By Frank Santoroski, Staff Writer
All of us at Motorsports Tribune are saddened to report that Carl Haas has passed away at the age of 86. A statement issued by the Haas family this morning read “Carl Haas’ incredible journey came to a peaceful end on June 29, 2016, at his home that he loved, surrounded by family.”
The sight of cigar-chomping Carl Haas, and his business partner, movie star-turned racer Paul Newman, in the pit lane during the heyday of the CART series was a familiar image as their cars won multiple championships. Between 1983 and 2011, the Newman-Haas team collected 107 victories in the CART, ChampCar, and IndyCar series and took eight season championships with drivers Mario Andretti, Michael Andretti, Nigel Mansell, Cristiano da Matta and Sebastien Bourdais.
Born in Chicago during the Great Depression, Haas’s career in racing began as a driver, piloting Sports Cars in the 1950’s where he was a consistent threat to win. Later, he turned his attention to the business aspect of the sport, becoming the U.S. importer for Lola cars in 1967. Throughout the 1970s, he fielded cars in Can-Am, Super Vee, and Formula 5000 with a driver roster that contained legendary names like Jackie Stewart, Peter Revson, Alan Jones, David Hobbs, and Jacky Ickx.
Haas also served on the board of the SCCA , and was the chairman during an era where the club racing association grew into a prominent sanctioning body. He had a brief foray into Formula One team ownership in 1985 with partner Teddy Mayer and backing from global food conglomerate, Beatrice, with Alan Jones and Patrick Tambay behind the wheel of the Haas-Lola.
Some of Haas’ other motorsports ventures included promoting the CART race at the Milwaukee Mile, serving on the board of directors at Road America, and fielding stock cars in NASCAR with Travis Carter for eight seasons.
The Newman-Haas team was one of the few powerhouse teams that remained loyal to CART/Champcar during the open-wheel split as the Penske, Ganassi, Rahal and Fernandez teams all defected to the rival Indy Racing League. When ChampCar was absorbed by the IRL in 2008, it was a Newman-Haas car, driven by Graham Rahal, that took the first win in the newly-reunited series at St. Petersburg. Later that same season, the late Justin Wilson gave the legendary team its final win on the raceway at Belle Isle.
Later that same year, Haas’ long time co-owner Paul Newman died, and the team carried on with Mike Lanigan. Things were never quite the same after that and sponsorship trouble soon took its ugly hold on this once-dominant team. Newman-Haas-Lanigan closed up shop for good in 2011 and the organization ceased to exist.
Carl Haas spent his golden years out of the limelight, enjoying spending precious time with the love of his life, Bernadette, and their family.
Haas’ contributions to the sport are significant, and he has been honored with a number of awards over the years. USA Today called him “one of the most powerful men in the history of auto racing.” In 2004, he earned a place on the 50 Newsmakers of the Half-Century list compiled by the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association. In 2008, he became the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America’s ninth recipient of the Bob Russo Heritage Award for his contribution to motorsports.
In lieu of flowers, the Haas family respectfully requests that contributions be made to the Alzheimer’s Association at 8430 W. Bryn Mawr, Suite 800, Chicago, IL 60631 (847/933-2413) or The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, a charity started by Paul Newman, at www.holeinthewallgang.org.