INDIANAPOLIS - To many motorsports fans, the name A.J. Foyt is synonymous with excellence at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears are the only drivers to win the Indianapolis 500 four times. In...
INDIANAPOLIS - To many motorsports fans, the name A.J. Foyt is synonymous with excellence at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears are the only drivers to win the Indianapolis 500 four times. In many regards, Foyt stands alone atop the heap of drivers who have raced on the fabled 2.5-mile oval at the Brickyard. He holds numerous Indianapolis 500 records, including most career and consecutive starts (35), most competitive laps and miles during a career (4,909 laps, 12,272.5 miles), most races led (13), most times led during a career (39). But statistics alone don't serve justice to Foyt's accomplishments at the Speedway. He holds a special place in the track's lore because of the manner in which he wove his magic. There was nothing fancy about Anthony Joseph Foyt Jr. in a race car at Indianapolis. This Texan, once called "the toughest SOB alive" in a national newspaper story, has earned every accomplishment through hard work, persistence and an unshakable belief in himself and his race team. Foyt is celebrating his 40th anniversary at the Indianapolis 500 as a driver or owner this May. He recently sat down with Indianapolis Motor Speedway Senior Editor Dick Mittman to share memories about the ups and downs of his years at the Brickyard.
1958 (Car: Dean Van Lines #29) Start 12, Finish 16 Well, actually the biggest thing of every driver's life, I think at that time, was just qualifyin' for the race. And bein' fortunate enough to make it and get the break from Dean Van Lines and Clint Brawner, I don't know, I guess I was all starry-eyed. I was just hopin' to do a good job for 'em. In '58, Jimmy Bryan, the late Jimmy Bryan, won the race. He was national champion for two years. Pat helped me a lot. My good friend Pat O'Connor lost his life. He helped me a lot at Salem, Ind., on the high banks when I drove a car for Wally Meskowski. Then I didn't know if I wanted to stay in racin' or not. It's something, I'd seen people get hurt or killed before. But in a big race like that, all they keep telling you in your first race is watch the draft down the back straightaway because you run a lot faster than you realize. But they didn't give me instructions for what to do when 16 cars started spinning and flipping end over end. I was just fortunate enough to get through it. (Editor's note: O'Connor was killed in the third turn and north chute melee; Foyt's race ended when he spun out on Lap 149. Jimmy Bryan started seventh and won the race).
1959 (Dean Van Lines #10) Start 17, Finish 10 Trenton always was our first race and Indy was our second. It's kinda early in the season and you want to do as good as you can. We run that whole season. And some friends of mine were winning some races, and I just couldn't understand why I wasn't. Actually, Clint (Brawner) was a super good mechanic. He proved himself with the late Jimmy Bryan. It just seemed like we weren't clickin' and we were havin' mechanical problems and things like that. At the end of the season, I was going to run for 'em in 1960. Then we had some misunderstandings, and that's when I signed up with Bowes Seal Fast. I met them (Mari Hulman, Speedway owner Tony Hulman's daughter, and husband Elmer George, a fellow sprint car driver) way back in 1956 before I ever got here. I want to say in the Tangerine tournament down in Florida. As the years went on, you'd have to say we've just become very, very close friends. Actually, I think I had one child and they had Nancy, and the rest of our kids were born within (the time frame) of each other, not too many months apart. We just become very close friends, and we spent a few years, had Christmas together. After Christmas, a lot of times they would come down to the ranch in Texas. We just had a lot fun and watched our kids grow up. Not necessarily together with each other, but when they were small and I would hold them in my arms they were always together. My children all know them, and they all know my children. (Editor's note: Foyt completed 200 laps and averaged 133.297 mph. Rodger Ward won for the first time with a record speed of 135.857 mph).
1960 (Bowes Seal Fast #5) Start 16, Finish 25 Well, 1960 was when I signed up with Bowes Seal Fast. With the great (chief mechanic) George Bignotti. That's kinda of what really started our roll. I wasn't real happy with the car I had at Indy that year, but it was such a good race car on the mile race tracks. I can't remember where we finished or what really happened. But I know I was really disappointed with the car. I think our first win was in the dirt car at DuQuoin, Ill. Then we won the championship. We just got everything clicking. I drove for Bignotti on the West Coast in the latter part of '59 and the early 60s and won a lot of races. So that's how come we come together on the Indy cars. I knew he had top equipment, and I knew I wanted to win, so I thought we'd run pretty good together. It all panned out that we did click. (Editor's note: Foyt fell out of the race after 90 laps with a clutch problem. Jim Rathmann pushed the race record to 138.767 mph in a terrific duel with Rodger Ward).
