The Grand Prix of Cleveland was an Indy car event in the CART series, held annually at Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland, Ohio. The race celebrated its milestone 25th anniversary in 2006. The race was most recently held in 2007. After the 2008 open wheel unification, the 2008 race had to be cancelled. Attempts to revive the race have not yet come to fruition.[1][2][3]

Normally a fully functioning airport year-round, Burke Lakefront Airport was shut down for the week leading up to the event each year, requiring careful maintenance of the runways in order to keep them safe for cars at high speeds. The race was very popular amongst fans, as the long, wide, runways (much wider and longer than typical courses) allowed for side-by-side racing, fast speeds, and superb passing zones around the entire track. The layout and overall flatness of the circuit also allowed a view of nearly the entire course from the grandstands. The track was less popular with drivers, as the runways were much bumpier than normal asphalt courses. The first turn, in which the runway narrowed and the cars turned at an almost 45 degree angle at the end of the front straight, was seen as one of the toughest in the circuit.

History as a CART/ChampCar race

Originally known as the Budweiser Cleveland 500, it was first held on July 4, 1982 as part of the CART series. Kevin Cogan started from pole position, however to the delight of the Cleveland crowd, local rookie driver Bobby Rahal (from nearby Medina) won the race.

From 1982 to 1989, the race was held on a 2.48-mile layout.[4] In 1990, the track configuration was abruptly changed. After practice, several cars were experiencing problems in a bumpy section in turns one and two. Prior to the start of the race, the track was slightly reconfigured, eliminating the left-right combination of turns one and two. The main straight was extended towards the location of what was turn three, which then became turn one. The new layout measured 2.369 miles, and the segment eliminated became instead an extended exit to the pit road. The new layout was then adopted permanently. In 1997 the track length was remeasured to 2.106 miles without visible changes on the layout. The current layout is known for its turn 1 "vortex" at the start of races - after the green flag dropped, drivers would fan out on the wide concrete to gain position and then arrive at the corner sometimes five or six cars abreast, and all at once be "sucked" into the apex of the corner, frequently resulting in multi-car crashes at or just past the corner and leading to cars retiring before completing a single lap of the race.

The event's name has changed several times over the years to reflect naming rights sponsors of the race, however from 1984 the event has been principally known as the Cleveland Grand Prix. The name was switched around in 1992 to Grand Prix of Cleveland and has remained the same since.

Twice, in 1984 and 1990, a round of IROC was held as a support race. Formula Lightning also participated as a support race in the mid-1990s.

Budweiser retained naming rights through 1994. Cleveland-based pharmacy chain owned the rights from 1995 to 1999, Marconi (now Telent plc) from 2000 to 2002, and US Bank owned them from 2003 to 2007. The full name of the 2006 event was Grand Prix of Cleveland presented by US Bank.

In 2007, it was announced the race would continue at Cleveland through to 2012.[5] However, the race did not return in 2008 with the merger between the Champ Car and IndyCar.

2006: 25th anniversary

The 25th running of the Grand Prix of Cleveland was held in June 2006. As well as the Champ Car race, scheduled support events included Champ Car Atlantic, Formula Ford 2000 and Touring Challenge for Corvettes. It was commemorated by a painting of memorable grand prix events, with the background being every winning car entering the first turn.

Indy Racing League controversy

The Cleveland Grand Prix nearly went to the IRL in 2000, but the plan was eventually scuttled. CART officials elected to drop the race from the schedule after a dispute with the promoter over the sanctioning fee.[6]

On June 29, 1999, it was announced that the race would switch alliances and become an event on the Indy Racing League schedule for 2000. The original course layout would be transformed into an oval configuration approximately 1.2 miles in length. A three-year initial contract was signed. The decision was not well received by fans. Weeks later, however, it was determined that construction necessary for the oval configuration would require FAA approval, and the city deemed the improvements excessive and not enhancing to the airport. On September 9, 1999, Cleveland Mayor Michael R. White announced he was withdrawing his support of the project, and the IRL dropped the event. In 2000, the race returned as a Champ Car event on the original course.

Past race winners

Season Race Winner Winning Car Winning Team Report
1982 United States Bobby Rahal March-Ford-Cosworth TrueSports
1983 United States Al Unser Penske-Ford-Cosworth Penske Racing
1984 United States Danny Sullivan Lola-Ford-Cosworth Doug Shierson Racing
1985 United States Al Unser, Jr. Lola-Ford-Cosworth Doug Shierson Racing
1986 United States Danny Sullivan March-Ford-Cosworth Penske Racing
1987 Brazil Emerson Fittipaldi March-Chevrolet-Ilmor Patrick Racing
1988 United States Mario Andretti Lola-Chevrolet-Ilmor Newman/Haas Racing
1989 Brazil Emerson Fittipaldi Penske-Chevrolet-Ilmor Patrick Racing
1990 United States Danny Sullivan Penske-Chevrolet-Ilmor Penske Racing
1991 United States Michael Andretti Lola-Chevrolet-Ilmor Newman/Haas Racing
1992 Brazil Emerson Fittipaldi Penske-Chevrolet-Ilmor Penske Racing
1993 Canada Paul Tracy Penske-Chevrolet-Ilmor Penske Racing
1994 United States Al Unser, Jr. Penske-Ilmor Penske Racing Report
1995 Canada Jacques Villeneuve Reynard-Ford-Cosworth Team Green Report
1996 Brazil Gil de Ferran Reynard-Honda Jim Hall Racing
1997 Italy Alex Zanardi Reynard-Honda Chip Ganassi Racing
1998 Italy Alex Zanardi Reynard-Honda Chip Ganassi Racing Report
1999 Colombia Juan Pablo Montoya Reynard-Honda Chip Ganassi Racing
2000 Brazil Roberto Moreno Reynard-Ford-Cosworth Patrick Racing
2001 United Kingdom Dario Franchitti Reynard-Honda Team KOOL Green Report
2002 Canada Patrick Carpentier Reynard-Ford-Cosworth Team Player's Report
2003 France Sébastien Bourdais Lola-Ford-Cosworth Newman/Haas Racing Report
2004 France Sébastien Bourdais Lola-Ford-Cosworth Newman/Haas Racing Report
2005 Canada Paul Tracy Lola-Ford-Cosworth Forsythe Championship Racing Report
2006 United States A. J. Allmendinger Lola-Ford-Cosworth Forsythe Racing Report
2007 Canada Paul Tracy Panoz-Cosworth Forsythe Racing Report

Lights/Atlantics winners

Season Series Race Winner
1987 American Racing Series Belgium Didier Theys
1988 American Racing Series Argentina Juan Manuel Fangio II
1990 American Racing Series Canada Paul Tracy
1991 Indy Lights United States Mark Smith
1992 Indy Lights France Franck Fréon
1993 Indy Lights United States Bryan Herta
1994 Indy Lights United States Eddie Lawson
1995 Indy Lights Canada Greg Moore
1996 Indy Lights Brazil Gualter Salles
1997 Atlantic Championship Canada
1998 Atlantic Championship Canada
1998 Indy Lights Brazil Luiz Garcia, Jr.
1999 Indy Lights Republic of Ireland Derek Higgins
2000 Atlantic Championship United States Buddy Rice
2001 Atlantic Championship Brazil Hoover Orsi
2002 Atlantic Championship United States Ryan Hunter-Reay
2003 Atlantic Championship United States A. J. Allmendinger
2004 Atlantic Championship United Kingdom Ryan Dalziel
2005 Atlantic Championship Netherlands Charles Zwolsman
Netherlands Charles Zwolsman
2006 Atlantic Championship United States Graham Rahal
United States Graham Rahal
2007 Atlantic Championship Brazil Raphael Matos


  1. ^ "IndyCar Series - Indianapolis Star -". Indianapolis Star. Archived from the original on 2014-10-19.
  2. ^ "2008 Grand Prix of Cleveland".
  3. ^ Is time running out on reviving Cleveland's tradition of open-wheel racing? -, July 11, 2010
  4. ^ "1988 Budweiser Grand Prix of Cleveland".
  5. ^ Champ Car > News Thursday, November 8, 2007
  6. ^ "IRL takes over at Cleveland". The Indianapolis Star. June 30, 1999. p. 33. Retrieved March 24, 2016 – via access

External links