Motorsport in the United States

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Jimmie Johnson has won Driver of the Year five times.

Motor sports are widely popular in the United States, but Americans generally ignore major international series, such as Formula One and MotoGP, in favor of home-grown racing series.

History

Americans, like the rest of the world, initially began using public streets as a host of automobile races. As time progressed it was soon discovered that these venues were often unsafe to the public as they offered relatively little crowd control. Promoters and drivers in the United States discovered that horse racing tracks could provide better conditions for drivers and spectators than public streets. The result has been long standing popularity for oval track racing while road racing has waned; however, an extensive illegal street racing culture persists.[1]

Indianapolis 500

Indianapolis Motor Speedway is among the world's premier racing facilities.[citation needed]

Historically, open wheel racing was the most popular nationwide, with the Indianapolis 500 being the most widely followed race. However, an acrimonious split in 1994 between the primary series, CART (later known as Champ Car), and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (the site of the Indy 500) led to the formation of the Indy Racing League, which launched the rival IndyCar Series in 1996. From that point, the popularity of open wheel racing in the U.S. declined dramatically.[2] The feud was settled in 2008 with an agreement to merge the two series under the IndyCar banner, but enormous damage had already been done to the sport.[3]

Notable IndyCar drivers include A. J. Foyt, Rick Mears, Mario Andretti, Michael Andretti, Al Unser, Al Unser, Jr., Bobby Unser, Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon.

NASCAR

The start of the 2015 Daytona 500, the biggest race in NASCAR

The CART-IRL feud coincided with an enormous expansion of stock car racing, governed by NASCAR, from its past as a mostly regional circuit mainly followed in the Southern U.S. to a truly national sport. NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series generally harnesses an 8 million person audience on television, as well as sold-out crowds at many tracks. In the last few years however, attendance and television ratings are down considerably. Many fans stated increasing costs of attending (tickets, hotels) and recent rule changes as reasons why they stopped attending or watching NASCAR races. The most prestigious NASCAR race is the Daytona 500 at the beginning of the season in February. Popular NASCAR drivers include Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Kyle Busch.

Formula One

Although the world's most popular form of motorsport, Formula One, is not as popular in the U.S., a F1 race was first hosted in Austin, Texas in November of 2012. The race is run at a new venue (which now also hosts MotoGP) named Circuit of the Americas. The 2012 event was the first United States Grand Prix held since 2007. A second race, called the Grand Prix of America, was to take place in Weehawken, New Jersey, designed to give a view of the New York City skyline. The race was planned for the 2013 season, but was delayed and the idea was abandoned. The United States also has two former Driver's World Champions; Phil Hill (1961) and Mario Andretti (1978). The last American to compete in F1 is Alexander Rossi in 2015.

Motorcycle

Although international street motorcycle racing does not enjoy the mainstream popularity of its all terrain cousin, motocross in the U.S., American riders have been very successful. Seven different Americans have won a combined fifteen championships in MotoGP. Eddie Lawson has won four championships (more than any other American). Five American riders have won eight Superbike World Championships.

Endurance racing

Another form of auto-racing in the United States is sports car racing. While not as popular as other forms of racing in the country, both the American Le Mans Series and the Rolex Sports Car Series operated as the premier series, now called United SportsCar Racing, of sports car endurance racing in the U.S. The former, known informally as the ALMS and sanctioned by IMSA, is based on the rules that govern the world famous 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race in France. As such, there is a typical European flair in the races and the cars that participate. The Rolex series, sanctioned by Grand-Am, has rules similar to the ALMS, but the cars themselves are ultimately different and are made with a more cost-efficient formula in mind. Among the better known sports car races in America are the 12 Hours of Sebring, 24 Hours of Daytona, and Petit Le Mans. All three races have been featured as rounds in world championships in previous years with Sebring slated to open the 2012 season of the FIA World Endurance Championship.

Other motor sports

Another one of the most popular forms of motorsports in the United States is the indigenous sport of drag racing. The largest drag racing organization, the National Hot Rod Association, boasts 80,000 members, more than 35,000 licensed competitors and nationwide television coverage.[4]

Other indigenous motorsports also enjoy major and widespread popularity. Monster truck demonstrations have a national and regional following; Monster Jam, the widest-known monster truck circuit in the United States, regularly sells out large stadiums on its national tours. Demolition derby, in which vehicles attempt to damage each other until one is left running, is primarily a local phenomenon. Figure 8 racing is a form of banger racing in which vehicles attempt to navigate a purposely intersecting track. Sprint car races feature small, specially designed vehicles with characteristic wings on top; several regional circuits exist for the sport. Dirt track racing, as opposed to most major racing circuits that use asphalt-paved tracks, enjoys local popularity. Several regional circuits also sanction competitions in tractor pulling.

The Australia-based V8 Supercars series, which uses cars roughly similar in appearance to NASCAR stock cars but runs exclusively on road courses and street circuits, expanded to the U.S. in 2013 with an event at the Circuit of the Americas.

References

  1. ^ SpeedTV.com My Take on Open Wheel Racing In America Accessed 2008-07-22
  2. ^ Oreovicz, John (2008-01-06). "American open-wheel racing held hostage: Year 13". ESPN.com. Retrieved 2008-01-06. 
  3. ^ "After 12 years of conflict, IRL and Champ Car merge". ESPN.com. Associated Press. 2008-02-22. Retrieved 2008-02-22. 
  4. ^ Inside the NHRA: NHRA: World's largest auto racing organization
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