IRL: Indy 500: A.J. Foyt IV press conference

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Indy Racing League Weekly Teleconference May 13, 2003 A.J. Foyt IV Now let's welcome IndyCar Series driver A.J. Foyt IV. Foyt IV: Hello. K. Johnson: Just a quick introduction. Anthony drives the No. 14 Conseco/A.J. Foyt Racing ...

Indy Racing League
Weekly Teleconference
May 13, 2003

A.J. Foyt IV

Now let's welcome IndyCar Series driver A.J. Foyt IV.

Foyt IV: Hello.

K. Johnson: Just a quick introduction. Anthony drives the No. 14 Conseco/A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Toyota/Firestone, and he became the youngest driver to ever qualify for the Indianapolis 500 this past weekend when he posted a four-lap average speed of 224.177 miles per hour. His car owner is his grandfather, four-time Indianapolis 500 winner, A.J. Foyt. Anthony, again, thanks for joining us today. And first off, congratulations on your qualifying run this past weekend. You obviously had a few hurdles to overcome, but you pulled it all together and did a solid job. Can you take us through your Sunday, if you could?

Foyt IV: Sunday is probably the toughest day that I have ever had. Definitely the toughest day I ever drove on a track being that the lane conditions were so bad. It was a totally different day than I was used to and what I was hoping for. We had some problems in the first qualifying run and spun coming off Turn 2, then that kind of set you back, and we got back out there and tried to get in and we ran not the speeds, definitely, that we were wanting, and we ran so much faster earlier in the week, and we knew we could better but just kind had to take that speed at that time.

K. Johnson: Now this week, the Infiniti Pro Series makes their inaugural debut at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. You were the champion of the first series last year and now have made the move to the IndyCar Series. Do the drivers in the other series come to you for advice, or what kind of advice can you give a driver that is looking to make the jump from the Infiniti Pro Series up to the IRL IndyCar Series?

Foyt IV: Well, last year was a great year in the Pro Series, but I mean these cars are made by the same company, which is good. It kind of gives you the feel, but the car is a lot different and the competition is really tough. And it was a great stepping-stone for me, and I am really happy to have been in a series like that. But you know, still even though I had that last year and won the championship, it is still going to be a big learning curve this year being in the IndyCar Series cars. My grandpa has a car that Ed (Carpenter) is driving now, and he is doing pretty good, and hopefully we will be doing better. I mean, if he has any questions, he can ask me, and I will just try to help him out as much as I can.

K. Johnson: What are some of the things that you encounter when you make that switch? Obviously, the engines are more powerful, stuff like that. But what are some of the things that maybe not that you are not prepared for them but that you really have to watch out for?

Foyt IV: Yes, just the speeds are really fast, and you just have to be on your toes every lap and every corner. You just have to concentrate the whole race. You know, if lose concentration just for a minute, you could find yourself in trouble, so that is the main thing, just staying concentrated and focusing and just trying to do the best I can do.

Q: When you think of Frank Sinatra Jr. and Pete Rose Jr., they were facing pressure that was quite unbelievable. They understood very early that it was going to be impossible or very, very difficult to match their fathers and grandfathers, their predecessors' feats. How do you feel about the fact that you are going to have to such a great career just to match A.J?

Foyt IV: I am not really worried about trying to match A.J. I mean, it would be awesome to accomplish some of the stuff that he has accomplished. You know, he is the best race car driver in the world, so it is kind of hard to say I am going to match that. I mean, I know it is going to take time, and I am just going to take it year-by-year and race-by-race and just do the best I can each race.

Q: Do you feel, though, that they are going to be higher expectations on you than anybody else on the track who does not carry a name of a predecessor who was so great?

Foyt IV: I think some people may look at my last name being Foyt and they expect me to come out and do really well right off the bat. But I think the people that have been around the racetrack and around racing and know me just know I have a lot of learning to do and know it is going to take time.

Q: Anthony, qualifying day was a day that I know you have looked forward to almost from the first moment you could form thoughts. How disappointing, or was it disappointing that it turned out to be one of the worst days for qualifying in Indianapolis history?

Foyt IV: Yes, the wind was definitely a bad deal and something I was not really ready for. It was just getting out there, and when I first got out there, I knew the wind was blowing real hard, but I just did not know what it was going to really do to the car. It really made a big difference, and you kind of have to change your setup a little bit when the wind gets like that. We have had a pretty good setup the whole month we have been here, and it is the wind and the weather that just changed it completely. And, me being a rookie and trying to still communicate well with my grandfather to get the car perfect is another tough task. So I might not have got the car really right where we need it to be for those conditions, and I definitely wasn't where I needed to be with the wind blowing like that. So it is just something we have to work on, and we will get it ready for the race.

Q: Was it disappointing for you that day?

Foyt IV: I was definitely disappointed in my run because we ran so much quicker earlier in the month and we have been running pretty consistent times before then. It seemed like we got here, and everything is going good and then kind of got a little worse day-by-day. So, definitely not what we wanted, and we know we can do better than that and just unfortunate that we had a day like that.

Q: Now on the spin, if ever there was a perfect spin, I think that you completed it. It seemed that you did everything right. How much of it was pure instinct or was there enough time for you to think 'OK, here is what I have learned in how to handle this situation?'

Foyt IV: I mean a spin, any time you spin and do not hit anything you are pretty lucky, especially a track like this, and you are going so fast. I just feel really fortunate. I know when it turned sideways I was just waiting on a big bang, because every time I have spun coming out of the pits it has kind of put me in shock that I did not hit anything. After I was rolling backward for a while, it felt good just to get out of the car and look at all four corners and still see the wheels on it. But I was really lucky.

