If you’ve never been there, Phoenix is a great auto racing town. In the late 1980s and early 90s, Phoenix was the only metro area in the entire world that hosted major NASCAR, Formula One, IndyCar and NHRA events.
Every January, hundreds of thousands of car enthusiasts flock to the Valley of the Sun for a series of high-end collector-car auctions. And if you cruise Central Avenue in downtown Phoenix, you’ll see some incredibly cool rides.
No doubt about it, this is a place that loves cars and loves racing.
With that in mind, here are 10 trivia tidbits about Phoenix International Raceway, which this weekend plays host to Sunday’s Good Sam 500 NASCAR Sprint Car Series race.
10. KID STUFF — Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch were both youngsters when they won for the first time at PIR. Gordon was 19 years old when he won a USAC Silver Crown race in the 1991 Copper World Classic at PIR. Busch was 20 when he won a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at PIR in November 2005.
9. SIZE MATTERS — PIR is the only Sprint Cup track west of the Mississippi that’s shorter than 1.5 miles in length.
8. POLISH, PLEASE — Alan Kulwicki, the 1992 Sprint Cup champion, won his first series race here in 1988, which was also the first Cup race run here. Afterward, he did his famous Polish victory lap to salute the fans. There are no active drivers who got their first wins here.
7. LATHER, RINSE, REPEAT — Only four drivers in this year’s Good Sam 500 have won more than once at PIR: Kevin Harvick leads with seven victories, followed by Jimmie Johnson (four), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (three) and Carl Edwards (two).
6. HISTORY LESSON — PIR opened in 1964 and for years was used almost exclusively for open-wheel racing. The track hosted its first Cup race in 1988; it has had two Cup races a year since 2005.
5. GO THE DISTANCE — Twice, the winner of the Good Sam 500 has gone on to win the Sprint Cup championship that year: Jimmie Johnson did it in 2008, and Kevin Harvick did it in 2014.
4. PETTY BLUE — When Bobby Hamilton drove a Petty Enterprises Pontiac to victory at Phoenix in 1996, it was the first victory for the team since 1983, when Richard Petty won his 199th race. Petty won his 200th race in 1984, driving for Mike Curb.
3. CHAMPIONSHIP EFFORTS — Kevin Harvick is the all-time leader in victories (seven) and laps led (1,345) at PIR, while Jimmie Johnson has the best average finish (7.72) and the most top fives (15) and top 10s (19) here.
2. MOST AND LEAST — When Ryan Newman won this race six years ago, he led only four laps. That’s the fewest of any winner at this track. By contrast, Harvick led 264 of 312 in winning the November 2014 race.
1. OLD GUYS RULE — Mark Martin is both the oldest race winner (50 years, 3 months, 9 days, April 2009) and the oldest pole winner (54 years, 1 month, 22 days, March 2013) at PIR.