Foyt wins Infiniti Pro Series title, race in Texas thriller.
FORT WORTH, Texas, Saturday, Sept. 14, 2002 -- A.J. Foyt IV made Indy Racing League history Sept. 14 at Texas Motor Speedway, becoming the first champion of the Indy Racing Infiniti Pro Series by winning the BG Products 100.
In a stirring finish, Foyt edged runner-up Cory Witherill by .0379 of a second in the final race of the first season of the new Indy Racing League development series. Foyt's average speed was 133.356 mph.
All 12 cars running on the lead lap finished within one second of Foyt, as 12th place Aaron Fike was just .9820 of a second behind at the line.
"It was a great race," said Foyt, 18, from Hockley, Texas. "I just did like my grandpa said and Jack Starne my spotter. I just kept it right on the bottom. They couldn't get around me.
"Cory Witherill did a good job there at the end. It was pretty close, but I hung on, and that's all that matters."
Ryan Hampton finished third in the No. 34 Conti-Genoa-Frost Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone, .2801 of a second behind Foyt.
Foyt, grandson of four-time Indianapolis 500 winner A.J. Foyt, earned his fourth victory in seven starts this season. Three of those wins came from the pole, including this one, in the No. 14 Harrah's/A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone.
"I think just winning the inaugural event in Kansas really got us going, and that's what got us to the end of this race and to the championship," Foyt said. "My grandfather's done a great job. Harrah's and everybody, they set up my car great."
Foyt ended the season with 290 points to win the Firestone Firehawk Cup awarded to the series champion. He finished 47 points ahead of series runner-up Arie Luyendyk Jr., son of two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Arie Luyendyk. USAC standout Ed Carpenter finished third in the series standings, 64 points behind Foyt.
"He did a great job," A.J. Foyt said of his grandson. "We're all proud of him. I didn't really feel that he was going to do this good, so I'm very proud of him."
Foyt dominated the race, leading 66 of 67 laps. But he never pulled away from the field in a classic drafting duel, as his lead over Witherill hovered around one-tenth of a second from Laps 53-66.
Then on the final trip around the 1.5-mile oval, Witherill made a move in his No. 92 WSA Healthcare entry to the outside of Foyt exiting Turn 4 and tried to win a drag race down the front straightaway. The move fell just short.
"The key thing was to stay up in front to keep yourself in position and just wait until the last minute," Witherill said. "You could be anywhere on the grid then pull out and lose positions, so it wasn't worth it to move around. It was better to just stay up front and wait until the end to try to make a move."
Now that Foyt has won the inaugural series title, is he pressing his grandfather to open a spot in his IRL team for 2003?
"You got that right," A.J. Foyt said with a smile.
The inaugural season of the Infiniti Pro Series was termed an overwhelming success by series organizers. The series was announced in August 2001 and was on track just 10 months later for the inaugural race at Kansas Speedway.
"I am happy with the decision we made to go ahead and debut the Infiniti Pro Series in 2002," said Tony George, IRL president and CEO. "We couldn't have accomplished this without the support of our partners Infiniti and Firestone. In addition, the commitment by the drivers and the teams added to the success of the inaugural season.
"This season exceeded the expectations we had for the series. I hope the fans enjoyed watching the racing. We're confident we're well on the way to establishing a series that will develop the drivers and teams that will be the future of the Indy Racing League."