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1996 Indy Racing League

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

1996 Indy Racing League season
Indy Racing League
1996 Indy Racing League
Start dateJanuary 27
End dateMay 26
Drivers' championUnited States Buzz Calkins
United States Scott Sharp
Indianapolis 500 winnerUnited States Buddy Lazier
← 1995 (ICWS)
Buzz Calkins won his first Drivers' Championship while Scott Sharp became co-champion in the championship despite Calkins having one victory.

The 1996 Indy Racing League was the first season in the history of the series, which was created and announced on March 11, 1994 by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, as a supplementary Indy-car series to the established Indy Car World Series sanctioned by Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) since 1979. It consisted of only three races, as the season concluded with the 80th Indianapolis 500 in May. Walt Disney World Speedway was completed in time to host the first ever event of the Indy Racing League (IRL), and Phoenix International Raceway switched alliances from CART to the IRL, in order to host the second event of the season. At the conclusion of the three-race schedule, Scott Sharp and Buzz Calkins ended up tied for first place in the season championship. With no tiebreaker rule in place, the two drivers were declared co-champions. Its creation, and the opposition of Indy Car's teams and drivers to take part in it, marked the start of 'the Split', a 12-year period of competition between rival series at the top level of American Open Wheel racing that had lasting negative effects in the sport.

Series news

The series was the initiative of IMS president Tony George, who had left the CART Board of Directors in January 1994 after discrepancies over the direction of Indy car racing, and its potential effect on the Indianapolis 500. The new championship would feature the marquee race, effectively removing it from the Indy Car schedule, and was to be sanctioned by the United States Auto Club, racing exclusively on oval tracks as a response to its perceived decline in recent Indy Car seasons. The Indy Racing League name was revealed on July 8, 1994, and its first set of rules was published later that year, but it encountered criticism and resistance from the established team owners that formed CART and its drivers, who derided the concept as a 'power grab' attempt from George.

On January 23, 1995, the IRL announced that the Indy 200 at Walt Disney World Speedway would host the first event of the series on January 27, 1996, on a new temporary oval track at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida. On April 3, the IRL announced that Phoenix International Raceway and the then-under construction Las Vegas Motor Speedway would be on the 1996 schedule, its dates being finalized 10 days later. On May 30, 1995, New Hampshire Motor Speedway also switched alliances from CART to IRL, completing the five races that would be held in 1996. Initially, IRL officials hoped that competitors from the rival CART series would choose to race in some or all of the IRL events, since there were no foreseen conflicts in their respective schedules.

Talks between both series in early 1995 resulted in the former delaying its new rules for 1997, instead adopting freezed regulations with 1995-and-older CART chassis with a fixed limit on how much a team could spend on its combination. However, CART would later adopt a lower-downforce philosophy for their new 1996 chassis that was similar to the delayed IRL rules (except for the initially planned engine downsizing), and announced a 1996 schedule that had multiple conflicts with the previously announced IRL dates. The race at Road America was scheduled for the same day as the IRL event at Loudon, while the races at Rio and Australia were bookended around the IRL race at Phoenix, creating an impossible travel situation.

In a controversial move, on July 3, 1995, it was announced that the top 25 drivers in IRL points would secure guaranteed starting positions for the 1996 Indianapolis 500. The '25/8 rule', intended to encourage participation at Orlando and Phoenix, left only eight positions open for at-large competitors, which was interpreted by most Indy Car teams as a de-facto 'lock out' for its 26-car field.[1] As a result, CART would later schedule a second 500-mile race at Michigan International Speedway in direct competition with the Indianapolis 500, and established that teams would be stripped of their voting rights in the Board of Directors if they competed in an IRL event. Therefore, almost all of Indy Car established drivers and teams stayed away from the upstart series, with Galles and Walker fielding additional cars at the Indy 500 without its regular drivers, in deference to their sponsors.

The IRL, nonetheless, had its sights on becoming a low-cost alternative for American drivers over the influx of foreign drivers attracted by Indy Car's increasing road racing focus, and for short-track open-wheel stars that had found the sport too expensive to compete in previous seasons, or had searched for a more viable option in stock-car racing. Only 11 of the 33 starters from the 1995 Indianapolis 500 were featured in the 1996 event, which had one Indy 500 champion (Arie Luyendyk), two former race winners, and only two full-time teams and drivers from the 1995 season. The rest of the IRL field was composed of new entrants, part-time drivers and a large contingent of rookies, which amounted for half of the starters (17 out of 33) at the Indianapolis 500, while leading detractors and most of the media to describe the event as a 'watered-down' affair.