1961 (Bowes Seal Fast #1) Start 7, Finish 1 It was a race where Eddie Sachs and I had a great race all day long. It looked like I could beat him. A race is never over with until it's over with. It looked like I had it won, then all of a sudden they gave me the board "late fuel stop." I didn't know what happened, but we had a late fuel malfunction on the last pit stop. So right there at the end I had to make a late stop. And when I did, naturally I give the race to Eddie Sachs. Everybody just felt bad, because here we had it won, we thought, all day and then we lost it. And that's where one favor was returned, back where him trying to run with me with a light load of fuel. He turned around and wore his right front tire out and had to stop right at the end, I think two or three laps to go. So the race was given back to me. Normally, that don't happen in automobile racing. If you blow it, you blow it. We had blowed it, but then all of a sudden it come back to us. So we was all very happy. I won't say I was shocked, I was thrilled to death. That was the biggest thing. The bad thing about the whole deal was driving against the first mechanic that brought me here, Clint Brawner. We had so many people congratulatin' us, talkin' and all that. Hell, I was hungry, so I just pulled over to the White Castle. Hamburgers, I think, were 10 or 12 cents apiece. I had two or three of them and went to bed. Probably a lot of people will never believe that. (Editor's note: Foyt set a new race speed record of 139.131 mph).
1962 (Bowes Seat Fast #1) Start 5, Finish 23) Well, in 1962 we was runnin' good. We had a pit guy that was always wantin' to beat everyone else on changing wheels. If he seen someone else jump up before him, he always jumped up. So what happened, when he jumped up he never put the wing nut on. As I left the pits goin' into Turn 1, the wheel fell off and I spun across the chute. That's quite true, (at that time) I never wanted my sons to be race drivers. I still feel that way today. I've got a couple of 'em wantin' to drive. And my little grandson, he's been runnin' awful great. And my boys, Larry and Jerry, both of'em. I think there might be one in there who might ring the bell. It wasn't my change (of mind), it was my wife's (Lucy) change. I was against it a hundred percent. Then all of a sudden -- she never cared for racin' -- she said the kids got to do what they want to do in life. They all got good educations and went through college, so you can only control their lives for so long. So, like the little one, my grandson, A.J. Foyt IV, I told him as long as he made good grades -- he's made the honor roll and all that, so what else can I say. (Editor's note: Foyt lost wheel and fell out on Lap 70. Rodger Ward outlasted Len Sutton to scored his second victory).
1963 (Sheraton-Thompson #2) Start 8, Finish 3 In '63, you had Jimmy Clark, you had Parnelli Jones and, like (Jim) Hurtubise. You had a lot of great race drivers in that race. You had Rodger Ward (two-time winner) still racin'. To me, he was one of the toughest guys there ever was to beat. I was just glad to finish where I did. You can't win 'em all. I would say Jimmy Clark, in my eyes, all the years I've raced, was probably one of greatest boys to come across the pond to come over to race with us. I've met 'em all, and there have been some great ones to come over here. But I would have to say Jimmy Clark to me was by far better than any of them I raced against. Parnelli and I always had great duels. Parnelli was hard to beat. He had a lot of bad luck in racing or he would have won a lot more races. Parnelli probably was tough as anybody I ever raced against. Me and him are good friends, been friends for years. God damn, when we both put our helmets on, our friendship kinda went opposite ways. We raced as hard as we could against each other. (Editor's note: Foyt placed behind Jones and Clark and ahead of Ward in a Hall-of-Fame finish).
