PERFECT PAIRING OF JACKIE STEWART, INDY TO CONTINUE AT USGP By Dan Knutson indyf1.com Special Correspondent INDIANAPOLIS, Jan. 29, 1999 -- Three-time Formula One World Champion Stewart has played many roles at Indianapolis Motor Speedway: ...
PERFECT PAIRING OF JACKIE STEWART, INDY TO CONTINUE AT USGP
By Dan Knutson indyf1.com Special Correspondent
INDIANAPOLIS, Jan. 29, 1999 -- Three-time Formula One World Champion Stewart has played many roles at Indianapolis Motor Speedway: Rookie of the Year (and almost overall winner) of the 1966 Indy 500, another strong showing in the 1967 Indy 500, calling the race on ABC-TV for 15 years, and he even drove the Ford Mustang pace car in 1979.
Now he's coming back as owner of the Stewart-Ford F1 team which will vie for victory in the inaugural United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis' new road course in 2000.
"I'm excited about going back to Indy," said Stewart, a Scottish native.
"I've had good times at Indianapolis. Indy has been kind to me. From my point of view it will be nice to go back." Stewart's love affair with Indy started 33 years ago when he nearly won the
Indianapolis 500 in his first attempt only to coast to a halt in his Bowes Seal Fast Special with about 10 laps to go.
"I think I was in the 192nd lap (of 200)," Stewart recalled. "It was an engine oil pump that went. I can't remember the name of the engine, but I think it started with F and it might have had four letters ... but that's not what I called it! We would have won that race. We were leading at the time by two laps.
"It was a very happy time for me. I won the Rookie of the Year that year, which is something I still display. I gave most of my trophies away, but I did not give the Indianapolis Rookie of the Year trophy away." Stewart was back at the Brickyard in 1967 but stopped after 168 laps with engine failure.
"The second year I was lying in second place ahead of A.J. (Foyt), and A.J. went on to win the race," Stewart said. "But my times at Indy were good times, not only as a race driver but also with ABC as a commentator because I think I was there for about 15 years."
Stewart's return to the Speedway in 2000 also marks the return of F1 to the United States for the first time since 1991.
"It's vitally important (to have a United States Grand Prix) because the United States of America is still commercially the most interesting country in the world," Stewart said. "It's of enormous importance as global corporations go -- their home being in America in many cases.
"It has always been sad to me that the United States in recent years has not had a Grand Prix. It's a great oversight by F1. I welcome enormously the return to the United States.
"(The race at Indy) is going to be a healthy part of our program, and I think it's going to please a great many of our major sponsors in the sport. I don't just mean the Stewart-Ford team. Of course it will please Ford because it's an American-based company. But Mercedes-Benz sells an immense number of cars in the U.S.A., for example, so it's very important for them as it's for Ferrari. You have to look at that commercial basis as a very important dimension of the future."
Today's multimillion-dollar world of F1 is a long way from Stewart's humble beginnings in the world of cars when, as a teen-ager, he earned three British pounds a week working in his father's gas station in Dumbarton, Scotland. Born in 1939, Stewart began racing modified street cars in 1960. He felt a bit out of place with what he perceived to be the more sophisticated drivers in England.
"I felt as if I had bits of haggis and twigs of heather growing out of my ears," he said later.
Those were ironic words from a man who would one day wear trendy fashions and be at ease with royalty and the captains of industry.
Besides, he soon was wearing victory garlands instead. Back then, Formula 3 and Formula 2 were the stepping stones to Formula 1 -- just as they are today -- although Formula 2 is now called Formula 3000.
Stewart won his first Formula 3 and Formula 2 races in 1964 and started his long association with team owner and future F1 icon Ken Tyrrell. Jackie made his F1 debut with the BRM team in 1965 (as teammate to Graham Hill, the 1966 Indy 500 winner and two-time World Champion) and won his first of 27 Grand Prix that same year.
Tyrrell was not involved in F1 at the time, but in 1968 he formed his F1 team (with Matra chassis and Ford engines) and hired Stewart as his driver. They won the World Championship in 1969. The team used a "customer car" from March for much of the 1970 season but decided to design its own car. The first Tyrrell-Ford made its debut at the Canadian Grand Prix in 1970. Stewart would go on to win the World Championships in 1971 and 1973 driving a Tyrrell-Ford, and his 27 career victories (in 99 starts) topped the record books for more than a decade.
The Tyrrell cars were built in a small wooden building--a sharp contrast from the huge complexes that make up today's F1 factories. These days, F1 teams consist of about 250 people, and about 50 of those attend the races. "When Ken Tyrrell and I went racing," Stewart said, "we had seven people for two cars!"
Stewart was one of the people who guided F1 into its modern era. He's credited with starting a major safety campaign in the 1960s. He was one of the first drivers to see the crucial link between racing and major corporations. He was a professional driver and a well-paid one. As a driver, and in later endeavors, he always gave companies superb value for their investment.
After retiring from the cockpit, Stewart became a full-time businessman. The year after he quit driving he spent 450,000 miles in the air. Along with new ventures, he continued relationships with companies such as Ford, which he's been associated with for 35 years.
Back in the 1970s, Stewart wore the latest fashions. His hair was long, and he sported his trademark corduroy cap. These days he wears business suits and, on special occasions, a kilt of the Stewart tartan.
With backing from Ford, which has an exclusive engine deal with the team, Stewart Grand Prix started racing in 1997. Jackie is the executive chairman of the team while his son Paul recently was named deputy director. Stewart Grand Prix has charted a conservative course. Jackie Stewart has said it will take about five years before the team can steadily challenge for victories.
"The Scots are just a wee bit canny," Stewart said, his melodic Scottish burr still evident despite many years of living in Switzerland. "We are always trying to slightly underplay the whole situation, and when we get success we are a hell of a pleased with ourselves." As a driver, the canny Stewart competed in eight United States Grand Prix events at Watkins Glen in upstate New York.
"I've won it," Stewart said of the 1968 and 1972 races at the Glen. "I liked winning it because in those days it was the richest race that we ran apart from doing Indy."
Stewart and F1 have come a long way since that day. And now Stewart, F1 and the United States Grand Prix all will reunite at the Brickyard next year. "The American public will enjoy F1 in its new look," Stewart said. "They will like the sophistication.
"I think the F1 circus coming to town is going to be a very exciting, particularly in mid-America," Stewart said. "The fans are going to like it. F1 is certainly the most colorful, most glamorous, most technological and most exciting form of motorsports in the world."