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Series champion will finally get a trophy
13 October 2011
It's an often-overlooked "secret" of IndyCar that the winner of the IZOD IndyCar Series has never walked away from the season with a trophy bearing his name on it.
There's been the formidable Borg-Warner Trophy for the winner of the Indianapolis 500, of course - admittedly not something that any driver could 'walk away with' unless equipped with a convenient fork lift truck - but the eventual series winner has had no traditional silverware to claim for his year's endeavours, just the title, a place in the record books, and a cheque.
The oversight was made even more stark last year with the introduction of the Mario Andretti Trophy and this year with the AJ Foyt Trophy, awarded to the driver who comes out top on the road course and oval races respectively (won this year by Will Power and Scott Dixon.)
But this year, IndyCar have finally remedied the situation by announcing that the winner of the championship after Vegas - wither Will Power or Dario Franchitti - will receive IZOD IndyCar Series World Championship Trophy, also known as the Astor Challenge Cup.
It's a trophy with a history that goes back almost as far as the Indy 500 itself, originally having been commissioned by industrialist John Jacob Astor's son Vincent to be presented to the winner of the Astor Challenge in 1915, which was originally a 350-mile endurance race on a 2-mile track in New York state. The prize money even matched that of the Indy 500 in the day ($50,000).
The second and final winner of the Astor Challenge Cup in 1916 was Johnny Aitken, who fittingly hailed from Indianapolis and who led the first lap in the first-ever Indy 500 in 1911. Aitken has to this day the distinction of starting and winning the most races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (41 and 15 respectively). In the number of starts, AJ Foyt is second with 36.
The Astor Challenge Cup wasn't held again after 1916 because of the US entering the First World War and was not revived after hostilities ended, making it a prestigious but sadly neglected piece of silverware until IndyCar's decision to adopt it and revive it as a symbol of the history of North American open-wheel motor racing.
In reviving the Astor Challenge Cup for modern-day IndyCar champions, series chief executive Randy Bernard said: "We sought to blend heritage and tradition with our future.
"It was very important for us to find a trophy that was a piece of art that drivers would truly be honoured to win," he continued. "It is a trophy that not only reminds us of our past but links our future."
To that end, the trophy will have the names of all IndyCar champions since 1909 (when it was created as the American Automobile Association championship) inscribed upon it as well as that of the 2011 winner - comprising every every sanctioning body that has governed IndyCar racing over the decades.
The IZOD IndyCar Series World Championship Trophy will be kept at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum, while the champion and his team owner both receive a replica at the IndyCar Championship Celebration to be held on October 17 at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas.
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