1964 (Sheraton-Thompson #1) Start 5, Finish 1 In 1964, everyone knew Ford Motor Company would dominate the race. We talked about it, this and that. I knew we didn't have a car that could actually outrun them. We knew we had a car that could pressure them all day long. And the way it turn out, I ended up lapping the field. It was just one of them races where it was my day, and everything worked perfect. It was a terrible tragedy that happened on the second lap. I lost a couple of good friends (Eddie Sachs and Dave MacDonald). It kinda made me sick at my stomach, but I tried to dial that out while the race was on. Even thought I won and I was happy, it was a sad finish. (Editor's note: The race was stopped for 1 hour, 42 minutes after fiery crash at the head of the straightaway. Foyt averaged a record 147.350 mph for his second victory. He became the last driver to win the Indianapolis
500 in a front-engine car). 1965 (Sheraton-Thompson #1)
Start 1, Finish 15 If you recall, I got my back and leg broke at Riverside, Calif. A lot of people did not think I would be here at Indy. And I had my doubts. And right before qualifying, I was practicing and coming off (Turn) 2 and we broke an upright. We spun comin' off (Turn) 2 and hit the wall two or three times. I was really worried because my back was not completely healed. And the doctor said, you know, if you have a bad wreck you could be paralyzed. I kind of rolled the dice, and the first thing that went through mind when I started spinning was, "Aw-aw, this could be it." That's where I trained every time I used to hit the wall I put my head real hard against the back seat instead of pulling myself forward. I knew if I pulled myself forward the force is going to slam me backwards. And I think that's what is wrong today in a lot racin' where people bend forward and it slams their head against the deal, so that's one thing I learned early. I knew my back couldn't take a big slam so I just pushed back against the car as I hit the wall. Then to fix the car, to shake it down the day before qualifying and to come out ... Jimmy Clark went out a couple cars before me and set a new track record, and we had one of his older cars and break the track record. I think I made the comment, "I'm glad to bring the record back to the United States where it belongs." In the race, we ran very good for a while, but I just got so tired. Then the gearbox went out. I doubt if I could have finished the race that year without having relief, because I just barely got strong enough to get back to the race. I was hurtin' very bad. I didn't want to fall out, but it really didn't hurt my feelings. (Editor's note: Foyt set a record qualifying speed of 161.233 but dropped out of race after 115 laps. Clark became first driver to win at Indianapolis in a rear-engine car).
1966 (Sheraton-Thompson #2) Start 18, Finish 26 If you recall, in 1966 I waved off second-fast time because Mario (Andretti) sat on the pole that year. I felt like I could sit on the pole when I was pushing. So I went out that evening to qualify, and as I did, I stuck my car in the wall. That elected me to have to qualify the next day, and (George) Snider was in my other car and sat on the front row. But we had a very competitive race car that day. When everybody tangled (at the start), and I got into a wreck on the front straightaway, and that ended that. And if you recall, I bought Jimmy Clark's car and I got burnt real bad -- 20, 30 percent of my body -- at Milwaukee the following week, so that was a bad year starting off. I don't know how I did what I did (climbed the outside fence near start of Turn 1 after crash that eliminated 11 cars). And I know I could never do it again. It's a funny thing when you are there and soaked with alcohol, when you see all the fire around you and you see cars coming at you. And there was no way I could get across (the track) without being hit. I don't know, but you do funny things at funny times. Don't ask me how I did it, but I did it in fear of losing my life, and when you know you're about to get killed you do funny things. (Editor's note: Cars eliminated in the starting crash were placed according to their qualification standing. Englishman Graham Hill, who started directly in front of Foyt, won as a rookie driver, the last to accomplish this feat.)
1967 (Sheraton-Thompson #14) Start 4, Finish 1 We run good that day. We knew we didn't have a shot at the turbine (driven by Parnelli Jones). One thing we knew was that we could keep pressure on him all day. Parnelli was driving a great race and had lapped everybody. And all I could do was run as hard as I could. I didn't know if he fractured his car. He had that spin down between (Turns) 3 and 4. Then right with a few laps (three) to go he broke. And naturally we were real happy because we knew they had such a big advantage over us. I don't think you could compare a turbine engine against a piston engine. It was just one of them deals where they got it through. (Turbine car owner Andy) Granatelli is a super friend of mine, and I can't blame them for what they did. Ours was a rear-engine car. It was the second Coyote we built, and my father (Tony) was the chief mechanic. In '64, that was the last win with a front engine and the brick straightaway. What really made me feel good is I built my own car, drove my own car and my father was chief mechanic. (Editor's note: Foyt averaged a record 151.207 mph to become the fourth three-time winner of the race. Foyt weaved his way through the main straightaway wreckage of five cars to take the checkered flag as the red flag was waved).
1968 (Sheraton-Thompson #1) Start 8, Finish 20 It was a day where we lost a gearbox. We were running CF gearboxes that Germany made, and we used to have a lot of gearbox problems runnin', overheatin' and everything else. Bobby (winner Bobby Unser) was "Wham, bam, thank you, ma'am." His brother (Al) was a pretty good race driver. And Bobby was a good race driver, don't get me wrong. Bobby usually beat hisself. It was just a matter of time. Gettin' back in '68, where I didn't recall. I won in 1967. And (in '68) my car didn't start. When they come down, they go the green flag, and I guess that was one of the most disappointing years I ever had. We were runnin' good. He said, "Gentlemen, start your motors," and I was pushed on the sideline. And they worked on the car, and as my car started the whole field came past. If I recall, I worked myself all the way from dead last to fourth and then the motor blew up. That was a very sad day. (Editor's note: Foyt dropped out after 86 laps. Joe Leonard set a new qualifying record speed of 171.559 in the turbine, but, like Parnelli Jones, he broke in the last 10 laps. Bobby Unser set winning speed record of 152.882 mph, breaking Foyt's year-old mark.)
