Senior staff writer
One of the leftover story lines from the 99th Indianapolis 500 was the appearance of four-time “500” winner A.J. Foyt, who continues to recover from triple bypass heart surgery.
Foyt was on his feet at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway but the A.J. Foyt Enterprises/ABC Supply entries were mostly guided by son Larry Foyt. They and son Anthony III took time to open a wine location on Main Street in Speedway before the recent “500.”
Foyt took time to greet friends and acquaintances at the Speedway and he also was at Belle Isle, Michigan for last weekend’s Horizon IndyCar Series twin street-course races.
He admitted at the Speedway that he still didn’t have much strength while talking with longtime friend Jack Housby of Des Moines, Iowa.
While at IMS, Foyt took time to take part in a media presentation to outline plans for the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500, May 29, 2016.
Foyt’s legacy and the traditional fame of the “500” are universal; he readily admits that the “500” provided him with his fame as a race car driver and not the other way around.
Foyt was predictable on the race track because he always wanted to lead, to be up front, and to win, whether it was in an Indy car, champ car, dirt, stock, sprint or midget car – and he won in everything. He stands as the only river in motorsports history to win the Indianapolis 500, Daytona 500 and 24 Hours of LeMans.
The Foyt name has been on race cars at the “500” since 1958 when he first raced at the Speedway and has continued as a team owner.
Foyt reminisced, “I guess my life-long dream was to really qualify for the Indy 500. You have a lot of great race tracks, but there’s only one 500. It’s like horse racing, you have a lot of great horse race tracks, but you only have one Kentucky Derby.”
Although it was inevitable, Foyt announced his retirement as a driver in 1993 after going 221.114 in an early practice session before qualifications. Team driver Robby Gordon had made contact with the wall. Foyt pulled into the pits and called it quits and was interviewed on the P.A. system within a few minutes.
Foyt recalled that moment: “I figured I started here, I wanted to quit here. Robby Gordon done hit the wall again in my other car. It’s hard to be a car owner and a driver at the same time. Everybody couldn’t believe because we were running pretty quick that morning, pretty much quicker than anybody … I said, it’s through, I’m over. I crawled out (race car) and haven’t been back in one since. I always said when I quit, I’d probably quit here. I didn’t think nobody could believe it when I said, it’s over.”
And Foyt took a look at the drivers of his era and the “500” drivers of today: “I would say most of the drivers today – like I came up in midgets, sprints, dirt cars, all that – a lot of these drivers, I think that’s the reason you see a lot of them here and gone tomorrow; they’re here just to race the great 500. Back then, to be a champion, you had to run dirt cars, you had to run road courses, and ovals, not just oval racing. A lot of these boys, they probably would love and enjoy it if they ever had a chance to driver a sprint car, midget or dirt car … It’s altogether different than it was, like the world today is different when it was when I was younger.”
The Verizon IndyCar Series is at Texas Motor Speedway for the Firestone 600 (248 laps) Saturday, June 6 at 8 p.m. (NBC Sports Network). Info: www.IndyCar.com or www.TexasMotorSpeedway.com. Qualifying is Friday, June 5 at 6 p.m. Ed Carpenter is the defending race winner.
Race cars will have closure panels attached to the rear wheel guards to decrease the risk of lifting when traveling backwards. The panels were developed by Honda and Chevrolet and also will be in use at Pocono Raceway and Auto Club Speedway. The cars also will have slightly more downforce than last year at Texas.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway – June 11 thru June 14 – Brickyard Vintage Racing. Gates open daily at 8 a.m. Saturday, June 13, races begin at 8:15 a.m., featuring Pro-Am race in “muscle cars” at 1:35 p.m. Sunday, June 14, Vintage Class Enduro at 8:25 a.m., Historic GTP/GT Enduro at 9:55 p.m. followed by vintage cars on the oval, including an Unser family exhibition event. Location: 4790 West 16th Street. Info: 492-8500 or www.indianapolismotorspeedway.com.
Indianapolis Speedrome – Saturday, June 6, 50-lap Figure-8 for World Figure-8 cars plus Stocks, Roadrunners, Hornets and Jr. Faskarts. Saturday, June 13, 15th annual Jake Cohen Memorial 150-Lap Figure-8 for World Figure-8 cars plus Roadrunners, Hornets, Legends, Indy Super Karts. Racing at 7 p.m. Location: Kitley Ave. & Brookville Road. Info: 353-8206 or www.speedrome.com.
Lucas Oil Raceway – Friday, June 5, Goodguys Friday Nite Drags, 4 p.m. Sunday, June 7, ET Bracket Series and Jr. Drag Racing League Challenge, time trials at 9 a.m. Location: 10267 Highway 136. Info: 291-4090 or www.lucasoilraceway.com.
Mid-America Speedway – Saturday, June 6, season flat track racing opener, heats at 7 p.m. Location: Marion County Fairgrounds, 7300 E. Troy Ave., Indianapolis, Ind. Info: www.midamspeedway.com.
NASCAR – Friday, June 5, Truck Series, WinStar World Casino 400, Texas Motor Speedway, 9 p.m., FOX Sports 1. Sunday, June 7, Pocono 400, Pocono (Pa.) Raceway, 1 p.m., FOX Sports 1. Saturday, June 13, XFINITY Series 250, Michigan International Speedway, 1:30 p.m., FOX Sports 1. Sunday, June 14, Sprint Cup Series Quicken Loan 400, Michigan International Speedway, 1:30 p.m., FOX Sports 1. Of Note: Jimmie Johnson’s win at Dover May 31 gives him 74 Sprint Cup career wins, just two wins behind the late Dale Earnhardt. Johnson has 10 wins at Dover, matching 10 wins or more at a single track with Richard Petty (Martinsville-15, North Wilkesboro-15, Richmond-13, Rockingham-11, Daytona-10), Darrell Waltrip (Bristol-12, Martinsville-11, North Wilkesboro-10), Earnhardt (Talladega-10) and David Pearson (Darlington-10).
NHRA – Toyota NHRA Summernationals, Englishtown, Pa., Friday, June 5, qualifying, 3:45 p.m. and 6:15 p.m. and Saturday, June 6, 1:15 p.m. and 3:45 p.m. Sunday, June 7, eliminations, 12 noon, ESPN2. Info: www.nhra.com.
USAC – National Midget Series. Wednesday, June 10 at Gas City I-69 Speedway; Thursday, June 11 at Lincoln Park Speedway, Putnamville; Friday, June 12, Bloomington Speedway; Saturday, June 12 at Lawrenceburg Speedway; Sunday, June 14 at Kokomo Speedway. Info: www.usacracing.com.