On August 28, 1995, it was announced that the inaugural 1996 season would end at the Indianapolis 500, the plan being to spread subsequent seasons over two calendar years and award the IRL championships at the conclusion of every Indy 500. As a result, the announced races at New Hampshire and Las Vegas would in fact open the 1996–97 season in late summer. This scheduling format went against the traditional motorsports grain, and the idea was eventually scrapped in October 1996, with the 1996–97 season being expanded in order to bring the schedule back in sync with the rest of the motorsports world for 1998.

The IRL points system was to be staggered to adjust for the number of races each driver entered. The number of points awarded per race would be multiplied by the number of events the driver had participated in. If a driver entered all three events, the points awarded for that third race were multiplied by three. Despite the short season, only fifteen drivers competed in all three events, but all of them had a decent number of entrants due to the pool of older chassis made available by some of the teams with previous Indy 500 experience, as well as spare machinery being acquired from some CART teams. Ford Cosworth supplied most of the field with its V8 engines, with the rest relying on stock-block V6 units, either Buick or Menard-branded.

Teams and drivers

Team Chassis Engine Tires No. Driver(s) Rounds
United States ABF Motorsports Lola T92 Buick G 96 United States Paul Durant 2–3
United States A. J. Foyt Enterprises Lola T95 Ford Cosworth G 11 United States Scott Sharp[N 1] All
14 United States Davey Hamilton All
41 United States Mike Groff[N 2] 1–2
Lola T94 Brazil Marco Greco 3
United States Beck Motorsports/Zunne Group[N 3]
United States Beck Motorsports
Lola T94
Reynard 94I[N 4]
Ford Cosworth F 52 Japan Hideshi Matsuda 3
54 United States Robbie Buhl 1, 3
United States Blueprint Racing Lola T93 Menard F 16 United States Johnny Parsons All
27 United States Jim Guthrie 2–3
Lola T92 Buick 36 United States Dan Drinan[N 5] 2
United States Loop Hole Racing Lola T91 G 3
United States Bradley Motorsports Reynard 95I Ford Cosworth F 12 United States Buzz Calkins All
United States Brickell Racing Lola T93 Menard G 77 United States Tyce Carlson[N 6] 3
United States Byrd/LeberleTreadway Racing[N 3]
United States ByrdTreadway Racing
Reynard 95I
Reynard 94I[N 7]
Ford Cosworth F
G[N 4]
5 Netherlands Arie Luyendyk All
United States Cunningham Racing Reynard 95I
Lola T94[N 4]
Ford Cosworth F 75 United States Johnny O'Connell All
United States Della Penna Motorsports Reynard 95I Ford Cosworth G 4 United States Richie Hearn All
44 United States Scott Harrington[N 8] 3
United States DeLorto Motorsports Lola T92 Buick G 81 United States Rick DeLorto 1
United States Galles Racing Lola T95 Mercedes-Ilmor G 70 United States Davy Jones 3
United States Hemelgarn Racing Reynard 95I
Reynard 94I[N 9]
Ford Cosworth F 9 France Stéphan Grégoire All
10 United States Brad Murphey 3
91 United States Buddy Lazier All
United States Leigh Miller Racing Lola T94 Ford Cosworth F 17 United States Stan Wattles[N 10] 1–2
United States Pagan Racing Reynard 94I
Reynard 95I[N 11]
Ford Cosworth G 21 Colombia Roberto Guerrero All
99 United States Billy Boat 3
United States PDM/Automatic Sprinkler System[N 3]
United States PDM Racing
Lola T93 Menard G 18 United States John Paul Jr. All
United States Project Indy Lola T93 Ford Cosworth G 46 New Zealand Rob Wilson 3
Reynard 94I
Reynard 95I[N 12]
64 United States Johnny Unser 2–3
United States Scandia/Simon Racing[N 3]
United States Team Scandia
Lola T95
Lola T94[N 13]
Lola T93[N 14]
Reynard 95I[N 15]
Ford Cosworth G 7 Chile Eliseo Salazar[N 16] 1, 3
Spain Fermín Vélez 2
8 Italy Alessandro Zampedri 3
22 Mexico Michel Jourdain Jr. 2–3
33 Italy Michele Alboreto All
34 Spain Fermín Vélez 3
43 United States Joe Gosek[N 17] 3
90 United States Lyn St. James 1–2
United States Racin Gardner 3
United States Team Menard Lola T95 Menard F
G[N 4]
2 United States Scott Brayton[N 6] 1–2
3 United States Eddie Cheever All
20 United States Tony Stewart All
30 United States Mark Dismore 3
32 United States Danny Ongais[N 6] 3
United States Tempero–Giuffre Racing Lola T92
Lola T93[N 18]
Buick G 15 United States Bill Tempero 1
United States David Kudrave 2
United Kingdom Justin Bell[N 17] 3
25 United States David Kudrave 1
United States Billy Roe[N 19] 2
United States Walker Racing Reynard 95I Ford Cosworth G 60 United States Mike Groff 3
United States Zunne Group Racing Lola T93 Buick F 24 United States Randy Tolsma 3
Lola T94 Ford Cosworth 45 United States Robbie Buhl 2
G United States Lyn St. James 3

