Carl Haas has passed away after a long struggle with Alzheimer’s disease. Haas, 86, was one of America’s most successful race team owners who enjoyed wide influence in his other roles as the USA’s most prolific race car salesman and chairman for many years of the SCCA’s board of governors. He also promoted races at the Milwaukee Mile, sat on Road America’s board of directors and ran his own Formula 1 team in 1985 and ’86.
Haas owned and operated Newman-Haas Racing from 1983-2011 in partnership with Paul Newman, who lost his battle with cancer in 2008. Haas ran the team out of his base in Lincolnshire, Illinois and the team is ranked second only to Team Penske on IndyCar’s list of all-time winners with a record of 107 wins, 109 pole positions and eight championships. Haas’s statistics are even more impressive when you add his team’s 39 Can-Am and Formula 5000 wins and seven championships from the 1970s and early ’80s.
Haas caught the racing bug in 1951 when a friend took him to a road race through the streets of Elkhart Lake. The race was a fore-runner to the creation a few years later of the great Road America road course, but that summer day in 1951 caught young Carl’s imagination and he was soon racing an MGTD in SCCA club races.
From Chicago’s north side, Haas won some races aboard his MG and soon traded up to a Porsche Spyder. Through the 1950s and early ’60s Haas established himself as a race-winning amateur SCCA sports car racer and began to make his name buying and selling sports cars of all types. He met Elva boss Frank Nichols at Goodwood in 1958 and two years later Haas started a business called Carl Haas Auto, which sold Elva, McLaren and Lola racing cars and Hewland gearboxes and parts. During the ’60s and ’70s Haas Auto grew into the USA’s largest seller of road racing cars and components to booming SCCA club and professional racing markets.
After retiring from driving Haas started running a race team in 1967, competing in the SCCA’s United States Road Racing Championship and the Can-Am series. His first driver was Masten Gregory followed by Chuck Parsons, Peter Revson, Jackie Stewart, David Hobbs, Brian Redman, Patrick Tambay, Alan Jones, Jacky Ickx and Mario Andretti. Between 1971-80 Haas’s cars won 39 Can-Am and Formula 5000 races and seven championships.
During this time famed actor/racer Newman ran his own Can-Am team, buying cars from Haas. But the ‘new era’ Can-Am series was in trouble and in 1982, as the series stumbled, Haas proposed to Newman that they become partners in an Indycar team. Initially, Newman wasn’t interested. In fact, he was ready to get out of operating a race team until Haas told him Mario Andretti was available to drive.
The marriage between Newman and Haas was consummated near the end of 1982 and Andretti raced the team’s Lola in 1983, winning two races and finishing third in CART’s Indycar championship. The following year Andretti won six races and swept to the championship as Newman-Haas began to write its way into the history books.
Mario was the team’s only driver and its central force for six years before he was joined in 1989 by son Michael, who won Newman-Haas’s second CART championship in 1991. F1 world champion Nigel Mansell drove for Newman-Haas in 1993 and ’94 and took the team’s third championship in ’93. Mario retired at the end of 1994 and Newman-Haas’s fourth title came in 2002 with Cristiano da Matta driving. Da Matta’s championship was followed by a remarkable string of four consecutive Champ Car titles with Sebastien Bourdais from 2004-’07.
Haas is survived by his devoted wife Berni, who was his partner in business and life for more than 50 years. Gordon Kirby