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CATEGORIES (articles) > American Motorsport > Motorsport Events For Petrolheads > United States Automobile Club (USAC) Overview

United States Automobile Club (USAC) Overview


USAC Logo

The United States Automobile Club (USAC) is an open-wheel auto racing sanctioning body. From 1956 to 1979 the USAC sanctioned the United States National Championship, and from 1956 to 1997 it sanctioned the Indianapolis 500.

It was formed when the American Automobile Association (AAA) withdrew from auto racing following the 1955 Le Mans disaster. USAC became the arbiter of rules, car design, and other matters for what it termed Championship automobile racing. This term, which sounds rather generic, in fact became a term of art describing a car built to be used in the highest level of USAC racing. For a while there was a separate series of specifications for Championship cars designed to be run on dirt, rather than paved, tracks.

USAC also became the sanctioning body for many lower levels of motor racing, including sports cars, sprint cars, midget cars, and others. Some of these series were used somewhat as a developmental league for Championship racing.

USAC was not particularly popular with a large segment of drivers, team owners, and crew members, who often found its rules, procedures, and judgements to be rather capricious and arbitrary. This feeling of ill-will came to a head in the late 1970s and led to a break between USAC and most of the Championship team owners and drivers, who formed their own organization, Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART), which began operation in 1979. Unsurprisingly, litigation ensued, in large part over which group had the right to use the term "Championship". This was eventually resolved, in favor of CART. After an attempt to form a new championship, called the Championship Racing League (CRL), was vetoed by Indianapolis Speedway management, the USAC and CART eventually settled into a relatively peaceful co-existence, with the USAC continuing to sanction to Indianapolis 500, and CART including the race in its schedule.

In 1996, when CART and the newly formed Indy Racing League split open-wheel racing into two different series, USAC became the sanctioning body of the Indy Racing League.

At the end of the 1997 Indianapolis 500, a caution flag came out. It was unclear as to whether the race would end under caution or under green flag conditions. The decision was made to go green at lap 199 of 200. When Arie Luyendyk, the race leader, arrived in turn one, the yellow caution lights still flashed even though he had been given the green and white flags by the starter. Runner-up Scott Goodyear claimed that he had assumed the race would end under caution and was surprised to see the green flag.

At the IRL's next race in Texas, Luyendyk was incorrectly scored as being two laps down from the apparent winner Billy Boat. While Boat and car owner A.J. Foyt celebrated in victory lane, Luyendyk walked onto the scene and confronted officials. Foyt slapped Luyendyk, and he fell over a flower bed. In review, Luyendyk was scored as the race winner by nearly a lap, and USAC was subsequently removed from being the IRL's sanctioning body.

While the USAC did not disappear, its influence was greatly lessened. It still continues today as a sanctioning body for some of the grassroots levels of motor racing, including the USAC Silver Crown series for tube-framed, alcohol-fueled open-wheel cars racing on dirt and paved ovals, as well as national championships for sprint and midget cars.


USAC Championship Car Series

USAC Championship Car Season Champions: (1956-1979)

  • 1956 - Jimmy Bryan Phoenix, AZ
  • 1957 - Jimmy Bryan Phoenix, AZ
  • 1958 - Tony Bettenhausen Tinley Park, IL
  • 1959 - Rodger Ward Beloit, KS
  • 1960 - A.J. Foyt Houston, TX
  • 1961 - A.J. Foyt Houston, TX
  • 1962 - Rodger Ward Beloit, KS
  • 1963 - A.J. Foyt Houston, TX
  • 1964 - A.J. Foyt Houston, TX
  • 1965 - Mario Andretti Montona, Italy
  • 1966 - Mario Andretti Montona, Italy
  • 1967 - A.J. Foyt Houston, TX
  • 1968 - Bobby Unser Colorado Springs, CO
  • 1969 - Mario Andretti Montona, Italy
  • 1970 - Al Unser Albuquerque, NM
  • 1971 - Joe Leonard San Diego, CA
  • 1972 - Joe Leonard San Diego, CA
  • 1973 - Roger McCluskey San Antonio, TX
  • 1974 - Bobby Unser Colorado Springs, CO
  • 1975 - A.J. Foyt Houston, TX
  • 1976 - Gordon Johncock Hastings, MI
  • 1977 - Tom Sneva Spokane, WA
  • 1978 - Tom Sneva Spokane, WA
  • 1979 - A.J. Foyt Houston, TX