Team announcements/changes

  • A. J. Foyt Enterprises became the only Indy Car full-time team to join the Indy Racing League ranks for its 1996 inaugural season. The team would fill more than one car at every race for the first time since Roger McCluskey joined Foyt as teammate in the 1969 USAC Champ Car season.
  • Indianapolis business man Fred Treadway formed an alliance with Andreas Leberle, owner of the Project Indy team that had run 15 Indy Car races in two years, and Jonathan Byrd, who had lent support to a number of teams in the Indy 500 since 1985. The one-car team, initially known as Byrd/LeberleTreadway Racing, acquired a Reynard 95I acquired from Walker Racing, and a 94I that had been used by Team Green as a back-up car for Jacques Villeneuve,[2] which would eventually become the pole-sitting, record-breaking car at Indianapolis.
  • Four teams that had competed in Indy Car in a part-time basis, mainly at the Indianapolis 500, also entered the competition:
    • Team Menard, who had been running an Indy 500 one-off program with stock-block engines for a decade, planned to compete in the Indy Racing League with a two-car program. Since 1985, their only Indy Car race outside Indianapolis was the 1990 Autoworks 200 at Phoenix International Raceway, with Jim Crawford. The team bought two brand-new Lola T95 to complement their effort.[3]
    • Hemelgarn Racing also entered the Indy Racing League, competing outside Indianapolis for the first time since 1990. The team only employed Ford Cosworth powerplants, phasing out entirely the use of Buick engines after 10 years, and purchased two Reynard chassis from Chip Ganassi Racing.[3]
    • Pagan Racing, a team that had run a 3-race program in Indy Car in 1995, entered the series. The team bought a Reynard 95I chassis from Forsythe Racing, and switched to Ford Cosworth powerplants, as Mercedes declined to lease their Ilmor powerplants outside of the Indy 500.[4]
    • Beck Motorsports, a team that had debuted at the 1995 Indianapolis 500 after four years running entries for other teams, partnered with The Zunne Group, a company that tried to promote San Antonio as a racing hub, to compete in the IRL season.
  • Two teams joined the IRL from junior series: Bradley Motorsports, a family-run Indy Lights team created by the owner of Bradley Petroleum, and Della Penna Motorsports, winners of the 1995 Atlantic Championship, who also contested a partial Indy Car schedule. Both teams acquired Reynard 95I machinery; Della Penna from Arciero/Wells and Forsythe, while Bradley bought Christian Fittipaldi's 2nd place machine at the previous year's Indy 500 from Walker.[3]
  • Team Scandia was an IMSA GT outfit led by driver Andy Evans, who entered the IRL in a partnership with Indy Car team Dick Simon Racing, on which both sides would provide a full-time car each. This union was dissolved in January when Evans took full control of the team, although Simon remained as team manager. The team competed as Scandia/Simon Racing in the first race, before switching to its original name.
  • Two further teams also came from IMSA GT competition: Cunningham Racing, a team that also had experience at Le Mans, and Leigh Miller Racing, a relatively novel team with two years of experience. Cunningham was one of the few teams to make use of a brand-new 1995 car during the season.
  • Blueprint Aircraft Engines, an independent engine builder owned by former drag racer Ed Rachanski, entered the series as Team Blueprint, being later renamed to Blueprint Racing.
  • Three weeks before the inaugural IRL race, long-time chief mechanics Paul Diatlovich and Chuck Buckman led the formation of a new race team, which would be known as PDM Racing. The team had bought the assets of the defunct Leader Card team, on which Diatlovich had been the Team Manager for its last three years.[5]
  • With the support of Frank and Dominic Giuffre, owners of a crane company and past Indy-backers, veteran driver Bill Tempero was able to set-up his own team, Tempero–Giuffre Racing. Out of all the driver-owner teams coming from the American Indycar Series, Tempero–Giuffre was the only one able to start an IRL race.
  • On February, Beck Motorsports and Zunne Group ended their partnership. As Zunne Group was the legal owner of the cars employed by Beck, the team retained them to compete on their own, partnering with McCormack Motorsports to run the operation, and Beck had to sat out the Phoenix race while looking for new machinery.
  • On February 13, Andreas Leberle stepped out of his partnership with Jonathan Byrd and Fred Treadway, as he desired to compete in selected events in the Indy Car World Series, while Treadway and Byrd wanted to concentrate exclusively on the IRL. From then on, the team was known as ByrdTreadway Racing, while Project Indy competed independently in the IRL.
  • On February 26, ABF Motorsports was registered as a new team under the leadership of Canadian owner Art Boulianne, a former super-modified driver.[6]
  • At some point between the Phoenix and Indianapolis races, Leigh Miller Racing's assets were bought by Beck Motorsports in order to compete at the Indy 500.[7]
  • On April, Galles Racing and Walker Racing, two teams competing in Indy Car, entered the Indianapolis 500 because of sponsorship commitments. Walker's main sponsor, Valvoline, was also a sponsor of the race telecast on ABC, while Delco Electronics, primary sponsor for Galles, was based in Indiana.[8] Galles would have the only Mercedes-Ilmor engine in the field.
  • After supporting Dan Drinan's entry at Phoenix, Loop Hole Racing entered the IRL for an Indy 500-only effort. The team owned by David & Bud Hoffpauir had previously competed in the Pikes Peak Hill Climb and the American Indycar Series with the same machine they entered for the race, a formerly Alfa Romeo-powered Lola T91 bought from the defunct Leader Card team in 1994.[3]

