IRL: Foyt IV moves to greener pastures

They were like oil and water together, A.J. Foyt Jr and his grandson A.J. Foyt IV. Grandpa threw 18-year-old Anthony into the deep end of the IndyCar Series wars just one year after he propelled him to the initial Menards Infiniti Pro crown. It...

They were like oil and water together, A.J. Foyt Jr and his grandson A.J. Foyt IV.

Grandpa threw 18-year-old Anthony into the deep end of the IndyCar Series wars just one year after he propelled him to the initial Menards Infiniti Pro crown. It was the prodigal's first year out of SCCA regional competition.

At that A.J. Foyt IV was barely removed from karts and had never driven any rear-engine racer so powerful as an Indy car.

Anthony arrived on the scene the same time as the engine wars between Honda, Toyota and Chevrolet went sky high. The IRL's playing field went to seesaw proportions and A.J. Foyt Enterprises wasn't among the "haves" when it came to engineering expertise.

The old man assumed engineering duties in an era totally alien to his own - in which A.J.'s own immense setup talents naturally bred a good race car. It didn't help that the team never had the best engines with whomever supplied their power mills.

Anthony ended up 21st in his first, 2003 season and 18th last year. It has been easy to see improvements in his driving abilities in 2005 as he's racked up a pair of top-10 results and has been able to run with the pack.

The Legend has been trying to put his own racing genes into Foyt's look-alike progeny. The man who won four Indianapolis 500s and well, races in everything but Formula One. A.J. Foyt Jr. has the chops to back up his rewards as a driver; he wanted so bad to infuse that in Anthony.

Perhaps it might happen another time, but not now. After the Toyota Indy 400 next weekend at California Speedway, Anthony will be at liberty to ply his racing trade elsewhere and before the ink was dry, the younger Foyt signed a contract with Akins Motorsports in the NASCAR Busch Series.

He's been known as a backmarker since coming to the League's premier series and the 500 his Grandpa is famed for winning. The first time he was a mere babe in the woods. It was Anthony's 19th birthday at the Speedway that May 25th of 2003, and he brought it home 18th, his best result at the Brickyard.

Pit patter has made it well known that young Foyt wanted to go NASCAR racing and would likely have a future there with interest from viable team owners.

Grandpa let him go as of the IRL season finale on the 2-mile California Speedway oval October 16th.

"Anthony wants to try his hand at NASCAR," the patriarch confirmed. "He's learned a lot since we began working together (2002 when they won the Pro series) but now it's time for him to learn from someone else. He's still young," Foyt Jr. reminded, "and I'm sure some of the advice I've given him will start to sink in when he hears it from someone other than me."

It's obviously going to be difficult for the elder Foyt to let go of his grandson. "I think we both realize it's time for him to spread his wings. I'll still keep an eye on him," A.J. confirmed, "no matter where he goes because he is my grandson. That will never change."

There's no shortage of veteran drivers vying to take over the #14 ABC Supply car at A.J. Foyt Racing and, perhaps one of them might work better with the old man. Foyt isn't in much of a hurry to name a successor.

"I'll always appreciate the chance my grandfather has given me," allowing A.J. Foyt IV to become the youngest driver ever to compete in the Indy 500 after becoming the youngest ever to compete in the IndyCar Series.

To date, his best Indy car start is sixth at Chicagoland Speedway in 2004 and his pair of ninths in 2005, at the season starter on the Homestead- Miami Speedway 1.5-mile oval and ninth in the August heat at 1.5-mile Kentucky Speedway.

"I've learned tons working with him and his team and how you have to keep working together to make progress," Anthony said. "My grandfather has shown a lot of faith in e by allowing me to drive his cars and by sticking by me when times got rough. Without him I wouldn't be where I am today. Now I have an opportunity to try something different which I'm excited about and I hope works out well."

In addition to A.J. Foyt Jr.'s stellar career behind the wheel, he has also brought up a bunch of drivers over the year and won the Indy 500 with Kenny Brack at the wheel in 1999, a year after the Foyt team and Swede Brack won the IRL championship.

Scott Sharp was the first to win a title for Foyt (and then partner Richard Childress) and Super Tex has also run Robbie Buhl, Greg Ray, Billy Boat and Robby Gordon among many others.

Prior to making the decision to leave his Grandfather's IndyCar team, Foyt IV had tested with his new Busch team and will be their driver for the final four races in 2005 with a full ride in 2006. "I'm thankful for the opportunity to drive the No. 38 Great Clips Dodge," expressed Foyt about his new ride in 2006.

"I'm thrilled that I have the opportunity to associate myself with a team such as Akins Motorsports," he continued. "I'm hoping that the last four races this season will help me get dialed in for a full season next year."

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Robby Gordon , Greg Ray , Robbie Buhl , Scott Sharp , Billy Boat , A.J. Foyt IV , A.J. Foyt Jr. , A.J. Foyt
Teams A.J. Foyt Enterprises