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Jon Beekhuis waves to the crowd after the ARS race at Cleveland in July 1988. Copyright Mark Windecker 2016.  Used with permission.

American Racing Series (ARS) 1988

Champion Didier Theys had not found a drive for 1988 but still did not return to ARS. Tommy Byrne was back for a third season of ARS in an increasingly forlorn attempt to restart his racing career, and he would be joined by fellow ARS veteran Jeff Andretti. Andretti qualified for the first race on pole but crashed and thereafter was well off the pace, scoring a mere five points all season. 19-year-old rising star Paul Tracy won that opening race but he was also off the pace for the rest of the season, usually qualifying outside the top ten.

When the season started to settle down, it was Dave Simpson and Jon Beekhuis who started to pull ahead of the pack. Dave Simpson, son of ex-Indy driver Bill Simpson, had raced in British F3 in 1986, winning one race, and had moved into ARS at the end of that season. He won one race in 1987 and won the second round in 1988 but it was his reliable top-seven finishes that gave him a lead of just two points with two races to go, only for him to drop out of the series. Swiss driver Beekhuis had moved to ARS after an unspiring season of WCAR Formula Atlantic and had only won twice in 1988 but his regular fourth and fifth place finishes also suited the SCCA points system. Byrne won the penultimate race to equal the points score of the absent Simpson but despite the Irishman having led four races during the year, he was still a full 14 points behind Beekhuis. Byrne did all he could in the final race at Miami, winning his third victory of the season, but Beekhuis took fifth position and the championship. Almost any other points system would have given Byrne the title.

Also deserving a mention were Calvin Fish, the 1987 ECAR Formula Atlantic champion who won two races and led four in his Shierson Racing car, and another ARS veteran Juan Manuel Fangio II, who took qualified in the top two seven times in the eight races he competed, led four and won two. Had the points system rewarded winners instead of steady finishers, these two may have been able to mount more of a challenge.

The races

09 Apr 1988 > Phoenix International Raceway

04 Jun 1988 > Milwaukee (Wisconsin State Fair Park)

19 Jun 1988 > Portland International Speedway

03 Jul 1988 > Cleveland

17 Jul 1988 > Toronto

24 Jul 1988 > Meadowlands Sports Complex

20 Aug 1988 > Pocono International Raceway

04 Sep 1988 > Mid-Ohio

11 Sep 1988 > Road America

25 Sep 1988 > Pennsylvania International Raceway

16 Oct 1988 > Laguna Seca

06 Nov 1988 > Tamiami Park

1988 HFC American Racing Series table

1Jon BeekhuisMarch 86A - Buick V6147 pts2 wins
2Tommy ByrneMarch 86A - Buick V6144 pts3 wins
3Dave SimpsonMarch 86A - Buick V6122 pts1 win
4Calvin FishMarch 86A - Buick V6113 pts2 wins
5Juan Manuel Fangio IIMarch 86A - Buick V6105 pts2 wins
6Ted PrappasMarch 86A - Buick V6103 pts 
7Gary RubioMarch 86A - Buick V683 pts 
8Mike SnowMarch 86A - Buick V670 pts 
9Paul TracyMarch 86A - Buick V658 pts1 win
10Guido DaccòMarch 86A - Buick V653 pts