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How Nigel Mansell prepped for his first CART Indy car test with a white Cadillac rental car

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It’s funny how sometimes, when you’re looking up something, you stumble across something entirely different that immediately grabs your attention because of its unique subject matter.

Such was the case Thursday afternoon. While looking up something else about IndyCar racing, we ran across an online story by Road & Track magazine (RoadandTrack.com) that we had never heard of before.

The well-written story by Travis Okulski was about former Formula One and CART champion Nigel Mansell and his first test in an Indy car on January 4, 1993 at the former Firebird International Raceway (now Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park) in suburban Phoenix, Arizona.

Before we talk more about the test, the only reason Mansell crossed the Atlantic to come race in America was because his ride with Williams in Formula One went away after 1992, even though Mansell captured the F1 championship that same season.

Without an available F1 ride, Mansell came to the U.S., when ironically, just as 1991 CART champ Michael Andretti moved to F1 to race for McLaren. In a sense, Mansell became the de facto replacement for the younger Andretti with the Newman Haas Racing squad.

Getting back to the CART test at Firebird:

Now, a test is usually a test, no matter what type of motorsport you’re in. But Mansell’s first effort in an Indy car had the kind of back story that would definitely qualify for the late Paul Harvey’s “Now You Know The Rest Of The Story” radio series.

You see, and as Okulski so aptly described, Mansell prepared for his first run in an Indy car by taking to the 1.6-mile road course first not in an open-wheeler, but in an all-white 1993 Cadillac rental car – at a time when Cadillacs were more like four-wheeled boats and not the much more nimble rides they’ve since become.

Mansell took a couple laps around in the Caddy before climbing into the Indy car. It didn’t take long before the Englishman broke Firebird’s single-lap record.

Beginner’s luck? No, rather, a great skill that would ultimately pay off later that 16-race season with five wins – plus a third-place finish in the 1993 Indianapolis 500 – as well as 10 podiums, six poles and capped off with the CART championship.

Unfortunately, Mansell’s tenure in CART was short-lived. After his great rookie campaign, he struggled in his sophomore season, failing to win a race, earning just three podiums and three poles. The 1994 season would be his second and last in CART before he returned home to his native England.

Here’s a video about Mansell’s initial CART foray – including his run in the Caddy – you definitely want to check out.

Click here to read Okulski’s story.

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INDYCAR: Patricio O’Ward turns heads in Carlin debut

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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.”

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