F. Gordon Crosby - G.P. Racing's Post-War Boom

Road racing in America has taken a back seat to oval racing held at venues such as Daytona and Indianapolis but with talk of a return of the United States GP and the continued growth of Formula One in the rest of the world Grand Prix History will take the opportunity to look back upon a time when Americans went Grand Prix racing.



Vanderbilt CupFormula One racing has long been an exiting spectacle to behold. With cars blazing at speed in excess of 200mph, pulling turns at more than 5 g-forces, and always having the possibility to end in disaster, F1 racing keeps fans on the edge of their seats from start to finish. Only the best drivers in the world would even attempt to climb into an F1 car, and if that driver isn’t up for the task, Darwin’s theory is on full display as they’re inevitably weeded out. This true and unforgiving version of survival of the fittest pulls in fanfare from every corner of the globe. However, the sport varies from country to country. In Europe and other countries around the world, the Formula One World Championship series, the highest class sanctioned by the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile, is all the rage. But in the United States of America, the IndyCar Series, similar to F1, takes precedence. And they both bow out to NASCAR. Although the two respective leagues are extremely similar, many F1 faithful can quickly spot the differences in cars, tracks, and even drivers. The two leagues are wholly separate when it comes to circuits. For example, the Indy 500 (IndyCar Series) is not a Grand Prix race (F1). But the two worlds do collide every so often, when F1 includes an American track as part of their circuit.

Grand Prix racing is motorsport in its most highly evolved form. It is the best drivers on the most challenging circuits racing the most technologically advanced cars in the world. There is no greater prestige in auto racing than to be Formula One world champion. Though two Americans have been World Champions, Phil Hill and Mario Andretti, America's long rich history of Grand Prix competition is sometimes forgotten.

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Started in 1908, 42-years previous to F1’s official inception, the United States Grand Prix began. At first, the race was known as the American Grand Prize. Today, the race is a sometimes-included part of the Formula One World Championship circuit. The first 8 years of this race were known as the Grand Prize, but after proving to be unspectacular to many, it dissolved. In 1958, the United States Grand Prix took its place and was held at Riverside International Raceway in California. It instantly became famous among Americans when hometown hero Chuck Daigh, driving a Scarab, defeated Dan Gurnery’s Ferrari. The next year, the first Formula One American Grand Prix was organized and held on a road course at Sebring, Florida. The popularity gained due to Daigh’s win in ’58 wasn’t reproduced the following year, and just like 1916, 1959 would once again see the dissolution of America’s attempt at Grand Prix hosting.

Now 0-for-2, not even the most daring gambling man would bet on America playing host to a Grand Prix again. Nevertheless, Alec Ulmann, director of the Florida attempt, tried it again the very next year. 1960 would bring the race back to Riverside, but despite Stirling Moss’ excellent performance, the race still failed to lure in fans. Undeterred, there was yet another attempt to integrate F1 into American culture. Cameron Argetsinger hosted the 1961 event at one of America’s most famous road courses, Watkins Glen in New York. This course and this atmosphere proved to be the perfect combination, and the race was a smashing success. Over the next 20 years, Watkins Glen became a fixture on the circuit. But due to faster F1 cars, the road course was ill-equipped to handle the new technology. In 1981, Watkins Glen was removed from the F1 calendar.

US Grand Prix

Formula One has been back to the states since then, with Phoenix, Arizona playing host to the Phoenix street circuit from 1989 to 1991. However, due to horrifically poor attendance in ’91, F1 abandoned America and did not return for nearly a decade. As a way to bring the new millennium in with a bang, F1 paid a visit to America’s most famous racetrack, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, home of the Indy 500. The race was held in front of a crowd of 225,000 spectators, shattering all previous attendance records for an F1 Grand Prix. The race was held again at Indy in 2001, ’02, and again in ’04 and ’05. But during the 2005 running, problems with Michelin tires caused 7 teams to withdraw from competition. When the race was scheduled to run against the next year, many thought it was a joke, but the 2006 race went off without a hitch. F1 returned in 2007, but after failing to reach an agreement with the Speedway, F1 backed out and hasn’t returned since. On the 18th of November Formula 1 will return to the United States to race on the Circuit of the Americas in Austin Texas.

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Christie   Dallas Long Island San Francisco   Vanderbilt Cup 1904-1910
AAR Eagle   Detroit Phoenix Santa Monica   American Grand Prize 1908-1916
Duesenberg   Las Vegas Riverside Savannah   A.C.F. Grand Prix - 1921
Locomobile   Long Beach Roosevelt Raceway Sebring   The George Vanderbilt Cup
Miller     Watkins Glen   Race of Two Worlds
Penske         The United States Grand Prix