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Thursday, July 07, 2016

RECALLING CARL


(July 10 will mark the 10th anniversary of this blog. As is my custom, I had planned a special posting for this occasion. That must wait. Carl A. Haas has died and that's where minds should be now. For those not aware, I first got to know Carl when I was CART's communications director. I then worked with Carl as a sponsor PR rep from 1984 (when we won the PPG Cup championship with Mario Andretti and Budweiser) through 1987. After a year away when my great friend Al Holbert asked me to come with him and work the Quaker State Porsche IndyCar program -- Al died in a private airplane crash that September -- I rejoined Carl as Newman/Haas Racing's PR director. We had two more championships, Michael Andretti in 1991 and Nigel Mansell in 1993, and I was there through the 1995 season. I see the Internet filled with various tributes to Carl -- and he should have tributes -- and I observe some to be less than the best and that's another thing to be sad about at this time. In January 2008 Carl made one of his last public appearances at the AARWBA All-America Team ceremony in Indianapolis. I was the event's chairman and asked Carl to attend as he would receive the Pioneer In Racing Award. So what I have decided to do here is share the text of my introduction and recap (remember, this was January 2008) of Carl's many accomplishments. A photo of Carl at the event is below. You can read more about Carl: http://www.haasauto.com/pages.php?pageid=7 . God Bless Berni Haas for her dedication in the role of Alzheimer's patient caregiver, something we had in common. I sure hope Carl and Paul Newman are once again enjoying each other's company and love of racing. Thank you Carl, Berni and Paul for allowing me to be a very small part of your historic racing success.) 

AARWBA Remarks, January 2008:

On the morning of May 26, 1985, Carl Haas was featured on the cover of the Chicago Tribune’s Sunday magazine.

Carl’s Beatrice Lola didn’t win the Indy 500 that day. Danny Sullivan edged Mario Andretti by 3 seconds in the famous ‘Spin and Win’. But the Tribune wrote that that Carl “is, arguably, the most successful team owner in big-time auto racing.”  It called him a “driving force.” It added, “His touch, whether on the nose of a car or the bottom line of a sales agreement, is that of Midas.”

That was 7 championships, 93 wins, and 95 poles ago.

Carl once said: "Winning is the only thing that counts. I believe the way you give yourself the best chance to win is to get the quickest driver you can, pair him with the best engineer and crew, give them a good car, and let them do their jobs."

Mario explained it this way:

"All along, Carl has had the taste for victory. Because of that, he doesn't accept anything else very well."

The record book reflects that.

Carl’s teams have won 16 major championships: 8 in CART/Champ Car – including the last four in a row – 4 in the SCCA Can-Am series; 3 in Formula 5000; and 1 in Super Vee.

His roster of drivers constitutes an auto racing Hall of Fame:

*  Mario Andretti

* Michael Andretti

* Nigel Mansell

* Jackie Stewart

* Alan Jones

* Paul Tracy

* Cristiano da Matta

* Brian Redman

* Jackie Ickx

* Peter Revson

* David Hobbs

* Patrick Tambay

* Christian Fittipaldi

* Masten Gregory

* Chuck Parsons

* Skip Scott

* Sebastien Bourdais, among others.

In 1992, Carl triggered the single most audacious move in the last quarter-century of motorsports, by signing reigning world champion Nigel Mansell to come to America. Overnight, American open-wheel racing was in the spotlight around the world.

Mansell Mania created an unprecedented level of international fan and media interest in CART. 90 journalists from 9 countries covered his first test, at Phoenix, in January 1993. I remember Carl looked at the scene and whispered to me, “I think this is going to be bigger than we thought.” Paul Newman called it, “The Great Adventure.” The 1993 PPG Cup, 4 consecutive oval wins, and an unforgettable month of May sensation at Indianapolis followed.   

And if you don’t remember some of those other driver names – like Masten Gregory – believe me, they were tremendous racers.

Carl’s worked with many of the top manufactuers, including Ford, Honda, Toyota and Chevrolet.

And Carl’s list of sponsors would be the envy of any CEO. They are some of the most famous names in corporate history:

*  Budweiser

* McDonald's

* Kmart

* Havoline

* Beatrice

* Eli Lilly and

* Citicorp, among others.

Carl’s other accomplishments are many:

*  Chairman of the SCCA, and member of the SCCA Hall of Fame;

*  A director on both the CART and Road America boards;

*  Formula One and NASCAR team owner. His cars scored world championships points. His cars have been on the pole for both the Indy 500 and Allstate 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

*  Promoter at Milwaukee and Houston;

*  Importer of racing cars and parts. Most noteably, Lola. The Haas Auto parts transporter has been a fixture in the paddock area for decades.  

* In 2005, AARWBA named Carl one of its 50 top newsmakers of the half-century.         

How did Carl do it all?

Paul Newman, Carl’s one-time rival team owner, and long-time partner, offered his own theory. As usual, Paul combined keen insight with his own sense of humor:   

"The core of his mind rests in his cigar, and it's a GOOD cigar."

On behalf of AARWBA, it is a pleasure to honor, as a Pioneer In Racing, Mr. Carl A. Haas.

(Below: 1. Carl Haas accepts AARWBA Pioneer In Racing Award. 2. Michael Knight, Carl Haas, Nigel Mansell, Paul Newman celebrate 1993 PPG Cup championship after race win at Nazareth Speedway.)



[ next week: 10th anniversary blog . . . ]