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Frequently asked questions
A.J. Foyt was born and raised in Houston, Texas. Fueled by ambition and determination, he carved out a remarkable life that was filled with adventure…and a few mishaps along the way. He has been richly rewarded with a close-knit family, loyal friends and a privileged lifestyle that belies his humble beginnings.
Foyt’s career is a treasure trove of memorable records and incredible feats. His record of achievement may never be equaled and certainly won’t be in his lifetime. Major victories, including the Indy 500 in IndyCar, the Daytona 500 in NASCAR, and the 24 Hours of Le Mans in sports cars, set him apart from all other race drivers.
In 2017, Foyt returned to France for the first time since he and Dan Gurney won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1967. As a guest of Ford Performance Group, Foyt was given a golf cart painted to look like the GT-40 he wheeled in 1967, he was feted at a dinner the evening before the start of the historic race and was driven around the circuit by Patrick Bourdais (Sebastien’s father, a racer in his own right) before the race.
“I was shocked at how much the track had changed,” Foyt said. “It doesn’t even look like the track we had run—they added two chicanes to the Mulsanne Straight (which used to be 3.7 miles long, arguably the fastest stretch of asphalt in motorsports). Now the cars have air conditioning, and they monitor
it—it can’t go over 90 degrees or you have to come in and fix it! Hell, our air conditioning was a window. It was impressive, but I’m glad Dan and I raced it when we did.”
Gurney and Foyt remain as the only all-American team with an American-built car to win the prestigious international endurance race.
Winner of a record 67 Indy car races and seven national IndyCar Series titles as a driver, Foyt is often viewed as an intimidating personality by drivers, all of whom are now two generations removed from the motorsports legend. It is an assessment he disputes.
“I don’t ask my drivers to do all that I have done, the times are different nowadays,” Foyt said. “But I do expect them to give me 100 percent. That’s the name of the game. When I was running, all I wanted to do was win, and that’s the reason I probably won as much as I did. I never did want to settle for second or third.”
The Houston native has seen a lot of changes in his celebrated career, which began in 1953 on the small dirt tracks around his hometown. He soon turned it into a globetrotting romp of racetracks throughout North America and in Europe, Australia and Asia.
However, the Texan’s most memorable races took place at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where he became the first four-time winner of the Indianapolis 500 (1961, 1964, 1967, 1977). Including the 2017 Indy 500, Foyt will have competed in 60 straight Indy 500s—of which 35 straight were as a driver. He holds the IndyCar Series records for most career victories (67), most national championships (7) and most triumphs in one season (10).
“It’s hard for me to believe that I’ve been racing cars for over 60 years,” said Foyt. “I’ve had so many good memories, and some not-so-good, but I wouldn’t trade any of it.”
Winning has been the hallmark of Foyt’s career: winning in Indy cars, NASCAR, USAC stock cars, midgets, sprints, IMSA sports cars and, of course, Le Mans. He won 14 national titles and 172 major races in his driving career, which spanned four decades and three continents: North America, Europe and
Australia. He has won in five countries—U.S.A., France, New Zealand, Canada, Great Britain—and in 15 of the 19 states in which he competed as a driver.
Yet it was through his adversities that A.J.’s qualities burned brightest. His determination and toughness set him apart from his competition and led to a career that made him auto racing’s most inspiring champion.
Over the years, Foyt proved he was physically and mentally tough. The equipment that he drove did not have the safety features of today’s cars and gear. Foyt battled back from career-threatening accidents to race—and win—again.
He broke his back at Riverside, California, in 1965 and again at Daytona Beach, Florida, in 1982, sustained burns on his face and hands at Phoenix in 1966, was run over by his own race car, breaking his ankle at DuQuoin, Illinois, in 1972. He nearly lost his right arm in 1981 at Michigan, and in 1990, he nearly lost a leg—he still limps from the effects of his crash at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.
“I knew people wanted me to retire, heck my own family wanted me to,” he said of that 1990 accident. “But I didn’t want to go out on crutches. I was determined to walk to my race car without crutches.”
At 56, Foyt limped to his car, without crutches, and qualified second for the 1991 Indianapolis 500! He was eliminated early when debris from another accident broke his car’s suspension, but not before he had shown his own brand of toughness before 400,000 race fans and millions of TV viewers.