1969 (Sheraton-Thompson #6) Start 1, Finish 8 Well, '69 we sit on the pole. I dominated the race, then I broke a manifold. Took it off and welded it, and I still come back and finished eighth. It was just one of those days where I felt we couldn't get beat, and we got beat. Yeah, it really is (more discouraging than not being in contention). Very seldom can you win them type of races because it seems like something always will go wrong. (Editor's note: Foyt turned a pole speed of 170.586 mph and recorded the fastest leading lap in the race at 165.160 mph. On Lap 99 he pitted as the leader for a 22.49-second pit stop to repair the broken manifold. Mario Andretti, driving for Foyt's original chief mechanic, Clint Brawner, earned what would be his only victory in 29 starts).
1970 (Sheraton-Thompson #7) Start 3, Finish 10 I don't know, it was just one of those days where we had trouble. Just fought hard all day. They (Al Unser and George Bignotti) did dominate for a couple years. They had a good tire. They was runnin' Firestones. It was a great tire, and they had a good combination. Like I said, Al's a great race driver and Bignotti's a great mechanic, so that's all you can expect for them to be one of the top cars to beat. You always like competition, and you're always going to have one (tire) better than the other. I went to Goodyear in the latter part of '63. We turned around and got them to come racin', so it's been a war ever since. (Editor's note: Foyt led two laps, but never was in serious contention. He again qualified on the front row next to Al Unser and Johnny Rutherford. Unser set qualifying speed record at 170.221 mph and earned the first of his four victories).
1971 (ITT Thompson #9) Start 6, Finish 3 They just outrun me, that's all I can say. They just beat me. There wasn't much I could do about it. Peter Revson (won pole, finished second), he wasn't around long. He come in here, he had a good operation, the McLaren group. Tyler (Alexander) was his mechanic. At that time was when the engine conversions were all changing over just a little bit from the Offies to the Fords. And that time, you know, we had the Ford engine we were buildin' in our shop in Houston and sellin' the stuff. It was just a very tough deal between the Offenhauser and the Fords. I seen the Offy going away, and that's the reason when I bought Ford out I started building the Foyt engine, which was basically the Ford engine which we made modifications to. (Editor's note: Both winner Al Unser and Foyt started in the second row while Revson surprised everyone by winning the pole with a record 178.696 mph, a jump of 6 mph.)
1972 (ITT Thompson #2) Start 17, Finish 25 I think we broke a lot of motors in 1972. We couldn't keep 'em running long. That's when we started tryin' to hop 'em up a little bit more. We should have been (up front), but we just kept breakin' everything. I think right there, (race winners, car owner Roger Penske and road racer Mark Donohue) weren't that competitive on ovals. They run good here at Indy, but that was about it. Mark had those Offies that Herb Porter and them built. And it was really performing well. If we don't break motors we could beat 'em, but still you've got to beat 'em. It probably was the peak of the Offenhauser in the Seventies. (Editor's note: Brown graduate Donohue led only 13 laps, but set a race speed record of 162.962 mph that lasted 12 years. Foyt dropped out after only 60 laps with turbocharger problems.)
1973 (Gilmore Racing #14) Start 23, Finish 25 We were trying to catch up with the Offies, so we were asking the motor to do something it wasn't capable of. At that time, it was big numbers (money spent on engine development). Today, it would not be big numbers. But it was big numbers for me, because I was having to take it out of my pocket. I didn't have much manufacturers jumping into my operation. It's been awhile back, and we've had rain here before. But it was one of those years where probably I don't care to remember much about, because I was having such a bad month anyway. I've got to dial a lot of that out of my mind. (Editor's note: Driver Art Pollard was killed in a practice crash, while mechanic Armando Teran was killed in a pit incident and driver Swede Savage died later of crash injuries suffered during the race. Due to rain, it took three days to get the race into the record book and then rain shortened it to 133 laps, with Gordon Johncock leading when the it was halted for the last time. A rod bolt broke on Foyt's car 38 laps into the race).
1974 (Gilmore Racing #14) Start 1, Finish 15 We were running awfully strong there, and I think we had an oil line come loose in the race. Jim Gilmore probably was one of the finest sponsors I ever had. He's back on our cars this year, with the Power Team car. I'm really glad to have Jim back with us. He's the kinda guy who's always wantin' to do something for somebody. A couple of times when people lost their lives, he sent things, helped fly the families back. He was just a super guy his whole career. (Editor's note: Winner Johnny Rutherford, driving a McLaren, and Bobby Unser were only two drivers to complete 200 laps. Foyt set fast speed in qualifying at 191.632 mph. He led 70 laps before the oil line came loose and sidelined him after 142 laps).
