Canadian racers make mark in open-wheel cars

Races for Indy cars have been run in Canada since 1967, but Canadian drivers didn't begin making their mark on the sport until the 1980s.

Jacques Villeneuve, brother of legendary Ferrari Formula 1 driver Gilles Villeneuve, was the first driver of Canadian descent to win an Indy-style race. That triumph occurred at the Road America road course in a CART-sanctioned race in 1985. Gilles son, also named Jacques Villeneuve, enjoyed an even more successful career in American open-wheel racing. Driving for Forsythe-Green Racing, an early iteration of the team known as Andretti Green Racing, he won a CART race as a rookie in 1994 before winning the Indianapolis 500 and the CART championship a year later. Villeneuve went on to become a top Formula 1 driver, winning the 1997 title.

Scott Goodyear, who serves as the booth analyst for ESPN on ABC's IndyCar Series broadcasts, began racing in the CART in the late 1980s and finished a close second to Al Unser Jr. in the 1992 Indianapolis 500. Goodyear had another memorable near miss at Indianapolis in 1995, He also won the CART- sanctioned Marlboro 500 at Michigan International Speedway in 1992 and '94 before advancing to a successful career in the IndyCar Series.

The Toronto native finished second to Treadway Racing teammate Arie Luyendyk in the 1997 Indy 500, won three IndyCar Series races and finished second in the 2000 series championship.

Paul Tracy, a Scarborough, Ontario, native who arrived in Indy car racing a few years after Goodyear, won the 1990 American Racing Series championship and secured a ride with Dale Coyne Racing for the 1991 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. He made an impression on Roger Penske, who immediately offered Tracy a part-time ride that became full time less than two years later when Rick Mears retired. Tracy won 31 CART- or Champ Car-sanctioned races between 1993 and 2006 as well as the 2003 CART championship.

Greg Moore won the Firestone Indy Lights championship in 1995 and made an immediate impact in CART. The Vancouver native won only four CART races but was a spectacular performer on oval tracks and was widely regarded as a star of the future. But just after he signed a long-term contract with Team Penske, he died during the 1999 CART season finale at California Speedway.

Patrick Carpentier was the next French-Canadian hope after Jacques Villeneuve Jr. Carpentier rewrote the Formula Atlantic Championship record book but it took him more than three years to win a CART race. He native of Joliette, Quebec, developed into an occasional CART race winner, drove for a year in the IndyCar Series and currently is trying to secure a full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup career.

Alex Tagliani of Montreal followed Carpentier through the Atlantic championship and was eventually teammates with his countryman in CART beginning in 2000. Tagliani won one Champ Car-sanctioned race and broke into the IndyCar Series in late 2008. He's running a limited IndyCar Series schedule that includes the two Canadian races with Conquest Racing.

Firestone Indy Lights front-runner James Hinchcliffe is the latest Canadian driver trying to break into the IndyCar Series ranks. "Hinch" has four podium finishes this year and ranks sixth in the standings.

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