The Meadowlands Grand Prix was a CART IndyCar race held at the Meadowlands Sports Complex in East Rutherford, New Jersey from 1984 until 1991. The event was the first major auto race in the New York City metropolitan area since the 1937 Vanderbilt Cup,[1] and came with high expectations, including the potential of rivaling the Indianapolis 500 in stature, and crowds of up to 60,000.[2][3]

After only eight years, and two separate course layouts, the event proved to be unpopular and a money-loser. Both course layouts were criticized, and the event is generally regarded as one of the worst CART races in the series' history. Despite its negative legacy, the event holds some distinctions, including a notable late-race duel between Al Unser, Jr. and Emerson Fittipaldi in 1988, and the milestone final victory for Cosworth in 1989.


In 1982, Formula One announced a race in the New York City area for the 1983 season.[4] However, the race, which was to take place in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, was first postponed, then canceled.[5] At the same time, CART and the Meadowlands Sports Complex in East Rutherford, New Jersey, with the help of Long Beach promoter , announced a race for the 1984 season.[2] The race would take place on a 15-turn, 1.682-mile (2.707 km), temporary road course set up in the parking lots around Giants Stadium.

The inaugural event's purse of $536,000 made it the richest race in CART history apart from Indianapolis.[6] The race carried high expectations, was televised nationally, and came on the heels of high-profile successes at former Formula One events in Long Beach and Las Vegas. A crowd of 50,000 was expected.[3] During practice and qualifying, drivers criticized the tight nature of the course.[7][8] The race began on a damp track, and Mario Andretti led all 100 laps to win.[9] Despite the rainy weather, 34,388 spectators watched the race.[6]

The 1985 event saw better weather and better attendance, but still fell short of expectations.[10] The organizers signed a 3-year contract to continue the race, but the circuit's parking lot nature, giving neither the park-like setting of a natural terrain road course nor the atmosphere of a downtown street race, began to draw criticism from drivers and journalists.[11] In 1988, officials changed the layout to a 1.217-mile (1.959 km) semi-oval layout surrounding Brendan Byrne Arena in an attempt to improve competition and sight lines for spectators, and the race attracted a record 45,025.[12] In addition, new race sponsor Marlboro offered a $1 million bonus for any driver who could win at the Meadowlands, Michigan, and the Marlboro Challenge in Miami in the same season;[13] no driver would ever win the bonus.

Despite the new layout and increasing purses, attendance dipped and the race failed to turn a profit.[14] The promoters considered moving the event to Washington, D. C., Miami, or Englishtown, New Jersey. The race was eventually scheduled for 1992 on a circuit in Manhattan on the roads surrounding the World Trade Center and West Street. The race was postponed until 1993 then cancelled due to cost and conflicts between sponsor Marlboro and Mayor David Dinkins' anti-tobacco advertising policies.[5][15]

Race winners

Year Date Winning Driver Chassis Engine Team Race title Report
1984 July 1 United States Mario Andretti Lola Cosworth Newman-Haas Racing Meadowlands Grand Prix
1985 June 30 United States Al Unser, Jr. Lola Cosworth Doug Shierson Racing Meadowlands United States Grand Prix
1986 June 29 United States Danny Sullivan March Cosworth Penske Racing Chase Grand Prix at the Meadowlands
1987 June 28 United States Bobby Rahal Lola Cosworth Truesports Meadowlands Indy
1988 July 24 United States Al Unser, Jr. March Cosworth Galles Racing Marlboro Grand Prix at the Meadowlands
1989 July 16 United States Bobby Rahal Lola Cosworth Kraco Racing Marlboro Grand Prix
1990 July 15 United States Michael Andretti Lola Chevrolet Newman-Haas Racing Marlboro Grand Prix at the Meadowlands
1991 July 14 United States Bobby Rahal Lola Chevrolet Galles Racing Marlboro Grand Prix

Race notes

  • 1988: Al Unser, Jr. and Emerson Fittipaldi battled at the end. The two cars touched and Fittipaldi veered into a bank of tire barriers. Unser, Jr. went on to win. The following year at Indy, the two would be involved in another late-race duel.
  • 1989: Bobby Rahal scores his only victory of the 1989 season. It was the lone victory for the "short stroke" Cosworth, and the 153rd and final race win overall for Cosworth in Indy car racing. The race was halted 5 laps early due to heavy rains and standing water on the course. Rahal held off points leader Emerson Fittipaldi for the victory.
  • 1990: Michael Andretti led 105 of the 150 laps en route to victory, in a crash-filled race. Bobby Rahal and Mario Andretti tangled and crashed on lap 41, while contender Arie Luyendyk later stuffed his car into a tire barrier trying to lap Dominic Dobson. Moments later Luyendyk missed the turn into turn one, and veered off onto an escape road. He infamously had to drive up an exit ramp into the Giants Stadium parking lot to turn around and return to the race course.
  • 1991: Bobby Rahal snaps a 34-race losing streak and wins his first CART race in nearly two years to the day of his last win (1989 Meadowlands Grand Prix). It would be the final Meadowlands Grand Prix.



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  3. ^ a b Harris, Mike (29 June 1984). "Pivotal Weekend For CART". Times-Union. Warsaw, IN. AP. p. 14. Retrieved 20 May 2011.
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  8. ^ Bickhart, Terry (1 July 1984). "U.S. Grand Prix no passing fancy". Reading Eagle. Retrieved 20 May 2011.
  9. ^ "Andretti Drives Away With Grand Prix Win". Observer-Reporter. Washington, PA. AP. 2 July 1984. p. D5. Retrieved 20 May 2011.
  10. ^ "New Jersey Grand Prix faces dubious future". Boca Raton News. 2 July 1985. p. 2C. Retrieved 8 June 2011.
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  12. ^ "Team Penske Looking Ahead". Reading Eagle. 25 July 1988. p. 25. Retrieved 8 June 2011.
  13. ^ "Extra Indy-Car Incentive". The New York Times. 20 July 1988. Archived from the original on 8 June 2011. Retrieved 8 June 2011.
  14. ^ Siano, Joseph (15 July 1991). "Rahal Wins a Third (Last?) Meadowlands Grand Prix". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 9 June 2011. Retrieved 9 June 2011.
  15. ^ Siano, Anthony (2 February 1992). "Grand Prix Gridlock: Where Else but City?". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 9 June 2011. Retrieved 9 June 2011.
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  17. ^ a b "Meadowlands Sports Complex". Ultimate Racing History. Retrieved 28 April 2011.
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  20. ^ Krejci, Martin. "International Motor Sport Association 1990 - Meadowlands (GT)". World Sports Racing Prototypes. Retrieved 28 April 2011.