After finishing ninth in his 35th straight 500 in 1992, the motorsports icon retired from driving Indy cars in 1993 on Pole Day (May 15) at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. His decision was as abrupt as it was final.
“When I won Indy the first time back in 1961, I had a chance to meet Ray Harroun, who won the first Indy in 1911,” Foyt revealed. “I asked him when he knew when to quit. He said, ‘It’ll come to you, you’ll just know.’ And he was right.”
In the past decade, Foyt has faced his most serious health issues, which include systemic shock from an attack of killer bees in 2005 (and again in 2018), left knee replacement (2006), nearly drowning in an enclosed bulldozer he dumped into a pond (2007), multiple stent implant cardiac surgery (2011), staph infection (2012), back surgery, hip replacement and right knee replacement (2013), triple bypass surgery (2014), staph infection and second right knee replacement (2015), spinal stenosis-triggered sciatica (2016), and a third staph infection after back surgery in 2018. Back problems reared up in mid-season again in 2019, forcing Foyt to miss the second half of the season.
Foyt’s triple bypass surgery in November 2014, followed by serious post-operative complications, led to a nearly month-long hospital stay, and for the first time, a week-long induced sedation as doctors worked to get him back on track. Another two-week stay in the hospital in December due to more, but
non-life threatening, complications set a personal record for Foyt, whose previous hospital stays (due to race-related injuries) were three weeks or less.
“I’ve had a lot of accidents and have always recovered pretty fast,” said Foyt, adding, “but this was altogether different from an accident, because it was a health problem. All during my career I never had any health problems, so I didn’t realize how serious they can be or how lucky you are when you’re healthy.”
Throughout his storied career, Foyt has defied the odds to emerge triumphant. His accolades include being named the Driver of the Year in 1975, inaugural inductions into the National Motorsports Hall of Fame (Novi, Michigan), the Sprint Car Hall of Fame and the Miami Project/Sports Legend in Auto Racing (1986). He won the American Sportscasters Association Sports Legend Award in 1993. He was named to
NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers and voted Driver of the Century by a panel of experts and the Associated Press. In 2000, he was named to the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, and more recently, he was voted into the North Carolina Auto Racing Hall of Fame.
As a team owner, Foyt has won the national Indy car title five times: 1967, 1975, 1979, 1996 (with driver Scott Sharp) and 1998 (with driver Kenny Brack). It was also with Brack that Foyt won the 1999 Indy 500 for his fifth visit to the Brickyard’s victory circle.
As Foyt campaigns throughout the 2020 season, he and his team will be working to add yet another milestone to a career defined by them. His goal is simple: “To get back in victory circle. The last time my team won I was at home recovering from surgery, so I want to be there when we win.”
First four-time winner of the Indianapolis 500 (1961, 1964, 1967, 1977); won 1999 Indy 500 with driver Kenny Brack
Only driver to have started in 35 consecutive Indianapolis 500 mile races (1958-1992)
Only driver to have won the Indy 500, the Daytona 500 (1972) and the 24 Hours of LeMans (1967)
Only driver to have won seven national Indy car championships
Only driver to have won 67 Indy car races
Won 53 Indy car pole positions (4 Indianapolis 500 poles)
“Driver of the Century” by Associated Press Panel and ESPN's RPM 2Night
Named Grand Marshal of 50th Anniversary Rolex 24 at Daytona
Grand Marshal of the 12 Hours of Sebring in 2018
Indy Racing League titles with drivers Scott Sharp (1996) and Kenny Brack (1998)
Inaugural inductee into the Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1989
Only driver to have won USAC's national Indy Car title and Stock Car championship in the same season: 1979
Winner of International Race of Champions twice: IROC III and IV in 1976 and 1977
Winner of 14 major driving championships
Seven NASCAR Grand National victories (now Winston Cup); nine pole positions
Winner of the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona twice (1983 and 1985)
Winner of the 12 Hours of Sebring in 1985
Record-holder for best percentage for Indy car wins in one season: 77% in 1964 when he won 10 out 13 races
1975 Driver of the Year
First career start racing midgets at Houston’s Playland Park in 1953