March 31 in Motorsports History: Jimmy Vasser wins Surfers Paradise

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Jimmy Vasser was the driver to beat in 1996.

Entering the season, Vasser was on the cusp of winning his first race in IndyCar competition, having finished second twice in 1995. The season also had change for Chip Ganassi Racing, which made the transition from Goodyear to Firestone tires and from Ford to Honda engines.

Those moves already had paid off in the season opener at Homestead-Miami Speedway, as Vasser led 32 laps en route to his first career victory.

Jimmy Vasser celebrates his win with second-place Scott Pruett (R) and third-place Greg Moore (L). Photo: Getty Images

Two races later, on March 31, Vasser won again in an even more dominant fashion.

The Indy cars were in Australia for their annual event in Surfers Paradise, and in qualifying, Vasser set a new track record to clinch the first pole position of his career.

In the race itself, Vasser was hardly unchallenged. Despite five cautions, the Californian led 60 of 65 laps and won by a margin of 7.748 seconds over Scott Pruett.

“It feels great. I owe it all to the team,” Vasser told ABC Sports. “It was the most beautiful race car I’ve driven in my life. It didn’t do anything wrong. I was just hoping I wouldn’t, and fortunately, I didn’t and we won the race.”

By winning the race, Vasser also took the overall points lead from Pruett. Vasser stayed atop the standings for the remainder of the season and won twice more (Long Beach and Michigan) en route to winning the series championship.

Also on this date:

1968: Bobby Unser won the Stardust 150 at Stardust International Raceway near Las Vegas. Opened in 1965 and owned by the former casino of the same name, Stardust featured a 13-turn, 3-mile road course and a quarter-mile dragstrip. The 1968 race was the lone visit by USAC’s Champ Car Series, and the facility closed three years later.

2012: The No. 90 Spirit of Daytona Corvette DP of Antonio Garcia and Richard Westbrook won the Porsche 250 at Barber Motorsports Park. The team won by a margin of 2.147 seconds over the No. 99 Bob Stallings Racing Corvette of Jon Fogarty and Alex Gurney

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Maverick Vinales scores first MotoGP win of season after Bagnaia crashes

MotoGP Maverick Vinales
ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP via Getty Images
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Maverick Vinales ended a seasonlong winless drought in MotoGP, winning the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix after Francesco Bagnaia crashed while leading with seven laps to go.

Holding off Joan MIr and Pol Espargarao at the Misano circuit, Vinales, 25, won his first race since the Malaysian Grand Prix last year. The Yahama rider is the sixth different winner in eight rounds this season.

With his eighth career victory, the Spaniard moved into a tie for second in the standings with Fabio Quartararo, who finished fourth Sunday after being penalized 3 seconds for violating track limits and losing a spot. There are seven races remaining in the season, which has had no repeat winners since Quartararo opened with consecutive victories in Spain.

“Amazing job this weekend,” Vinales said. “(Bagnaia) was very fast, I was pushing a lot and trying to save a bit of tire for the last 10 laps. Very happy because my mentality ha been competely the same, we just found a better setup.

“I appreciate all the work, because threre had been tough times in my team, but we kept pushing and found better luck, and we have to continue like that.”

Andrea Dovizioso, who finished eighth, leads the championship by a point over Vinales and Quartararo.

Bagnaia, who finished second a week earlier, was on track to become the fifth first-time winner in MotoGP’s premier series this season. But he lost control in Turn 6 while under pressure for the lead from Vinales.

Pramac Racing rider Francesco Bagnaia stands after crashing from the lead during the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at the Misano circuit (ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP via Getty Images).