Two-time winner Foyt returns to Rolex24

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A. J. Foyt had to forgo his role as the 2012 grand marshal for the Rolex 24 last year, but the former winner at Daytona was present for this year’s event. As usual – except for a few topics – Foyt was willing to give his opinion and thoughts.

Daytona Beach, Fla. - Racing legend A. J. Foyt was scheduled to be the grand marshal for the golden anniversary edition of the Rolex24 a year ago, but due to a staph infection, he was unable to attend, so the two-time Rolex24 winner made it a point to attend the 51st edition of the famed race.

“I was a pretty sick little boy a year ago, but I feel a lot better now and am glad to be here,” Foyt said, going on to discuss racing both past and present.

“I have watched the Rolex grow and everything is different than it was when I was racing in it,” he stated. “Things change and I am getting older (age 77). I have enjoyed Daytona and being with the France family. And one of my favorite memories is racing here with the Wood Brothers.”

Conor Daly and A.J. Foyt
Conor Daly and A.J. Foyt

Photo by: Conor Daly

Regarding one of his noted Rolex victories (1985) and his joust with teammate Bob Wollek, he said, “We blew up early one night, and they called me to come in, so I got in Bob Akin’s car (Porsche 962). I had never driven a Porsche before, and didn’t know how to shift it, but I got in around midnight in a rainstorm. Even though Wollek was bad-mouthing me when I was leading the race, he was asked, ‘What do you think about Foyt now', and he said 'well maybe he’s the champion we thought he was'."

Later on, Foyt and Wollek made up and they became good friends.

Regarding the upcoming IndyCar season and the scheduled double-headers along with new driver Takuma Sato, Foyt said, “We used to have double-headers that were run on the same day, and you had to run both of them, as they were classified as one race. If double-headers will make the fans happy, I have no problem with it.”

Addressing Sato, Foyt commented, “Sato will be our main driver, and we haven’t named our second driver, although Conor Daly had a successful test at Sebring. We are looking at three or four drivers, but with Conor’s tie-up in Europe, I don’t think it would be fair to bring him in cold turkey. He’s going to be a great race driver, and you are going to hear a lot about him.

“When I signed Sato, I told him that if we have a 10th place car, I want you to run 10th and if we have a fifth-place car, I want you to run fifth but don’t try to run first with a 10th place car. I think Takuma understood what I was telling him loud and clear.

“My son (Larry Foyt) runs the team now, and I am backing out more and more but still go to all the races. When it comes to the hard shots, I will call them, as I am still the one signing all the checks.”

A.J. Foyt Racing signage
A.J. Foyt Racing signage

Photo by: Eric Gilbert

When asked about Tony Stewart turning down Roger Penske’s offer for the Indianapolis 500, Foyt thought Stewart made the correct choice. “Tony’s a real smart boy, and he’s going to do what is best for him,” Foyt said. “He’s got a lot on his plate, and I don’t think he would be doing himself justice. It would be a great ride for him, and I think he could win the Indy 500. He has a lot going for him. In his opinion, if he wants to do it, he’s going to do it, just like I would have done.”

Asked about his favorite type of racing, Foyt reflected on his days of flinging a sprint-car around on dirt, saying, “I still go back to the sprint-car days running on the half-mile dirt tracks. This was my favorite kind of racing. Good old Saturday night sprint-car racing is as good as it gets. No wings, either.”

Foyt responded to numerous questions but side-stepped two: his opinion about drivers dating (Danica Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.) and his insights into IndyCar Series management changes. Regarding personal relationships, he did say he has been married for 59 years, so he didn’t want to discuss the relationships of others.

As usual, Foyt was one of the most popular personalities to visit the media center.

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About this article
Series GRANDAM , HISTORY , INDYCAR , NASCAR
Article type Special feature
Tags akin, daytona, foyt, france, grandam, history, indycar, nascar, penske, porsche, rolex24, sato, sprint-cars, stewart, wollek, wood brothers