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Kevin Cogan

Full Name:
John Kevin Cogan
31st March 1956 (Age 64)
Culver City, California
Most recent race (in database):

With Californian good looks, this archetypal American racing driver eventually retired from the sport with more serious accidents to his name than race wins. Kevin Cogan was inspired to take up karting when a teenager by family friend Parnelli Jones. Two Western Division titles followed before he graduated to cars.

Formula Atlantic and British F1

He was a star of the 1979 Formula Atlantic Championship but ultimately lost the title to Tom Gloy. Rather than stay in America, Cogan impressed with Theodore Racing’s Wolf-Fords (WR3 and WR4) in six British Formula 1 outings during 1980 – finishing second behind eventual champion Emilio de Villota at Brands Hatch.

Grand Prix appearances

Cogan then used sponsorship from Rainbow Jeans to hire RAM Racing’s Williams FW07-Ford for the Canadian Grand Prix but failed to qualify for his World Championship debut. A second F1 attempt with a Tyrrell 010-Ford at the 1981 Long Beach GP ended in another DNQ.

Success in Champ Cars

He was immediately more successful in Champ Cars, steering Jerry O’Connell’s Phoenix-Cosworth to fourth on his debut in that year’s Indianapolis 500 and finishing second at Milwaukee.

Cogan drove a works Penske PC10-Cosworth in 1982 and qualified on the front row for the Indy 500 only to lose control on the parade lap and crash into both A.J.Foyt and Mario Andretti. On pole position at Cleveland and Riverside, he followed Rick Mears home in a Penske 1-2 at Pocono.

Injury and frustration

Not retained for 1983, he spent the season in a Bignotti-Cotter March 83C-Cosworth – fifth at Indy being the highlight. 1984 was a disaster when initially hampered by Mike Curb’s uncompetitive Ligier LC02 chassis. He switched to Dan Gurney’s Eagle-Pontiac and then a Forsythe Racing March 84C-Cosworth only to crash while testing at Pocono and suffered serious injuries to his heel.

When he returned at the start of 1985 it was with Kraco Racing and his March 85C-Cosworth led the Michigan 200 before finishing fourth. However, again an accident at Pocono interrupted his season, although not in a racing car. The helicopter carrying Kraco team-mates Cogan and Michael Andretti crashed on take-off on race morning but thankfully without injury.

Race winner for Patrick Racing

Cogan moved teams once more in 1986 and enjoyed his best season to date with Patrick Racing’s 7-Eleven March 86C-Cosworth. He won the opening race of the season at Phoenix – his only Champ Car victory – and was second in the 500-milers at Indianapolis and Pocono to finish sixth in the final standings. But it could have been so much better. Leading the Indy 500 behind the pace car with just three laps to go, Cogan was out-dragged by Bobby Rahal at the restart and second position was scant consolation.

Final Champ Car years

Cogan joined the Machinist Union team in 1988 and finished third at Long Beach. A fine fourth for Silk Cut Jaguar on his only appearance in the Le Mans 24 Hours, he missed four Champ Car races after breaking his arm at Toronto. 1989 was his final season with the Machinist team and as a regular in Champ Cars. He destroyed his March 88C-Cosworth after crashing into the pits after two laps of the Indianapolis 500 that year without injury to himself or others. Cogan’s last major race was the 1993 Molson Indy Toronto before he retired to forge a successful business career.