Some 20 years ago today, North American open-wheel racing came to a fork in the road, and took it.
What had been one series, the PPG IndyCar World Series, split off into IndyCar (still using CART as another name) and the Indy Racing League.
It followed Tony George’s message released in 1994 that he set out to carve a path for young North American open-wheel drivers, with an all-oval schedule and teams using older IndyCars. Thus, the IRL was born.
The IRL staged its first race as a separate, broken off entity under the auspices of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
A name you’ve probably since forgotten, Buzz Calkins, won the race at Walt Disney World Speedway in Orlando – a track that is no longer operational – over a then-unheralded 24-year-old kid out of Rushville, Ind. named Tony Stewart.
It began an 11-year run from 1996 to 2007 of an open-wheel split, which ended in February 2008 when the IRL, then IndyCar and CART, which folded after 2003 and the ashes of which were formed as Champ Car, came back together for unification. Or mergification, if you prefer.
If you feel like spending an hour and a half reliving the first IRL race, you can at this YouTube page.
The results are linked here, via ChampCarStats.com.