1975 (Gilmore Racing #14) Start 1, Finish 3 Well, '75 we should have won the race. We run out of fuel twice that day and finished third. I had everybody there beat easily, and it was just one of those years where we were supposed to finish third. I just run out of fuel and coasted into the pits. The Hulmans through the years, we've been very close. You know him (Tony Hulman), Clarence Cagle, Joe Cloutier, June Swango, all of them. They knew when I was sleepin' and walkin' around the pits on the outside and sleeping on the inside of my car. For them to take you in their own home and give you a place to live, with Mari George, it's just, it's just magic. It just feels like family. (Editor's note: Foyt led 29 laps after capturing his second straight pole with a speed of 193.976 mph. A rainstorm whipped in from the southwest halting the race after 174 laps. Hall of Famers Bobby Unser, Johnny Rutherford and Foyt, in that order, were the only drivers on the lead lap.)
1976 (Gilmore Racing #14) Start 5, Finish 2 Well, 1976 we led quite a bit that day (29 laps) and had everybody pretty much curtailed and beat. And then I made a pit stop. That's when they had the yellow, and you wasn't supposed to pack up. Rutherford and then packed up pretty close to me and I dove in the pits to make a pit stop, because I didn't want to run out of fuel. As I come in, that was it. They stopped the race. Rutherford won the race, and I run second. I felt like that year they could have restarted the race. (Chief Steward Tom) Binford and them wouldn't restart it. I felt like it was dry enough, because I said, I can win this thing. I wanted to be the first four-time winner. It was a very disappointing year. (Editor's note: The race was shortest in history, only 102 laps. Foyt turned the fast lap of the race at 186.027 mph. Rutherford joined Bobby and Al Unser as a two-time winner.).
1977 (Gilmore Racing #14) Start 4, Finish 1 That's true, I did become a four-time winner. If you recall, I ran out of fuel. I had to make up about 32 seconds on (Gordon) Johncock. He was driving for (George) Bignotti. My chief mechanic at that time was Jack Starne and my father (Tony Foyt). Like I said, on the radio I told Jack he'll let us get within 10 seconds, then he'll start asking to go. At that time, you could turn the boost up to whatever. We was catching him about second-and-a-half, two seconds a lap. The race was gettin' toward the end, and I had him. Then when it went to 10 seconds, I felt like then I was going to have to turn the boost up. Then it went 10, nine, eight, seven. I come back on the radio, said, "Jack, they must be in trouble," because I knew Bignotti would not let me get no closer than 10 seconds after I drove for him. He knew what kind of racer I was and if I got within striking distance, I do anything to try to win. What I meant by that, he knew I'd hang it out four miles if I had to to win the race. Then all of a sudden just as I got to Gordy, he broke a motor. They were in trouble, and I didn't know it when I was catchin' 'em. They must have turned up the boost, then they broke. I knew I was catchin' 'em pretty quick. I would say my first race was my happiest race I ever qualified for, then naturally the first win. And I would say to be the first to win the race four times with Mr. Hulman (Speedway owner Tony Hulman). Him and me rode around the racetrack together. He was like a second father to me and such a sweetheart of a guy. I think Mr. Hulman was awful glad to see me win, especially when he knew when I had nothing and watched me come up through the years. I think it was one of his highlights, and it definitely was one of my highlights, to be able to be friends with people like that. And start from nothing and still be friends like we are today. (Editor's note: Foyt and Tom Sneva, who set a qualifying speed record of 198.884 mph, were the only drivers to complete 200 laps. Johncock broke a crankshaft on the start of Lap 185 and pulled off in the grass in Turn 1. Foyt averaged 161.331 mph for his historic victory. Janet Guthrie became first woman to drive in the race).
1978 (Gilmore/Citicorp #14) Start 20, Finish 7 I still was so happy from winning in '77, I was just there racin' and havin' a ball. I can't recall what happened in '78. Then the Cosworths started comin' in, you know, the newer cars. I think right after that not too many years we give up (on building their own engines) and started running the Cosworth engine. You know, it makes me happy about Al (Unser) joining me in the four-time winner deal. I was the one who walked down there and got him a ride in my second car (in 1965), so it makes me feel good. Him and his brother, they had a Maserati, I think, back there and it kept blowin' up. I put him (Al) in the Lola, we had the first Lola that ever raced over here, Bignotti and our team. And I told him what the car would do, then he qualified. Then to see what Al did really makes me happy. (Editor's note: Al Unser became a three-time winner, and later that year became the only driver to win all three 500-mile races on the schedule in a single season. Tom Sneva became first driver to qualify over 200 mph at 202.156. Foyt put his car in field at 200.122 and was flagged after 191 laps).
