Photo from toledoblade.com
There’s precious little that can be written about legendary racer Anthony Joseph Foyt that hasn’t been said before, which itself speaks volumes about the ornery octogenarian. The man’s an institution and we at IRR admire the hell out of him. After all, he’s the reason we’ve loved IndyCar our entire lives. With legions of fans to this day, the Texan’s popularity is unparalleled in the American racing world and with good reason.
Photo from 500legends.com
The first four-time winner of the Indianapolis 500 and only winner of racing’s Triple Crown – Indy, Daytona & Le Mans – most of Foyt’s records likely never will be eclipsed. How many sports record holders can you realistically say that about? A.J. won sixty seven IndyCar races, seven IndyCar championships, twelve overall championships and a gasket blowing one hundred seventy two major league races. Incredibly, he also raced in thirty five consecutive Indy 500s and very nearly a thirty sixth.
Image from Indy Race Reviewer
Our fondest memory of Foyt – bittersweet though it was – is seeing his IndyCar driving farewell at Indianapolis in 1993. We’d been fortunate to watch him race in the last third of his Indy 500s in the 1980s and early ’90s and grew to love it. Like the majority of the crowd in attendance at the Speedway we became huge fans of the colorful, larger than life A.J. and cheered him exuberantly every chance we got. We fully expected to see him race again in ’93 and were looking forward to it. But we soon learned it wasn’t to be.
AJ’s farewell at Indy that Saturday in May was an unforgettable moment for anyone who witnessed the touching scene. AJ’s teammate and driver Robby Gordon had just crashed his car, triggering the sudden change in A.J.’s mind. Tom Carnegie announced to the huge crowd in attendance that after thirty five years, A.J. was calling it quits. He then gave the microphone to A.J.
Photo from trackforum.com
Obviously emotional and struggling with words, A.J. addressed the hundreds of thousands in attendance. “It’s a hard decision, but there comes a time -” Foyt halted as he broke down in tears. The crowd, clearly touched by the scene, heartily cheered the living legend of the Speedway one last time as he took a final lap around the Brickyard. Everyone clapped while many cried at the sad finality of the scene. That memorable afternoon at Indy proved A.J.’s peerless popularity beyond a shadow of a doubt.
A.J. raced to win and that’s why so many loved to watch him race. As his records demonstrate, he’s the best there ever was, or ever will be. We wish ‘Super Tex’ a happy 80th birthday – and many happy days at the track to come.
Photo from ajfoytracing.com
Some of IRR’s favorite A.J. quotations:
“You get out in front, you stay out in front.”
“Don’t feel bad. I kicked Sports Illustrated’s ass in court, too.” [to Robin Miller]
“I guess John Wayne would be one. I just respected the way he acted.”
“I’m no where as tough as my father. I really think that I am more open to change than he was.”
“Oh, I don’t know. He run right square in my goddamn left front! (Who?) Coogan!” [after getting caught up in a first lap front row accident at Indy in 1982]
“Every race I go to I learn something new, taking a lot in and learning new lessons.” [at the rain interrupted Toronto races in 2014]
“I’m so wonderful!” [after Kenny Brack’s Indy 500 win in 1998]
“This place made A.J. Foyt.” [on IMS]