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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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Steve Torrence takes NHRA points lead with Gatornationals victory

NHRA Gainesville Steve Torrence
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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.