1979 (Gilmore Racing #14) Start 6, Finish 2 I was having motor trouble (chasing Rick Mears) and then I blew up on the last lap. I finished second to him and I coasted across the finish line. I blew up going down the back straightaway. I hit the clutch and barely coasted across the line. That was a lucky day. I'm glad it wasn't one more lap. You know, when Rick come aboard, (Roger) Penske had an advantage on a lot of people. They did a lot of testing. They had a lot of money behind 'em. Rick was a fine race driver, but then they struggled with the computer stuff when a lot of people couldn't afford it. So there you go again, Penske had a pretty good advantage over everybody. (Editor's note: Mears won from the pole, but led only 25 laps. Foyt led just one, while Bobby Unser (89) and Al Unser (85) led the rest. Despite his blown engine, Foyt averaged only .693 of a mph less than Mears).
1980 (Gilmore Racing #14) Start 12, Finish 14 My mother got ill, and I started losing interest in racing a little bit. That's awful hard, because they (father and mother) worked awful hard all their life. Then all of a sudden you see things like this happen. You just wonder why. (Editor's note: Foyt was never competitive in the race. His qualifying speed was 7 mph slower than that of pole sitter and race winner Johnny Rutherford, who became a three-time winner).
1981 (Valvoline/Gilmore #14) Start 3, Finish 13 I felt like anytime we wanted to, we was very competitive in this race. This race is the kinda race I live for to come to. They did the right thing changin' it back over (Bobby Unser won race, received an overnight penalty that gave the victory to Mario Andretti, then got the win back in October on a 2-1 vote by an appeals panel.) I really felt like that. It got to where there was so much cheating on the yellow. They had to draw a line somewhere, so I was glad to see USAC take a stand. (Editor's note: Foyt started third, the sixth time for him on the front row. He plugged along and was flagged after 191 laps while still running. Unser became a three-time winner and did not drive again).
1982 (Valvoline/Gilmore #14) Start 3, Finish 19 We were strong that year. We come up, you know, there was a lot of who would lead the first lap, and all that. And (Kevin) Cogan just run out of brains at the start. He broke the rear wheels and got sideways. And Mario, you know, he had a flier on everybody. He got caught right in the middle. It's one of those misfortunate things. You always try to do what you can. He kinda got knocked out the first lap. And actually it broke my drag link and all that. And I don't know if it really damaged anything in the gearbox. We led the race for a long time (32 laps). Then when I come into the pits and tried to go back out, then the gears hung up in it. It was a big jolt (when Cogan swerved to the right into Foyt). I think the biggest thing, what he did he just had the boost up. He just broke it loose at the start of the race. There was no half-shaft broke like they (Penske team) said. Nothing broke, it still was in contact with the car. No, he just popped the clutch. He was kind of a road race. Had it draggin' out, and it just caught him. (Editor's note: The race was restarted after the opening-lap crash, and four cars were too damaged to return. Foyt, who qualified at 203.332 mph, fell out after 95 laps. Gordon Johncock outraced pole sitter Rick Mears to the checkered flag).
1983 (Valvoline/Gilmore #14) Start 24, Finish 31 You know, '83 was when I lost my father. And I think I wasn't really ready for the race. Two years prior to that I lost my mother. My mother, I qualified, I went home and talked to her. She died at 10 minutes to 10. Two years later, I qualified the first day, fly home that evening. I had a private plane. Flew home, my daddy died at 10. So I wasn't really with it. (Editor's note: Foyt fell out after only 24 laps, and finished in the lowest position of his career. Al Unser Jr. joined Al Sr. in the starting lineup to become first father-son combination in the field. Tom Sneva finally evaded blocking of Al Jr. to get by and pass Al Sr. to win).
1984 (Gilmore/Foyt #14) Start 12, Finish 6 After I lost both of them (parents), I went the next four or five years, this there. That was it. I wasn't the A.J. Foyt I should have been. My mind wasn't on it. I was just there. I'd have to say when I probably turned it around was about the year I decided to go to all the road races. Then I got hurt seriously, because I started going to 'em and was just getting back kinda in the groove on road races, figurin' out the gear ratios. That's when we went to computers and all that on our cars to catch up with the rest of the field. I was just gettin' caught up and that's when the brake pedal broke at Elkhart Lake (Wis., in 1990). And then I tried to run another year. There was just no way with me crippled like that that I could. I was gettin' up with age anyway. It was time if I was goin' to run a team I had to back off. (Editor's note: Rick Mears won his second 500. Three rookies finished in top five. Foyt placed behind Michael Andretti, Mario's son driving in his first Indy, completing 197 laps).