Driver announcements/changes

Season summary


All races were run on Oval/Speedway. ABC Sports televised all three races. IMS Radio Network was the broadcaster for all races on the radio.

Rd Date Race Name Track City
1 January 27 Indy 200 at Walt Disney World Walt Disney World Speedway Bay Lake, Florida
2 March 24 Dura Lube 200 Phoenix International Raceway Phoenix, Arizona
3 May 26 80th Indianapolis 500 Indianapolis Motor Speedway Speedway, Indiana

Race results

Rd Race Pole position Fastest lap Most laps led Race Winner Report
Driver Team
1 Walt Disney World United States Buddy Lazier United States Buzz Calkins United States Buzz Calkins United States Buzz Calkins Bradley Motorsports Report
2 Phoenix Netherlands Arie Luyendyk Netherlands Arie Luyendyk Netherlands Arie Luyendyk Netherlands Arie Luyendyk Byrd-Treadway Racing Report
3 Indianapolis United States Tony StewartA United States Eddie Cheever Colombia Roberto Guerrero United States Buddy Lazier Hemelgarn Racing Report
^A Scott Brayton was the fastest qualifier for the 1996 Indianapolis 500, but was killed during practice. Hence, second-fastest qualifier Tony Stewart started from the pole.

Driver standings

Pos Driver WDW
1 United States Buzz Calkins 1* 6 17 246
United States Scott Sharp 11 2 10 246
3 United States Robbie Buhl 3 13 9 240
4 United States Richie Hearn 19 4 3 237
Colombia Roberto Guerrero 5 16 5* 237
6 United States Mike Groff 6 3 20 228
7 Netherlands Arie Luyendyk 14 1* 16 225
8 United States Tony Stewart 2 11 24 204
9 United States Johnny O'Connell 7 5 29 192
United States Davey Hamilton 12 17 12 192
11 Italy Michele Alboreto 4 8 30 189
12 United States Lyn St. James 8 21 14 186
13 France Stéphan Grégoire 16 7 27 165
14 United States Buddy Lazier 17 Wth 1 159
15 United States John Paul Jr. 9 14 31 153
16 United States Eddie Cheever 10 Wth 11 147
17 United States Johnny Parsons 18 12 28 141
18 United States Scott Brayton 15 18 DNS 111
19 United States David Kudrave 20 10 80
20 Mexico Michel Jourdain Jr. 20 13 74
United States Jim Guthrie 15 18 74
22 Spain Fermín Vélez 19 21 60
23 Chile Eliseo Salazar Wth 6 58
24 United States Johnny Unser 9 33 56
25 United States Stan Wattles 13 Wth 44
26 United States Davy Jones 2 33
27 United States Paul Durant 22 32 32
28 Italy Alessandro Zampedri 4 31
29 United States Danny Ongais 7 28
30 Japan Hideshi Matsuda 8 27
31 United States Scott Harrington 15 20
32 United States Mark Dismore 19 16
33 United States Joe Gosek 22 13
34 United States Brad Murphey 23 12
35 United States Racin Gardner Wth 25 10
36 Brazil Marco Greco 26 9
United States Dan Drinan DNQ DNQ 0
United States Rick DeLorto DNQ 0
United States Bill Tempero DNQ 0
United States Billy Roe DNQ 0
United States Billy Boat DNQ 0
United States Tyce Carlson DNQ 0
United States Randy Tolsma DNQ 0
New Zealand Rob Wilson DNQ 0
United Kingdom Justin Bell Wth 0
Pos Driver WDW
Color Result
Gold Winner
Silver 2nd place
Bronze 3rd place
Green 4th & 5th place
Light Blue 6th–10th place
Dark Blue Finished
(Outside Top 10)
Purple Did not finish
Red Did not qualify
Brown Withdrawn
Black Disqualified
White Did not start
Blank Did not
Not competing
In-line notation
Bold Pole position
Italics Ran fastest race lap
* Led most race laps
Fatal accident
Pts1 The number of points awarded per race
would be multiplied by the number of events
the driver had participated in.