USAC Silver Crown Series

USAC Silver Crown Series Champions

  • 1971 - George Snider Fresno, CA
  • 1972 - A.J. Foyt Houston, TX
  • 1973 - Al Unser Albuquerque, NM
  • 1974 - Mario Andretti Montona, Italy
  • 1975 - Jimmy Caruthers Anaheim, CA
  • 1976 - Billy Cassella
  • 1977 - Larry Rice Linden, IN
  • 1978 - Pancho Carter Racine, WI
  • 1979 - Bobby Olivero Lakewood, CA
  • 1980 - Gary Bettenhausen Tinley Park, IL
  • 1981 - Larry Rice Linden, IN
  • 1982 - Ken Schrader Fenton, MO Fortune #39
  • 1983 - Gary Bettenhausen Tinley Park, IL
  • 1984 - Dave Blaney Wooster, OH
  • 1985 - Rick Hood Fortune #39
  • 1986 - Jack Hewitt Troy, OH Hampshire #63
  • 1987 - Jack Hewitt Troy, OH Hampshire #63
  • 1988 - Steve Butler Kokomo, IN
  • 1989 - Chuck Gurney Heyward, CA
  • 1990 - Jimmy Sills Placerville, CA
  • 1991 - Jeff Gordon Vallejo, CA Ede #35
  • 1992 - Steve Butler Kokomo, IN Jarrett #10
  • 1993 - Mike Bliss Milwaukie, OR
  • 1994 - Jimmy Sills Placerville, IN
  • 1995 - Tony Stewart Columbus, IN Boles #25
  • 1996 - Jimmy Sills Placerville, CA Stanton #75
  • 1997 - Dave Darland Lincoln, IN Foxco #56
  • 1998 - Jason Leffler Long Beach, CA Goetz #9
  • 1999 - Ryan Newman South Bend, IN Ede #14
  • 2000 - Tracy Hines New Castle, IN Riggs #37
  • 2001 - Paul White Temple, TX Cook #10
  • 2002 - J.J. Yeley Phoenix, AZ Stewart/East #9
  • 2003 - J.J. Yeley Phoenix, AZ Stewart/East #9
  • 2004 - Dave Steele Tampa, FL Stewart/East #9
  • 2005 - Dave Steele Tampa, FL Stewart/East #9

USAC Sprint Car Series

USAC Sprint Car Series Champions

From 1956-1960 the USAC National Sprint Car Championship was divided into two divisions (Midwest and East).

  • 1956 - Pat O'Connor North Vernon, IN (Midwest Champion)
  • 1956 - Tommy Hinnershitz Muhlenberg, PA (East Champion)
  • 1957 - Elmer George Hockerville, OK (Midwest Champion)
  • 1957 - Bill Randall North Reading, MA (East Champion)
  • 1958 - Eddie Sachs Allentown, PA (Midwest Champion)
  • 1958 - Johnny Thomson Lowell, MA (East Champion)
  • 1959 - Don Branson Rantoul, IL (Midwest Champion)
  • 1959 - Tommy Hinnershitz Muhlenberg, PA (East Champion)
  • 1960 - Parnelli Jones Texarkana, AR (Midwest Champion)
  • 1960 - A.J. Foyt Houston, TX (East Champion)
  • 1961 - Parnelli Jones Texarkana, AR
  • 1962 - Parnelli Jones Texarkana, AR
  • 1963 - Roger McCluskey San Antonio, TX
  • 1964 - Don Branson Rantoul, IL
  • 1965 - Johnny Rutherford Coffeyville, KS
  • 1966 - Roger McCluskey San Antonio, TX
  • 1967 - Greg Weld Kansas City, MO
  • 1968 - Larry Dickson Marietta, OH
  • 1969 - Gary Bettenhausen Tinley Park, IL
  • 1970 - Larry Dickson Marietta, OH
  • 1971 - Gary Bettenhausen Tinley Park, IL
  • 1972 - Sammy Sessions Nashville, MI
  • 1973 - Rollie Beale Toledo, OH
  • 1974 - Pancho Carter Racine, WI
  • 1975 - Larry Dickson Marietta, OH
  • 1976 - Pancho Carter Racine, WI
  • 1977 - Sheldon Kinser Bloomington, IN
  • 1978 - Tom Bigelow Whitewater, WI
  • 1979 - Greg Leffler Winchester, IN
  • 1980 - Rich Vogler Chicago, IL
  • 1981 - Sheldon Kinser Bloomington, IN
  • 1982 - Sheldon Kinser Bloomington, IN
  • 1983 - Ken Schrader Fenton, MO Fortune #39
  • 1984 - Rick Hood Fortune #39
  • 1985 - Rick Hood Fortune #39
  • 1986 - Steve Butler Kokomo, IN Stoops #6
  • 1987 - Steve Butler Kokomo, IN Stoops #1
  • 1988 - Steve Butler Kokomo, IN Stoops #1
  • 1989 - Rich Vogler Chicago, IL Hoffman #69
  • 1990 - Steve Butler Kokomo, IN Hoffman #69
  • 1991 - Robbie Stanley Stanley #7
  • 1992 - Robbie Stanley Stanley #1
  • 1993 - Robbie Stanley Hoffman #69
  • 1994 - Doug Kalitta Ypsilanti, MI Kalitta #22k
  • 1995 - Tony Stewart Columbus, IN Niebel #20
  • 1996 - Brian Tyler Parma, MI Contos #4c
  • 1997 - Brian Tyler Parma, MI Contos #4c
  • 1998 - Tony Elliott Warsaw, IN Walker/Vance #2 & Conroy #12
  • 1999 - Dave Darland Lincoln, IN Hoffman #69
  • 2000 - Tony Elliott Warsaw, IN Walker #66
  • 2001 - J.J. Yeley Phoenix, AZ GT #76
  • 2002 - Tracy Hines New Castle, IN Hoffman #69
  • 2003 - J.J. Yeley Phoenix, AZ Stewart #20
  • 2004 - Jay Drake Santa Maria, CA Stewart #20
  • 2005 - Levi Jones Olney, IL Benic #2B

