What qualifications are needed to declare something as legendary? Is it the amount of wins a driver or team brings to the table? The names that graced a team’s roster, or the names behind a team? In the case of Newman/Haas Racing, it was all of those. The team, running for almost 30 years, 1983-2011 through the CART and Champ Car series had names like Carl Haas and Paul Newman feeding the fire. The roster? Consisting of names like Mario and Michael Andretti, Nigel Mansell, and Sébastian Bourdais, to name a few. In its 28 years, the team would record 108 wins and eight championships. Since the races ended, pieces of history have been hidden away in the Newman/Haas building in Lincolnshire, Illinois. I was granted a tour of the entire collection, to walk among the cars that made or continued the careers of greats, before near all of it goes to auction with RM Sotheby’s this coming Saturday night.
The only way you’d know this building, tucked away in an oddly beautiful business park north of Chicago, is the small sign out front that indicates, indeed, you are at the Newman/Haas facility. Of course you walk in, and are immediately greeted by American open-wheeled history. In the lobby sits the championship-winning cars of Bourdais, Mansell (1993) and Cristiano da Matta’s (2002) powered by Toyota-winning car.
Beyond the cars, it’s a little cluttered, as any raised surface is covered in some form of memorabilia — in this case, a lot of trophies. Ever wonder what over 100 wins worth of prizes look like in one room? You certainly get the idea here. Oh, and a couple of those Texas trophies are just a gold-dipped cowboy boot.
If that’s not overwhelming enough, step through the back door into the garage area, where if you’ve followed the sport, you’ll immediately recognize cars. I certainly did. Specifically, Mario Andretti’s white and black number 5 Kmart car from his racing in the ‘90s. His was one of the first cars I remember acknowledging and could spot on TV and at the track when I went to my first IndyCar (then, CART) races. It would be the car that would launch my desire to work in the racing/automotive world, in some way, shape or form. Were my eyes glistening standing next to that car? Absolutely.
Across the room sat all of Sèbastian Bourdais’ yellow and red-clad McDonald’s Champ Car series’ winning cars, to cover his 2004-2007 Championship wins. As our personal docent of this exquisite tour explains, at that point, winning four championships in a row in the series; it had never been done before. Bourdais’ cars still had seats in the buckets, so I was able to wriggle my way into his 2006 machine. Inside, on the left of the bucket, remained stickers I could only assume are inside jokes with Seb and his team. On his steering wheel, the button for water reads “eau.”
The men curating the collection have to reference chassis numbers to identify cars as there are so many, not just in this room, but in the next. Which car was the actual winning car? Which one was driven during what part of the season? The sheet tells all.
Another room further back, more like a warehouse extension to the garage, holds racks and racks of CART/Champ cars. These ones are covered, as I can only imagine the amount of dust that could collect on cars that have sat for a couple of decades. Attached to their sheets, a piece of paper with names like Mario (Andretti), Michael (Andretti), (Christian) Fittipaldi, (Paul) Tracy.
These names aren’t by accident. If there’s one thing to point out from this journey, it’s learning just how incredible of a talent scout and man of taste Carl Haas was. Read through the team’s roster over the years, adding names like Justin Wilson and Graham Rahal as well, and it drips heavy of talent. This is also the team who brought in Mansell, in 1993 as an F1 Champion, and ended the year as the CART Champion; it would be the only time a driver held both championships at the same time. Not one team or driver has been able to do that since. The only teams running today that may match Newman/Haas in prestige and wins, might be the racing teams of Penske and Chip Ganassi.
While Newman’s name has been on the logo for years, this racing house — this dream team — was really built and operated by Haas. Walking among his curation of drivers, cars and his personal collection (including a mint 2000 MV Augusta F4 750 Serie Oro, with crate), you quickly gather what this man was about, and his vision. He’s long been gone of this world (having died in 2016), but the impact he made in the racing and soon, collector’s world, is significant and well earned.
Most everything I was able to see and experience, from winning cars (without their engines), trophies, photos and including Michael and Mario’s racing suits, go up for auction with RM Sotheby’s Saturday, October 29, with previews of the collection on Friday and Saturday, before the auction at the Newman/Haas facility. Admission to the preview is $40. It’s a small price to pay to see racing history, before most of it added to private collections, never to be seen again.