April 8 in Motorsports History: Will Power wins big in Las Vegas

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The Vegas Grand Prix might have been run only once, but the race’s lone winner became anything but a one-hit wonder.

“Sin City ‘was chosen to host the 2007 Champ Car opener April 8, 2007, with a race on a 12-turn, 2.440-mile street circuit downtown. The new Vegas Grand Prix saw a new name in victory lane.

Will Power, driving for Team Australia, started the race from the pole position and won by 16.787 seconds over Robert Doornbos. He became the first Australian to win in American open-wheel racing.

Will Power celebrates after winning the Vegas Grand Prix on April 8, 2007. (Photo by Darrell Ingham/Getty Images)

“We had a good car,” Power said after the race. “It handled well all day. The only issue I had was a really long brake pedal at the end of the race. But we had an 18-second lead, so we just brought it home and brought Derrick Walker his second win since ’99. It’s his birthday. So a pole and a win, I think that’s a pretty good present for him.”

Power would win once more in 2007 at Toronto and has won at least once race in IndyCar every year since. He also won the IndyCar championship in 2014 and the Indianapolis 500 in 2018.

As for the race, despite taking place on Easter Sunday, it generally was considered a success in drawing an estimated 40,000 spectators.

However, several local businesses and casinos expressed frustration over the noise and traffic disruptions, and the race didn’t return after its inaugural running (as Champ Car was absorbed into IndyCar the next year, too).

Also on this date:

1903: Frank Lockhart was born in Dayton, Ohio. Raised in Southern California, Lockhart became a famous West Coat dirt track racer. His big break came in 1926 when he made his first start in the Indianapolis 500 – and won! Lockhart returned to Indy the following year and started from the pole but had to retire from the race after his car broke a rod. He was killed on April 25, 1928 during a land speed record attempt at Daytona Beach when his car cut a tire and tumbled violently across the sand.

1966: Mark Blundell was born in Barnet, England. The winner of the 1992 24 Hours of Le Mans, Blundell also competed in CART from 1996-2000, totaling all three of his victories in 1997. His first was notable as he won at Portland International Raceway in a three-way photo finish with Gil de Ferran and Raul Boesel.

2006: Grand-Am made its first and only visit to Long Beach. Luis Diaz and Scott Pruett led nearly flag-to-flag in their victory, but the race may be best-known for a violent crash on Lap 10 involving Burt Frisselle and Rocky Moran Jr. Frisselle was slow on the frontstretch with a mechanical problem and turned down into Eddie Cheever, who hit the right side of Frisselle’s car at top speed. Frisselle then took a second hit from the oncoming Moran. Both drivers went to the hospital with various bruises and sprains but escaped major injury.

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter @michaele1994

Lewis Hamilton receives Daytona 500 invitation from Bubba Wallace

Lewis Hamilton Bubba Wallace
Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images
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Lewis Hamilton is a fan of the new NASCAR Cup Series team formed by Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan to field a car for Bubba Wallace.

Will the six-time Formula One champion also be a fan in person at a NASCAR race in the near future?

Wallace is hoping so.

After Hamilton tweeted his support Tuesday morning about the news of a Hamlin-Jordan-Wallace team making its debut with the 2021 season, Wallace responded with a sly invitation to the Daytona 500.

Much would need to be worked out, starting with how much garage and grandstand access would be afforded for a 2021 season opener that likely would occur during a still ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

But it would seem fitting given that Hamilton and Wallace have been two of the world’s most outspoken Black athletes about the quest for diversity and racial justice. Hamilton recently reaffirmed his commitment to activism after his donning a Breonna Taylor shirt sparked an FIA inquiry.

The idea of Hamilton attending the season opener already had legs, too. The Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 driver has expressed a desire to race the Daytona 500 after he has retired from Formula One.

He was a spectator (with racing legend Mario Andretti) at four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s final Cup race as a full-time in the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2011, Hamilton swapped cars with three-time champion Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International.

Having rubbed shoulders with other racing greats so often, it only would be fitting if Hamilton — who is one victory from tying Michael Schumacher’s career record and also could tie the F1 record with a seventh championship this season — spent some time with the greatest basketball player of all time.

Jeff Gordon was flanked by Mario Andretti and Lewis Hamilton before the 2015 Cup season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).