. He started building at the age of 9 when he put together a soap box derby car. He then fashioned a go-kart out of part of an old Model T frame and a lawn-mower engine. He started racing seriously in 1952 on the dirt tracks of Southern Alberta. Racing on pavement in Edmonton and Calgary, he went on to make more than 600 starts with the touring CAMRA series. He won local championships on many occasions and finished second once in the CAMRA series, a circuit that boasted the likes of Foster, Art Pollard, Jim Maloy, Tom and Jerry Sneva, and Cliff Hucul of Prince George, B.C., who followed Billy and Eldon to the big track at Indianapolis. Eldon served on the CAMRA board of directors and was president of the Edmonton Auto Racing Association for many years. He moved to Indianapolis in 1967 but never gave up his Canadian citizenship or Edmonton as his racing address. He ran more than 50 USAC sprint car races before concentrating on the Indy cars. He qualified for three Indianapolis 500s in 1975, ’77 and ’79 (he renewed acquaintances with Sneva in 1975 when they came together in Turn 2 at the Brickyard, leaving Sneva’s car a twisted, smoking wreck). He qualified for 10 other 500-mile races – at Pocono, Pa., and Ontario, Calif. – and 36 other USAC short-track races for Indy cars. He retired from driving in 1979 when he was injured after cutting a tire and crashing during the Pocono 500. But Eldon is better remembered as an engineer, designer, builder and fabricator. (He says one of the reasons that he didn’t start driving the Indy cars sooner was because his other talents were much in demand. He had to wait four years after moving to the U.S. before he started to drive Indy cars because he was too busy building, tuning and repairing crashed cars for other drivers and teams.) He updated cars for various teams and designed and built his own Indy cars. A visionary, Eldon designed and built some of the first wings for the Indy 500 cars. He designed and built the wing for Gary Beck’s top-fuel dragster in 1972 that contributed to Beck’s first Top Fuel U.S. Nationals victory, and designed and built the first tall wing in NHRA racing for Joe Amato. He also designed and built the top North American Ice Racing car for Hall of Fame member Tom Jones of Thunder Bay in 1975-76, not to mention the racing motorcycle and sidecar be built for Greg Cox and Bill Davidson of Ottawa in 1975. From 1975-’80, he designed and built 172 Ras-Car rent-a-racer cars for several Mario Andretti Grand Prix International tracks and 380 Ras-Car Can-Am-style go-karts. Eldon continues to be involved with, as he puts it, “anything on wheels” and to this day he is busy building exhaust header systems for Indy cars and various types of pit equipment. And are you ready for this? Much of Sylvester Stallone’s racing film Driven was filmed at the Molson Indy here in Toronto and the person who did the powerplant conversions for the three cars the actors drove in the movie was – you guessed it – Eldon Rasmussen.

Image via Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Grant King

Grant King at 1999 Victoria Auto Racing Hall of Fame ceremonies in 1999

Inducted 1999

Grant King started building racing cars as a teenager in his hometown of Victoria, B.C. He made his first visit to the Indy 500 (with Canadian builder Rollo Vollstedt) in 1963. From then to the late eighties, Grant King was builder, crew chief or owner of dozens of Indy cars. Grant fielded USAC cars for Al Unser, Canadian Billy Foster, Len Sutton, Sheldon Kinser, Tom Sneva, Gary Bettenhausen and a memorable Pikes Peak car for Mario Andretti. One year, Grant King Racing had three entries in the Indy 500 field.

Image via Victoria Auto Racing Hall of Fame

Brad Francis

Inducted 2005

For 35 years, Brad Francis has built winning cars for every major form of racing in North America. A self-taught racing engineer, he was for 20 years an integral part of the successes of Performance Engineering of Thornhill, Ontario. (Indy, Can-Am, NHRA, shorttrack stock cars, Trans-Am). He built championship-winning IMSA and Trans-Am cars for General Motors before becoming manager of special projects for Richard Childress’ NASCAR Winston Cup Team and director of R&D for Bill Davis Racing. In 2004 Francis was Director of Safety for Rousch Racing, part of the Nextel Cup winning effort of Kurt Busch.

Photo courtesy of Margie Gerard.