INDIANAPOLIS, Tuesday, Dec. 7, 1999 -- For as long as Jeff Ward can remember, his goals have been simple - to compete and to win. Those qualities will make him a good match for his new boss, racing legend A.J. Foyt, and his new sponsor, Harrah’s Casinos.
Ward and Foyt formally announced today that they have joined forces for the 2000 Indy Racing League season. Ward, a 38-year-old San Juan Capistrano, Calif., resident, will drive the Harrah’s-sponsored car for A.J. Foyt Racing. Harrah’s signed a three-year, multimillion-dollar title sponsorship with A.J. Foyt Racing last June.
Ward, the Indianapolis 500 Bank One Rookie of the Year in 1997, finished third at Indy that year. He finished runner-up in 1999 at Indy. In 2000, with the help of four-time Indy 500 champion Foyt, Ward plans to move to the winner’s circle at Indy and take claim of the Borg-Warner Trophy.
“A.J. knows a lot about that race, a lot about how to win it,” Ward said. “And that’s the ultimate goal. I’d like to win every race I run, but Indy is special - it’s the biggest race in the world.”
Foyt and Harrah’s think their new driver has a great chance of winning not only Indy but any other race he enters. At times, Ward has been nothing short of dominant during his short career. He led 49 laps at the ’97 Indianapolis 500 and was second in overall laps led, with 327, during the 1998 Indy Racing League season.
Ward recorded two runner-up finishes and briefly led the point standings in the 1999 Indy Racing League season.
“Jeff impressed me the first time he got in an Indy car,” Foyt said. “He finished third at Indy as a rookie and should’ve won it, but I think he had to pit for fuel at the end. When he tested with us at the speedway in October, he adapted to the car very quickly.
“Good drivers like Jeff have that ‘feel’ for the racecar, and they know how to give good feedback. Jeff is just a good race driver, real good. I think he’ll be a great asset to our Harrah’s team.”
Ward began racing mini-bikes at age 6. He entered professional motorcycle racing at 16. When he retired from motocross in 1992, he had posted 20 career Supercross wins, 54 career national motocross wins and had served on the winning U.S. team in Motocross des Nations seven times.
Ward made the transition from two-wheelers to four-wheelers in 1993, competing in five Indy Lights races, including a top-five finish at Phoenix. His final year of racing Indy Lights was 1996, when he competed in 11 races and won two poles. From there, it was on to the big leagues and a third-place finish at Indy.
“Jeff is a highly competitive driver who has demonstrated a will to win every time he hits the track,” said Craig Hudson, Harrah’s vice president of brand management. “He approaches his business the same way we approach ours, and that’s what we want in a driver. From his days racing motorcycles to his career on the oval track, he’s always pushed for the checkered flag. We couldn’t be happier to have him behind the wheel for Harrah’s.”
Said Ward: “This is like a dream come true. A.J. is a great guy to work with - you can tell even from the outside how much he wants to win. And it’s really exciting to have Harrah’s as a sponsor - they are a huge name in the gaming industry, and it’s wonderful to have such a big supporter. I think it will be a great combination.”