Note: Scott Brayton, 37, won the pole for the 1996 Indianapolis 500, but was killed in a crash during practice after qualifying.

See also


  1. ^ #41 at Walt Disney World.
  2. ^ #11 at Walt Disney World.
  3. ^ a b c d At Walt Disney World.
  4. ^ a b c d Used at Walt Disney World.
  5. ^ Tyce Carlson and Andy Michner passed their Indianapolis rookie test in the car.
  6. ^ a b c At the Indy 500, Scott Brayton withdrew his already qualified #2 car and won the pole in the backup #32, but was fatally injured in a practice crash and replaced by Danny Ongais, who switched from Brickell Racing. Ongais was replaced by Tyce Carlson.
  7. ^ Used at the Indianapolis 500.
  8. ^ Switched from Harrington Motorsport during practice for the Indy 500.
  9. ^ Used by Brad Murphey.
  10. ^ Injured in a practice crash at Phoenix.
  11. ^ Used by Roberto Guerrero at the Indy 500.
  12. ^ Used at Phoenix.
  13. ^ Used by Alessandro Zampedri, Joe Gosek and Racin Gardner.
  14. ^ Used by Lyn St. James at Walt Disney World.
  15. ^ Used by Michele Alboreto at Walt Disney World and Lyn St. James at Phoenix.
  16. ^ Injured in a practice crash at Walt Disney World.
  17. ^ a b Joe Gosek, first entered in the #25, switched to the #15 and replaced Justin Bell, before switching to Team Scandia during practice for the Indy 500.
  18. ^ Used by David Kudrave.
  19. ^ Replaced Racin Gardner during the event


  1. ^ "IRL: CHAMPCAR/CART: IRL press release 96–01–04". Archived from the original on 2011-06-06. Retrieved 2007-04-03.
  2. ^ "1996 Indianapolis 500 – The 239.260 car". 8W Forix. December 29, 2014. Retrieved January 16, 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d Chow, SK (October 11, 2020). "The cars of the 1996 Indy 500".
  4. ^ "The Changing Face of Racing;A Rival Indy-Car Circuit Puts a Damper on CART's Season". The New York Times. February 6, 1996. Retrieved January 16, 2019.
  5. ^ "PDM Racing, Inc". Indy Racing League. 1997. Archived from the original on 1997-02-16. Retrieved January 16, 2019.
  6. ^ "ABF Motorsports". Indy Racing League. 1996. Archived from the original on 1997-02-16. Retrieved January 16, 2019.
  7. ^ "Becks take on daunting task as a family". The Indianapolis Star. May 17, 1996. Retrieved January 16, 2019.
  8. ^ "Mike Groff, Davy Jones Only Drivers From CART Teams". The Associated Press. May 15, 1996. Retrieved January 16, 2019.
  9. ^ "Walt Disney World entry list (TENTATIVE)". January 6, 1996. Retrieved January 16, 2019.
  10. ^ "Indy Racing League Seeking Magic in Debut at Disney". The New York Times. January 21, 1996. Retrieved January 16, 2019.
  11. ^ "Two Teams To Double-Dip". SWX Right Now. April 7, 1996. Retrieved January 16, 2019.
  12. ^ "Support Races Add Excitement to Grand Prix". Los Angeles Times. April 11, 1996. Retrieved January 16, 2019.
This page was last edited on 28 November 2020, at 08:23
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