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  • Writer's pictureDavid Story

Would Championship Car Racing Come Back After World War 2

The 1946 AAA Championship Car season was the first season of American Championship car racing following World War II. Even the Indianapolis 500 was in doubt. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway had fallen into a terrible state of disrepair. It had literally been ignored since the day it was shut down in 1942. The infield had grown into a virtual jungle and the old wooden grandstands were rotting and on the verge of collapse.  Weeds had forced their way up through the crumbling mortar between the bricks on the main straight. (Three-time Indianapolis winner Wilbur Shaw was instrumental in seeing to the survival of the Speedway after WWII. In a one-man campaign to save the track, he paired with Tony Hulman who purchased the track and brought it back to its former glory).

 After four years without racing in the United States, the AAA Contest Board, the governing board for the national championship, was concerned about having enough races and entrants for the 1946 season.

Before the war, only races of over 100 miles on tracks one mile or longer were able to hold National Championship events. Due to the concerns about the car counts and participation, the AAA Contest Board included a substantial number of "Big Car" races (today is known as Sprint Cars) as part of the championship. The first season officially consisted of 77 races, 6 Champ Car races and 71 Big Car races which included Indianapolis. 

World War 2 was over and the G.I.s were returning home anxious to return to regular life. Many were pilots, tank drivers, infantrymen, mechanics, etc. who were used to large amounts of adrenaline flowing in their veins. Racing provided a more peaceful outlet for their energies. As the season progressed, with this influx of young blood, it proved to be a success and marked the successful return of the National Championship Series.


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