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

Michael Eubanks
NBC Sports

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)
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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March 22 in Motorsports History: A.J. Foyt wins Phoenix’s first oval race originally appeared on NBCSports.com

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