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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.

Here’s more tweets from the event:

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INDYCAR: Patricio O’Ward turns heads in Carlin debut

Chris Jones / IndyCar
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While the top story coming out of Sunday’s IndyCar Classic at Circuit of the Americas is undoubtedly 18-year-old Colton Herta’s victory in only his third IndyCar start, another teenager made quite some noise during the first IndyCar race at the facility.

19-year-old Patricio O’Ward made an impressive start to his 2019 IndyCar campaign by starting and finishing in eighth position. It was the first of his 13 races this season for Carlin Racing.

“I think it was a pretty good race for us. We ended exactly where we started and didn’t go backwards, so I’d say that was a successful day” O’Ward said. “I know the No. 31 Carlin Chevrolet had a top-five finish in it today and even though we couldn’t make it happen, it’s nice to know that we have the pace and can be fighting up front with the veteran drivers.”

O’Ward, the 2018 Indy Lights champ, made his series debut for Harding Steinbrenner Racing at last year’s season finale at Sonoma Raceway, where he made it to the Firestone Fast Six in qualifying and finished ninth. O’Ward was scheduled to race for the team full-time in 2019, but left in early February to pursue other options due to a lack of sponsorship.

Pato found a new home with Carlin, and despite missing preseason testing, he proved to be competitive from the get go and pressured some of IndyCar’s more tenured drivers, including Graham Rahal.

In what was undoubtedly the most daring move of the race, O’Ward ended a great battle with Rahal by hitting a superb outside pass on Lap 15.

O’Ward may have likely earned a better result on Sunday, if he didn’t have to save fuel in order to make the finish.

But with only two IndyCar starts to his credit, he is already racing like a seasoned veteran. Sunday’s IndyCar Classic may be the first of many successful outings for him this year.

After the race, he tweeted to his team: “Well done gentlemen … This is only the beginning.”

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter