This is the 11th installment in RACER’s ongoing 25th anniversary celebration during which we share the 25 most important issues from our first quarter century.
Century marks don’t come around very often – particularly in the cutthroat publishing world. So it was with a special sense of pride and accomplishment that we put together the 100th issue of RACER, some eight years after the magazine first went from dream to reality.
A lot had happened in the motorsports world in that time – both good and bad – and the magazine had had to deal with its own share of heartache too, including the sad passing of our founding NASCAR writer, Gerald Martin, in 1999. But after the pain of being parted from an old friend, we made a new one in Ben Blake – a longtime NASCAR beat writer who quickly earned a place among RACER‘s most popular scribes. As did veteran IndyCar writer David Phillips and automotive engineer Peter Brock, who had also joined RACER‘s growing list of contributors.
RACER‘s 100th issue came while some significant milestones were happening in the racing world. Chip Ganassi Racing had bridged the CART/IRL divide by returning to the Indy 500 with CART regulars Juan Pablo Montoya and Jimmy Vasser. Montoya proceeded to sweep all before him, scoring a dominant win as an Indy rookie. While this development provided fresh ammunition for partisans on both sides to shoot back and forth, it also sparked renewed hope that the self-destructive split of IndyCar racing could be resolved. Editor John Zimmermann explored the prospects in his perspective article on the race for this month’s issue.
In a remarkable bit of symmetry, our 100th issue coincided with the 100th IndyCar race victory for Team Penske, scored by Gil de Ferran at the CART race in Nazareth, Pa. Penske would go on to follow Ganassi’s path to Indy – and emulate its feat there – the following year, although final resolution of The Split would take the better part of another decade.
But, momentous as these things were, the honor of cover story for our 100th issue went – as it has more often than any other personality to date – to NASCAR star Jeff Gordon. Although not then enjoying the greatest season of his spectacular career – he would win “only” three Winston Cup races – “Wonder Boy,” as Dale Earnhardt had nicknamed him, had evolved beyond precocious talent into an all-around team leader at Hendrick Motorsports and, as the most dominant American motorsports presence to have emerged during RACER‘s first 100 issues, we thought it appropriate to make him our cover man for this one. Ben Blake’s portrayal of Gordon’s growth into “Wonder Man” would prove perceptive, as Gordon would regain championship glory for a fourth time in 2001.
During the summer of 2000 RACER founder Paul Pfanner continued the dialogue with the leadership team at UK-based Haymarket Media and after numerous false starts, the fundamentals of a deal began to come together to combine the companies following face-to-face meetings between the key players in London. At the same time, RACER‘s contract publishing business was about to expand after reaching agreement with the owners of Vintage Motorsport Magazine to publish the magazine in 2001.