USAC National Midget Series

USAC National Midget Series Champions

  • 1956 - Shorty Templeman Pueblo, CA
  • 1957 - Shorty Templeman Pueblo, CA
  • 1958 - Shorty Templeman Pueblo, CA
  • 1959 - Gene Hartley Roanoke, IN
  • 1960 - Jimmy Davies Glendale, CA
  • 1961 - Jimmy Davies Glendale, CA
  • 1962 - Jimmy Davies Glendale, CA
  • 1963 - Bob Wente St. Louis, MO
  • 1964 - Mel Kenyon Lacon, IL
  • 1965 - Mike McGreevy Hoosick, NY
  • 1966 - Mike McGreevy Hoosick, NY
  • 1967 - Mel Kenyon Lacon, IN
  • 1968 - Mel Kenyon Lacon, IN
  • 1969 - Bob Tattersall Pennsbury, PA
  • 1970 - Jimmy Caruthers Anaheim, CA
  • 1971 - Danny Caruthers
  • 1972 - Pancho Carter Racine, WI
  • 1973 - Larry Rice Linden, IN
  • 1974 - Mel Kenyon Lacon, IL
  • 1975 - Ron "Sleepy" Tripp
  • 1976 - Ron "Sleepy" Tripp
  • 1977 - Mel Kenyon Lacon, IL
  • 1978 - Rich Vogler Chicago, IL
  • 1979 - Steve Lotshaw
  • 1980 - Rich Vogler Chicago, IL
  • 1981 - Mel Kenyon Lacon, IL
  • 1982 - Kevin Olson Machesney Park, IL
  • 1983 - Rich Vogler Chicago, IL
  • 1984 - Tom Bigelow Whitewater, WI
  • 1985 - Mel Kenyon Lacon, IL
  • 1986 - Rich Vogler Chicago, IL
  • 1987 - Kevin Olson Machesney Park, IL
  • 1988 - Rich Vogler Chicago, IL Jonathan Byrd
  • 1989 - Russ Gamester Peru, IN Gamester #46
  • 1990 - Jeff Gordon Vallejo, CA Helmling #4
  • 1991 - Mike Streicher Streicher #8
  • 1992 - Stevie Reeves Speedway, IN Wilke #11
  • 1993 - Stevie Reeves Speedway, IN Lewis #9
  • 1994 - Tony Stewart Columbus, IN Potter #6
  • 1995 - Tony Stewart Columbus, IN Lewis #9
  • 1996 - Kenny Irwin, Jr. Indianapolis, IN Lewis #91
  • 1997 - Jason Leffler Long Beach, CA Willoughby #71
  • 1998 - Jason Leffler Long Beach, CA Lewis #9
  • 1999 - Jason Leffler Long Beach, CA Lewis #9
  • 2000 - Kasey Kahne Enumclaw, WA Lewis #91
  • 2001 - Dave Darland Lincoln, IN Lewis #9
  • 2002 - Dave Darland Lincoln, IN Lewis #9
  • 2003 - J.J. Yeley Phoenix, AZ Lewis #9
  • 2004 - Bobby East Brownsburg, IN Lewis #9
  • 2005 - Josh Wise Brownsburg, IN Stewart #20w



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