March 21 in Motorsports History: Nigel Mansell wins IndyCar debut

Leave a comment

Less than six months after winning the Formula One World Championship, Nigel Mansell began a new chapter in his racing career on this date in 1993.

At the age of 39, the Briton was an IndyCar rookie, making his debut for Newman/Haas Racing at CART’s season opener in Surfers Paradise, Australia.

Mansell’s anticipated debut drew more than 800 accredited media and a weekend attendance of 220,000. The whole world was watching, and the Briton did not disappoint.

Nigel Mansell celebrates winning in his IndyCar debut at Surfers Paradise. (Photo by Pascal Rondeau/Getty Images)

In qualifying, Mansell set a record-breaking lap to become the first driver in IndyCar history to win the pole position in his first race.

But Mansell did not fare well in his first rolling start, as he was quickly passed by the Penske cars of Emerson Fittipaldi and Paul Tracy. He fell back to fourth after being passed by Robby Gordon shortly after.

However, Mansell quickly became comfortable in his new car and made his way back to the front to win by 5 seconds over Fittipaldi. By doing so, he became the first driver to win in his IndyCar debut since Jim Clark at the 1966 Indianapolis 500.

Mansell went on to four victories in 1993, all on ovals. He clinched the series championship by winning the season’s penultimate race at Nazareth in September. For the next week, Mansell had the distinction of being both the defending Formula One and IndyCar champion at the same time.

Mansell returned to Newman/Haas again in 1994 but went winless. He also returned part time to F1 in 1994, running four races with Renault. and scoring his final victory in the Australian Grand Prix. In 1995, he ran two races with McLaren before retiring from open-wheel competition.

Also on this date:

1960: Three-time Formula One champion Ayrton Senna was born in Brazil. He won 41 races over 11 seasons in F1 before his death in a crash at the Grand Prix of San Marino in Imola, Italy.

1966: Kenny Brack, winner of the 1999 Indianapolis 500, was born in Sweden.

1999: Greg Moore won for the fifth and final time in his career, defeating Michael Andretti by 1.110 seconds at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Moore was killed later that year in a crash during CART’s season finale at California Speedway.

2015: The No. 5 Mustang Sampling team of Sebastien Bourdais, João Barbosa, and Christian Fittipaldi won the 63rd running of the 12 Hours of Sebring, finishing a full lap ahead of second place. 

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter

Steve Torrence takes NHRA points lead with Gatornationals victory

NHRA Gainesville Steve Torrence
Jeff Robinson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Leave a comment

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Two-time defending NHRA Top Fuel champion Steve Torrence took the points lead Sunday in the AMALIE Motor Oil Gatornationals, beating his father, Billy, in the final round at Gainesville Raceway.

Torrence had a 3.809-second run at 322.11 mph to win for the third time this year and 39th overall. He is now on track for another championship despite missing the season opener.

“We’ve got some good momentum and to be in the points lead, it’s a testament to how hard these guys work,” Steve Torrence said after the NHRA Gainesville victory. “We’ve just got to stay focused and concentrate on what the task at hand is, and that’s trying to win a championship. These guys give me an unbelievable race car and you just try not to screw it up.”

Ron Capps won in Funny Car, Alex Laughlin in Pro Stock and Matt Smith in Pro Stock Motorcycle.

Capps raced to his second win this year and 66th overall, beating Tim Wilkerson with a 3.937 at 323.12 in a Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat.

Laughlin topped Aaron Stanfield with a 7.068 at 204.76 in a Chevrolet Camaro for his first win this season and fourth in his career. Smith rode to his first victory in 2020 and 25th overall, topping Andrew Hines with a 6.843 at 196.99 on an EBR.