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Phoenix IndyCar winner will receive inaugural A.J. Foyt Champions Trophy

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It’s been 52 years since A.J. Foyt won the first open-wheel race – and the first race of any type – to be held at the then-brand-new Phoenix International Raceway on March 22, 1964.

And now, with the Verizon IndyCar Series returning to PIR for the first time since 2005 this weekend, it’s fitting that Foyt once again figures into PIR’s rich legacy.

Foyt and PIR track president Bryan R. Sperber were joined by Hulman & Company CEO Mark Miles, as well as drivers Graham Rahal and Ed Carpenter, to unveil the A.J. Foyt Champions Trophy, which will be awarded to the winner of Saturday night’s Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix at PIR.

Foyt not only won the inaugural open-wheel race (under USAC sanction at the time) at PIR, he went on to compile a record of 14 starts (USAC and CART combined), one win, four top-five and six top-10 finishes at the one-mile oval in the desert.

Foyt would go on to win a record 67 Indy car races and seven IndyCar championships as a driver. That included winning the Indianapolis 500 a record four times (1961, 1964, 1967 and 1977), a mark later tied by Al Unser and Rick Mears.

He won the ‘500 one other time in 1999 as a team owner and the IndyCar championship in 1998, both with Kenny Brack.

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Will Power, Roger Penske collect Indy 500 trophies

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DETROIT (AP) Last year, Will Power finally broke through and won the Indianapolis 500, so he can cross that accomplishment off the list.

Now 37, Power is reaching an age when it’s fair to wonder how much longer he’ll keep at it.

“I’m really enjoying my racing. I’ve never been so motivated. I’m fitter than I’ve ever been, mentally on the game,” Power said. “I think once you get to this part of your career, you realize that you’re not going to be doing this forever. So you’ve got to enjoy it and you’ve got to go for it when you’ve got it, because, you know, probably only another five years at maximum, and you’re retired.”

Whenever Power’s career does wind down, his 2018 Indy 500 win will remain a moment to remember. He was in Detroit on Wednesday night with team owner Roger Penske for a ceremony in which they received their “Baby Borg” trophies for winning last year’s race. The Baby Borgs are replicas of the Borg-Warner Trophy that honors the Indy 500 winner.

Power finished second at Indy in 2015, and his victory last year made him the race’s first Australian winner. It was Penske’s 17th Indy 500 win as an owner, part of a banner year for him. Penske also won a NASCAR Cup title with driver Joey Logano.

“When you think about 2018, we had 32 race wins, 35 poles. I think we led almost 5,400 laps, with all the series,” Penske said.

On Wednesday, Penske collected another significant trophy, and he’ll be celebrated again in a couple weeks. He’s being inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Feb. 1.

“It’s amazing that a guy from the north can get into the Hall of Fame in the south,” Penske joked. “No, it’s special. … NASCAR has helped us build our brand over the years, certainly, with the reputation it has, and the notoriety we get, being a NASCAR team owner.”

Penske’s most recent Indy 500 title came courtesy of Power, who long preferred road courses to ovals but certainly looked comfortable at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year.

“The 500 was one record that he didn’t have, and I think you saw the excitement he and his wife, and the whole team, when he was able to win the race,” Penske said. “He’s probably the best qualifier we’ve ever had, as a road racer, and no question his expertise. He didn’t like ovals to start with, but I think today, he loves racing on ovals.”

Power seems content with all aspects of his racing life at the moment. The aftermath of an Indy 500 victory can be a whirlwind, and it would be understandable for a driver to be weary of it eight months later, but for Power, it’s a new experience.

“I’ve been looking forward to this event for a few months now, to actually get the Baby Borg. You have the face on it – I didn’t realize that, you actually get your own face on it,” Power said. “It makes you realize the significance of the event, when you think about all the things that come with winning the 500.”

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