Q: What did A.J. say to you?

Foyt IV: While I was rolling backward, he told me over the radio that I am all right, and then he finally told me to put on the brakes because I kept on rolling backward. And he asked me why I didn't put on the brakes earlier? And I told him that I was probably just in shock.

Q: How does it make you feel when you hear people say that you kind of even look like he does in the older pictures?

Foyt IV: Just anyway to be like he was. They say I look like him, and I just need to start driving like him.

Q: How did all this stuff about you and the horse racing and wanting to be a jockey come about?

Foyt IV: Well, I was born in Kentucky, and my dad trained horses. That is what I was around a lot of my early life, and I rode horses pretty much every day. So that is what I kind of thought I was going to be until we moved to Texas, and I got into racing.

Q: Did you move to Texas to takeover one of A.J.'s ranches down there after he got in that accident in '90?

Foyt IV: My dad. That is the reason why we moved to Texas is because my dad came here and helped him on the ranch and ran the ranch for him.

Q: Didn't you used to practice starts at Churchill Downs or sit in the starting gates at Churchill Downs, too?

Foyt IV: Yes.

Q: Can you compare doing something like that at a historic track to what you are doing right here right now? Is it the same kind of feeling? Do you sense the history and everything?

Foyt IV: I was pretty young. The only reason why I really remember doing that is because of pictures.

Q: A.J. good morning. I know you have to some memories from an early age. What memories do you have? Also, as a youngster, were you disappointed with your mind and dreams on horse racing, suddenly having to change horses in midstream, if you will? And talk about if you still have interest in thoroughbreds?

Foyt IV: I was really into it when I was very young just because I grew up around it and rode horses pretty much every day. But racing is definitely what I want to do and really do not have nothing to do with horses anymore and do not really miss it. I mean, I thought I was going to be a jockey, but I was just young, and now I am like 6 feet tall, so that pretty much ruined my chances for being a jockey anyway.

Q: I was wondering, Anthony, if it means anything to you that this race might not have a full field. Does that have any affect on you and mean anything to you?

Foyt IV: Well, I think they will have a full field and (Inaudible) race ever. So, I know there are a lot of drivers out there they want to be in this race. It is just this year with the whole new cars and new motor thing, it has been tougher. And this year's quality of field is really good, and there are a lot of good drivers that do not have a ride right now. And so I am sure they will be able to fill the field.

Q: A.J., you qualified in the T-car, didn't you?

Foyt IV: Yes.

Q: Does that leave the No. 14 as a backup or can you go back out in it?

Foyt IV: If I try to qualify again I have to qualify in the No. 14 car.

Q: Is that car available for you, or is it for somebody else?

Foyt IV: No, it is available for me. I hope so.

Q: You hope so, huh? Good luck to you.

Q: Does that mean what you just said, A.J., that you look to maybe improve your position or at least re-qualify Sunday?

Foyt IV: No, it just depends on what goes on and -- I mean, if it looks like we have a chance to get bumped then definitely we will get out there in the car, but other than that we have no plans to qualify again.

Q: Is part of your learning the month of May, because if there is one thing that your grandfather has always been known for other than his driving ability, it is his strategy, his chess playing during the month of May. Is that also part of your learning curve for this month?

Foyt IV: Yes, it is definitely a long month. I mean, every day can be different, and he knows that, and I just have to learn that. He knows this place really well, and he knows what the weather can do and what to do with the car, so it has been a really big advantage to have him help me here.

K. Johnson: Anthony, the journalist that you answered a question for a moment ago asked about the backup car and the primary car. You are one of the teams that have both the Dallara chassis as well as the Panoz G Force chassis. Is there, from a driver's standpoint, a discernible difference when you get in the two cars between the two or how do you decide which way to go?

Foyt IV: I have driven both cars here this month and, you know, they are both really good chassis, and I think either one of them is what the driver feels more comfortable in. I mean, they have proven that both their cars are really fast, so I think it is just we ended up qualifying the Dallara because we went out in it Friday, and I felt pretty comfortable in it so we decided just to go with that one.

Q: From watching your grandfather race on the track all the time and actually driving on it the first time, did it give you an experience that you had expected or it was totally unexpected, and especially when you were qualifying for the race?

Foyt IV: It was definitely neat to get out there and walk through Gasoline Alley and go get in the car for the first time and take some laps. It is an awesome track, and it is everything I thought it was and more. It just has been a really great experience this month and look forward to getting better.

Q: Hi, Anthony. Race Day is going to be your birthday, you're the youngest driver to ever start in Indy 500, you're A.J. Foyt IV. Have you been able to sit down and appreciate all the things that have been going around and all the things that you are going to be looking at this month?

Foyt IV: I am not really trying to focus on being the youngest or the race being on my birthday. I am just here like everybody else is, to do good in this race. That is really mainly what I am concentrating on, just focusing on the track within and getting better and be ready for the race.

K. Johnson: Anthony, a lot has obviously been made and discussed today and before about your grandfather at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, as well as in the IndyCar Series, and now you following through. But I would think that he has to be your biggest supporter, isn't he?

Foyt IV: He is definitely my biggest supporter, and he has been helping me since I was very young going in go-karts and just bringing me up step-by-step and just trying to do the best he can with me.

K. Johnson: Well, Anthony, we certainly appreciate you joining us today. We wish you the best of luck throughout the remainder of the month at Indianapolis.

A. J. Foyt IV: Thanks.

-irl-

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