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Racing World Remembers Carl Haas

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, July 8 2016
IndyCar team owner Carl Haas passed away this week. Among his many drivers was Justin Wilson. (File photo courtesy of INDYCAR)

IndyCar team owner Carl Haas passed away this week. Among his many drivers was Justin Wilson. (File photo courtesy of INDYCAR)

Carl Haas, longtime Indy car team-owner noted for his partnership with actor Paul Newman and trademark cigar, died June 29 at his home in suburban Chicago. He was 86.

Cars fielded by Haas won 107 Indy car races _ second-most all-time _ and eight season championships. The only accomplishment missing from Haas’ impressive motorsports resume was a victory in the Indianapolis 500.

“All of us at INDYCAR and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway are saddened to hear of the passing of Carl Haas,” said Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman & Co., the parent of INDYCAR and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “His contributions to our sport were immeasurable and the success of Newman/Haas Racing solidifies his place as a legend in motorsports. We send our condolences to his family and friends during this difficult time.”

Born Feb. 26, 1930, in Chicago, Haas’ infatuation with motorsports began as a sports car racer in 1952. He won 10 races at The Milwaukee Mile, the oval track where he later would serve as race promoter. He also won one of the first races at Road America in 1955 _ the iconic road-course in central Wisconsin where Haas later served on the board of directors and his drivers would win a record 10 Indy car races. He also was a longtime board member at the Sports Car Club of America and was elected into its hall of fame in 2007.

In 1967, the same year he started his race team, Haas became the exclusive American importer for Lola Cars, helping elevate the brand to prominence in U.S. racing. With Haas’ help, Lola became one of the premier Indy car chassis suppliers, collecting race wins from 1978-2006, including Indy car’s Triple Crown with Al Unser in 1978.

Haas’ team ownership path included Can-Am, Formula 5000 and Super Vee competition. Open-wheel stars Sir Jackie Stewart of Scotland, American Peter Revson, Jacky Ickx of Belgium and Australian Alan Jones all drove for Haas, who later fielded teams in Formula One and NASCAR.

While competing in Can-Am, Haas was a rival to Newman, whose passion for acting may only have been exceeded by his desire to go racing. At the request of Mario Andretti, the odd couple formed Newman/Haas Racing in 1983, competing in Indy car under Championship Auto Racing Teams sanction in what would become one of the most glamorous and successful operations in the sport’s history.

With Andretti as anchor driver, NHR won the 1984 CART championship. Andretti drove the last 12 years of his illustrious Indy car career with Newman/Haas, collecting the final 18 of his 52 victories.

“Carl had a heart of gold and a deep commitment to our sport,” Andretti said. “He earned the respect and admiration of his competitors and all those who drove for him through the years for being tenacious yet fair.

In fielding teams in various series from SCCA to Formula One, Carl always sought the best equipment, the best drivers and the best team personnel. His legacy especially in Indy cars will be his phenomenal record of victories and championships, thanks in part to the great supporting cast I just mentioned.

“When I recall the joys of my whole career, I have to include my tenure at Newman/Haas because of the people. Spending 12 seasons with Carl and (wife) Berni and Paul Newman was amazing, triumphant, relentless work and heartwarming. All of it. The sport has lost a colorful character, but Carl Haas is unforgettable. He will always be an icon in motorsports; myself and so many others have lost a dear friend.”

Andretti’s 1984 title was the first of eight Indy car championships compiled by the team. Mario’s son Michael Andretti (1991), Englishman Nigel Mansell (1993), Cristiano da Matta of Brazil (2002) and Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais (2004-07) also claimed titles under the Newman/Haas and Newman/Haas/Lanigan banners.

“As a partner of Carl’s for four years in INDYCAR, I got to know him as a generous and kind individual whose whole life’s purpose was racing,” said Midwest businessman Mike Lanigan, currently a partner in Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing in the Verizon IndyCar Series. “I have always had the respect for the man who achieved so much success on and off the track. He lived the American dream in starting his career under humble beginnings and achieved his accomplishments through hard work, long hours and determination.”

Graham Rahal completed his first four Indy car seasons with Newman/Haas/Lanigan from 2007-10, capturing his initial career win in April 2008 at St. Petersburg, Fla., at the age of 19 years, 3 months, 2 days _ still the youngest ever to win an Indy car race.

“In his time, Carl was the boss of many of racing’s greatest drivers, and for me to get to work under him for those four years was some of the greatest times of my life,” said Rahal, now driving for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing in his 10th Indy car season. “There weren’t many like Carl, and he will surely be missed.” 

Newman/Haas cars made 30 starts in the Indianapolis 500 from 1983-2011, with several notable heartbreaks. In 1985, Mario Andretti led 107 laps but finished second to the remarkable “spin-and-win” of Danny Sullivan of Team Penske. In 1987, Mario led 170 of the first 177 laps before slowing after Lap 180 with an electrical failure.

Michael Andretti finished second in 1991 after a memorable late-race battle through Turn 1 with Rick Mears. In 1992, Michael dominated the race, leading 160 laps, only to have a fuel pump break on Lap 189 while in front. In all, Newman/Haas entries led more than 800 laps at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“Carl Haas fielded cars for some of the best drivers in the world and his leadership and competitive spirit caused Newman/Haas Racing to become one of the most successful teams in our sport’s history,” said J. Douglas Boles, IMS president. “The Indy car community was fortunate to have his personality as part of its family. Mr. Haas’ legacy of excellence and winning will long be remembered.”

Michael Andretti and Bourdais each won 31 races driving for the team. “Carl was an icon to our sport and the automotive industry, and I owe a great deal of my career’s success to my time with Carl and the Newman/Haas family,” said Michael Andretti, co-owner of Andretti Herta Autosport in the Verizon IndyCar Series. “Paul and Carl built what was undoubtedly one of the greatest teams in history; I am truly honored to have been a part of the legacy they built.”

Bourdais won four consecutive CART championships (2004-07) driving for Newman/Haas Racing. “It is with great sadness that I heard the news of Carl’s passing,” said Bourdais, currently driving for KVSH Racing in the Verizon IndyCar Series. “Back in 2002, Carl gave me the opportunity of a lifetime when he hired me to drive the second Newman/Haas Racing car in CART for the 2003 season. He did so with no sponsor to run the car, and I will be forever grateful for the faith he placed in me.

“From 2003 to the end of 2007, the whole team became a real family to me, thanks to him, Berni and Paul, who had successfully assembled the best group of guys I ever worked with. Today, I can only feel privileged to have been able to contribute with poles, wins and championships to Carl’s racing legacy. My deepest condolences to Berni and their family. Carl, you will be dearly missed.”

The late Justin Wilson of England scored NHR’s final victory in August 2008 at Belle Isle Park in Detroit. Newman/Haas Racing logged its final year of Indy car competition in 2011.

“I was lucky enough to drive for Carl in the three different seasons (2005, ’09, 11) and during those years all the conversations I had with him were priceless,” said Oriol Servia, the Spaniard who finished second to Bourdais in the 2005 championship. “He was loved and appreciated by everyone that ever worked for him. He had high loyalty standards and all his partnerships with manufacturers, sponsors, Paul Newman and with his long life partner and wife, Berni Haas, are a clear proof of it and should serve as an example to the rest of the racing and business community.”

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to: Alzheimer’s Association, 8430 W. Bryn Mawr, Suite 800m Chicago, Ill. 60631 (phone (847) 933-2413); or to the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp (http://www.holeinthewallgang.org), the charity begun in 1988 by Newman to serve children with life-threatening illnesses.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, July 8 2016
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