1985 (Copenhagen/Gilmore #14) Start 21, Finish 28 What we did, we had an adjustment to help the right front wing. We were runnin' good that day, then it broke. We just parked the car. It was just luck (driver Danny Sullivan spinning, regaining control and going on to win). It's not his skill of drivin', nothin'. No man, you can tell me, runnin' 200 mph here at Indianapolis with the walls 60 feet apart that he could spin and not hit the wall, and know what he's doin'. It's just strictly luck. He had The Man ridin' on his shoulder. I think Danny was just a race driver. He just had everything goin'. You know, he left here, not runnin' good, but he was a good road racer. On the ovals, he was just another participant. He wasn't a Parnelli Jones or nothin' like that, or Rodger Ward. (Editor's note: Pole winner and record setter (212.583 mph) Pancho Carter fell out after six laps. Sullivan spun in front of Mario Andretti, regained control and went on to beat him to the checkered flag. Foyt completed only 62 laps).
1986 (Copenhagen/Gilmore #14) Start 21, Finish 24 We had brake problems that year. It (spin in pits) was the only time I got in trouble and the crew knew it, and my chief mechanic. I was coming in pretty hot. He threw his hand out and when I hit the brakes, they knew I had real low brakes when I did. The pits were real rough that year. I hit the brakes, and it was kinda like the emergency brake on a car. That thing jumped up and spun and I felt like an idiot coming up the pits backwards. That's what happened there. I was just trying to go on and run. Still had the brake problem, and I should have parked it earlier. I knew it when I went by my pits. I seen my crew throw their hand out. And when they did, I should have went on by, but hindsight is 20/20. It's just one of them deals. (Editor's note: Bobby Rahal beat leader Kevin Cogan on a late restart to win the race. Foyt's incident in the pits occurred at the end of Lap 135, and his car hit the pit wall. He qualified 3 mph slower than pole winner Rick Mears).
1987 (Copenhagen/Gilmore #14) Start 4, Finish 19 Eighty-seven, I remember that year. That's my 30th year here. I just felt like all month long something was goin' to happen. We qualified good (fourth). You know, they had the new Chevrolet engines. I had the old Cosworth engine, which Franz Weiss was doing the motor work for Gilbert. I knew we would be very competitive. On Carburetion Day, that day we was runnin' good. And a wing bolt actually broke going into (Turn) 1. I was going to come in the lap prior. I seen Dick Simon in front of me and I said, "I want to make sure my car is good in traffic." I went down into Turn 1, and when I did that wing deal broke. When it did, I just turned around and hit the wall very, very hard. We flew a lot of pieces in from over in England. Got the car ready. Put another motor in because I kinda scared I might have fractured that race motor hard as I hit. When I went into the wall, I knew I would be hurt and probably not be able to start the 30th race. Well, I turned around and, fortune enough, I wasn't hurt pretty good, but was sore. But we got the car together. The car was phenomenal that race day. Then all of a sudden we broke a motor. It was just the odds against us. We weren't supposed to start. (Editor's note: Mario Andretti won the pole with a record speed of 215.390 mph and led 170 laps only to fall out with a failed ignition with his second victory within sight. Al Unser Sr., driving a Penske show car, drove his usual steady race to become the second four-time winner. Foyt dropped out after 117 laps).
1988 (Copenhagen/Gilmore #14) Start 22, Finish 26 Eighty-eight, I crashed? I don't remember that. Yeah, I do too. Eighty-eight, comin' off (Turn) 2 I was tryin' to get under Emerson Fittipaldi, and I spun comin' off of 2. In dirty air there, I got disgusted because he was outrunnin' me down the straightaway. I dove and spun down the back straightaway. Nothin' got really hit. And that put me out, yeah. I remember teasin' Al Unser, sayin', "Man, your car sure looked big." He was behind when I lost it. And he said, "And yours sure looked big sideways, too." (Editor's note: Rick Mears won his third race and second from the pole. Fittipaldi finished seconds behind. Foyt was sidelined on Lap 56, marking the fourth straight race he failed to finish in the top 10).
