Champ Car, short for Championship Car, is a class in the American Championship Car Racing. The American Automobile Association was formed in 1909 and established the national driving championship for auto racing in the United States. The United States Automobile Club (USAC) was created in 1956 and took over the responsibilities of the AAA. USAC controlled the championship until 1979. That same year, CART, short for Championship Auto Racing Teams, began operating its own competing series. They were originally known as the CART PPG IndyCar World Series and later, the CART FedEx Championship Series.
CART broke away from the USAC due to disgruntled car owners who were upset with the USAC and saw them as an in-cable sanctioning body. Their grief's stemmed from the small purses and the poor promotional tactics of the USAC. The effort was spear-headed by racing legend, dan Gurney, who devised a blueprint for the organization, which would later become known as the 'Gurney White Paper.' The paper outlined ways to increase the purse sizes, negotiate television rights, and to have seats on the USAC's governing body. Gurney, along with other team owners such as Roger Penske and Pat Patrick brought their demands to the USAC. Their proposal was rejected and so the team owners formed the new series, CART. Many of the teams that had been racing in the USAC quickly joined the CART series, which held their inaugural season in 1979. An agreement with the SCCA (Sports Car Club of America) established them as the sanctioning body for the new series.
CART enjoyed an early success and controlled most of the races and the big name teams and drivers. In the early 1990s, a dispute was had between CART and Tony George, the owner of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and president of Hulman & Company. Tony George introduced a new series, the IRL which began racing in 1996. The IRL was a lower-cost open-wheel alternative to CART. Part of the dispute was that CART had become dominated by mutli-car teams that had tremendous financial backing, similar to Formula 1. IRL was created as an alternative, giving the smaller teams an opportunity to compete. Just as with most sports, the IRL has now become dominated by the wealthy teams able to field multiple cars and rely on the latest and greatest technology available.
When IRL began, there were only three races throughout the season. The big race, the Indianapolis 500, was George's Trump card. The team was competed by small teams that did not have the same well-established names as the CART series. The media was reluctant to get behind the series and promote its efforts, with so many 'no names' and so few races. The schedule eventually expanded and the list of drivers and their caliber improved. By 2000, IRL had been attracting drivers from the CART series, and by 2003, the CART series had gone bankrupt. Their title sponsorship, FedEx had abandoned them, as well as many other teams and sponsors. CART liquidated their assists beginning in 2003, with Tony George being one of the individuals bidding for a share of the defunct CART Company. In the end, it was the Open Wheel Racing Series (OWRS) group that became the purchaser of CART. OWRS would later change its name to Champ Car World Series. It is now known simply as the Champ Car World Series.
There are two series in the Indy Racing League, the IndyCar Series and the Indy Pro Series.
Champ Car is an open-wheel, single seat, racing car that has shared many similarities to Formula One cars throughout its lifespan. Throughout its history, most of the races have been held on high speed oval circuits, whereas Formula 1 cars are often run on much more complicated road course. To make the Champ Cars more suited to the oval tracks, they tend to have a longer wheelbase than the F1 cars, which gives them extra stability, thou it does decrease their agility. Another difference between the two are that ChampCars often weigh much more than F1 cars.
Since the close of the 1960s, Champ Cars have been powered by forced-induction (turbocharged) engines. F1 banned turbocharger in 1989 as a way to increase safety for drivers and spectators. By the 1970s, the turbocharged ChampCar engines were producing horsepower in excess of 1000. In 1999 and 2000, they were again approaching the 1000 horsepower figure. As horsepower increased, regulations became more strict and horsepower was decreased. In 2006, the cars produced around 750 horsepower which is similar to F1 cars.
Champcars use Methanol as their fuel source and refueling during the race is permitted. Prior to 1964, refueling was regulated which forced some cars to fill with massive amounts of fuel, exceeding 70 gallons. This lead to a devastating crash at the 1964 Indianapolis 500 which killed Dave MacDonald and Eddie Sachs.
Teams competing in Champ Car are not required to construct their own chassis. Beginning in 2007, a single 'spec' chassis will be used, the DP-01, created by Elan Technologies, which is a company owned by Don Panoz. The purpose is to reduce the cost for the teams and to create a new degree of competitiveness throughout the field.