March 22 in Motorsports History: A.J. Foyt wins Phoenix’s first oval race

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While Phoenix Raceway is now known as a staple of the NASCAR schedule, the 1-mile desert oval was originally built with Indy cars in mind.

Very fittingly, the most successful driver in IndyCar history won the first oval race at Phoenix, which took place on this date in 1964.

Spectators wait for the start of the first oval race at Phoenix Raceway. (Photo by ISC Archives/CQ-Roll Call Group via Getty Images)

After Davey McDonald became the first driver to win on the track’s now-defunct road course in the month prior, Phoenix’s oval was the site of USAC’s 1964 season-opener.

An estimated 7,000 were in attendance to watch 22 open-wheel cars battle for 100 laps. Parnelli Jones started on the pole position, but second-place qualifier A.J. Foyt quickly took the lead in the first turn and held on to it for the remainder of the race.

The race started a string of seven consecutive victories by Foyt, including his second victory at Indianapolis. Foyt went on to win nine times in 1964 en route to his fourth national championship.

Phoenix continued to remain as an IndyCar staple until being removed from the schedule following the 2005 race. The series then made a three-year return to the facility from 2016-18.

NASCAR held its first Cup Series event at Phoenix in 1988, and the facility has remained on the schedule every year since.

Also on this date:

1981: Johnny Rutherford won the Kraco Car Stereo 150, also at Phoenix. The victory was Rutherford’s final victory in the famous Pennzoil Chaparral.

1992: Nigel Mansell led all 69 laps to win the Grand Prix of Mexico at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez. Michael Schumacher finished third for the first podium in his illustrious F1 career.

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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.