The Rear Engine Revolution

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Indy Split is a fascinating, authoritative and overdue account of the big money battle that nearly destroyed the sport of Indy car racing. The book traces the roots of Indy car racing’s dysfunction, which began in 1945 when Tony Hulman rescued the Indianapolis Motor Speedway from potential redevelopment. In this post, read about changes in ownership as an early cause of tension. Indy Split is coming May 2021!

An underlying reason for the tension between the car owners and the governing body was a changing of the guard in the owners themselves.
When USAC took over control of the sport in the 1950s, car owners, including J.C. Agajanian, John Zink, and Al Dean, were often wealthy sportsmen who financed race teams out of their own pockets, more or less as a hobby. For the new breed of owners, racing was a business every much as it was a sport, and as such, they needed their on-track exploits to at least be self-sustaining, if not profitable.
Men like Dan Gurney, Colin Chapman, Jim Hall, and Bruce McLaren revolutionized the sport not only with the technologically advanced racing cars they produced, but with the business-first mindset they possessed. At the same time, Roger Penske was among those who were instrumental in establishing the advent of corporate sponsorships to support the increasing costs. Penske sold his first sponsorship to Dupont Corp in the early 1960s and his Formula 1-based Cooper sports car was rechristened the Zerex Special. When Penske won a series of high-profile races in the controversial car, the publicity value Dupont gained from the sponsorship justified the money it invested.
The flashpoint that ignited the conflict in philosophies was the rear-engine revolution of the 1960s, but the animosity among the old guard was still bubbling away in the late ’70s, as noted by historian Forrest Bond. “USAC saw the new cars and the new owners as violators of sacred tradition, and ultimately as revolutionaries,” Bond wrote. “Conversely, the new owners saw USAC as out of touch with reality, resisting change at Indy simply because it was change, and obstinately converting midgets and sprints into vintage racing.”