March 21 in Motorsports History: Nigel Mansell wins IndyCar debut

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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. 

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Santino Ferrucci will drive No. 14 for AJ Foyt Racing full time in 2023 IndyCar season

Santino Ferrucci AJ Foyt
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Santino Ferrucci will return to full-time racing in the NTT IndyCar Series next season, joining AJ Foyt Racing.

Ferrucci had made eight IndyCar starts with three teams since his last full-time season in 2020 while also racing part time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series this year.

He will drive the storied No. 14 Dallara-Chevrolet for four-time Indy 500 winner A.J. Foyt’s team, which will field the car from its Waller, Texas headquarters.

“It’s incredibly exciting to be back in the INDYCAR Series full time,” Ferrucci said in a team release. “Being a part-time driver over the last two years has been hard for me, personally. I’m a race car driver, and I want to compete. Working with different teams has been exciting, and I’m proud that no matter which car I’ve raced, I’ve always shown speed and consistency. I couldn’t be more excited to join AJ Foyt Racing in the 14 Chevy. I can’t wait to make the best of it.”

Ferrucci, 24, had finished a career-best fourth in IndyCar four times, including the 104th Indy 500 in 2020. He was the 2019 Indy 500 rookie of the year with a sixth.

In nine Xfinity starts since 2021, Ferrucci has a career-best finish of 13th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“I am thrilled to welcome Santino to the team,” Larry Foyt said in a release. “He’s shown a knack for getting toward the front of the field, and I think he is a racer who moves forward on race day. A.J. sees the fire in him and has enjoyed their meetings together. I think Santino’s experience will help his rookie teammate as well, so he is a great addition to our roster.”

Ferrucci will be teamed at AJ Foyt Racing with Benjamin Pedersen, who finished fifth in the 2022 Indy Lights standings. The team has yet to specify the number for Pedersen’s entry, which will be fielded out of its Indianapolis race shop.

Foyt’s two full-time drivers last season were Dalton Kellett and Kyle Kirkwood, who is moving to Andretti Autosport.