CART: Champ Cars Commemorate 90 Years of Racing at Portland
19 June 1999PORTLAND, Ore. - When the Champ Cars of the FedEx Championship Series take the green flag for Sunday's Budweiser/GI Joe's 200 Presented by Texaco/Havoline at Portland International Raceway, it will mark the 90th anniversary of the open-wheel style of racing now sanctioned by Championship Auto Racing Teams.
Champ Car racing got its start here in the Northwest in 1909. That first event occurred on June 12 of that year and was run on a 14.6-mile course through the countryside and city streets - both paved and dirt - around Portland.
One of the top professional drivers of that time, Bert Dingley, drove his Keats Auto Company Chalmers-Detroit 40 machine to victory on that late-spring day. The race was seven laps long and covered 102.2 miles.
Dingley's average speed of 58 miles per hour was good enough to put him into the winner's circle in front of 17 other cars competing in the Class A Championship Car event, which was sanctioned by the American Automobile Association (AAA). Three classes of cars, in all, competed in the race. Dingley went on to capture the AAA's national driving championship that year and became of the first eight drivers named to the Automobile Racing Hall of Fame in 1966.
The early open wheel cars had two seats. The driver occupied the right-side seat while his riding mechanic sat on the left. And the first event, like this weekend's race, was part of the Portland Rose Festival, which began in 1908.