1989 (Copenhagen/Gilmore #14) Start 10, Finish 5 It was one of those years where they (Emerson Fittipaldi and Al Unser Jr.) were outrunnin' us. There wasn't nothin' I could do about it. They had the Ilmors (engine), the Chevrolet, really. There was no way you was goin' to run with that. I think I was still runnin' the Cosworth. I've known Little Al since he first started. I think he is a great race driver. I don't think he's ever been the race driver his father was, Big Al. The reason I say that is he didn't have to come up through the ranks like his father had to. I mean, he ran the midgets, he ran the sprints, he come up a lot different than most of 'em, but I would say his daddy was a better race driver. Al's a great race driver, don't get me wrong. He's a good kid, but I don't think he is the race driver his father was. (Editor's note: Fittipaldi and Little Al were battling for the lead in Turn 3 with two laps to go when they touched wheels, and Unser spun into the outside wall. Emmo went on to win his first 500. Foyt completed 193 laps and placed just behind Mario Andretti).
1990 (Copenhagen/Gilmore #14) Start 8, Finish 6 It was one of those days I was just gettin' outrun. I run as hard as I could all day, and that was about it. They (winner Arie Luyendyk, Bobby Rahal and Emerson Fittipaldi all averaged over 185 mph) had everything goin' for 'em that day. And when it's your day, it's your day. And I've always said that about racin'. I think that's the year the car I sold him (Luyendyk) is the car he won in. He was drivin' for Domino's Pizza. That was the car I sold them, because the other car was kinda my backup car. Looks like I shoulda kept that car, but it was our car that we sold to (Doug) Shierson. And that's the car he won in. (Editor's note: Luyendyk's speed average of 185.981 mph remains as the race record. He started third. Fittipaldi started from the pole and placed third. Foyt had his second straight top-six finish. At Elkhart Lake, Wis., late in the season he shot off course at a right-hand turn at the top of the main straight and suffered severe leg injuries.)
1991 (Gilmore/Copenhagen #14) Start 2, Finish 28 That was after I was hurt. We were running very strong. It was after my major accident, and everybody said I wouldn't be back. We qualified second and was runnin' real good in the race. What happened, we come in the pits, we had a pit stop and I fell off the jacks. It got us way behind. I was comin' back up, and Bettenhausen and someone else (actually Kevin Cogan and Roberto Guerrero) tangled goin' in (Turn) 1 and a piece of suspension come down from the air and hit the front of my race car. I worked awfully hard (in rehab after 1990 crash). I had to learn to walk all over again. Just a lot of pain and I was determined to make it back. Especially when everybody said I wouldn't make it back. So I was determined. I think determination and my fans through the years is what kept me bringing A.J. Foyt back. I can't say no (that the average driver wouldn't have had same determination). But I've known a lot of 'em have been hurt a lot less and didn't come back. I think my fans is what kept bringing A.J. Foyt back. I had so many people sayin', "You can do it, you can do it." I still have people today tell me, "Come on A.J. get back in it." I'd love to, but there's just no way. (Editor's note: Foyt made one of sports' most incredible physical recoveries to even return for the race. Even in May, he could barely walk, but climbed into his car on Pole Day and qualified second only to Rick Mears. Ironically, Mears that day beat Michael Andretti in a torrid, late-race duel to join Foyt and Al Unser Sr. as a four-time champion).
1992 (Foyt/Copenhagen #14) Start 23, Finish 9 I was just there. I was just always hurtin'. Ninety-two, that's probably when I decided to start givin' up a little bit. I think mid-year is when I backed off a little bit. Just couldn't do it. My ankles wouldn't work. I was hurtin'. I didn't have the feel in my right foot on the throttle like I used to have. I was just cheatin' myself, cheatin' my fans. So I decided it was gettin' to the end. I brought the Frenchman (Gregor Foitek) here, and he just didn't like lookin' at the walls. He watched me (get close to the walls).He went home. He was a good road racer. (Editor's note: Foyt drove his 35th and what proved to be final race in typical A.J. fashion, picking up 14 (appropriately) positions to finish in the top 10 for the 17th time. Only 10 other drivers drove in more than 17 races. Al Unser Jr. won the race over Scott Goodyear in the closest finish ever, 0.043 of a second).
1993 (#14 was missing for first time since 1971) Foyt Drivers: John Andretti (Finished 10th), Robby Gordon (27th) The biggest thing, I think in '93, was, I'll never forget what Ray Harroun (winner of first 500 in 1911) told me one time when Mr. Hulman sent us to New York. I asked him, "When do you know to quit?" He said -- and I'll never forget this -- he says, "It will come to you; when it comes to you, it just comes to you. I can't tell you that." I'll never forget that, and that was after my first victory in 1961. Mr. Hulman had us go to New York on that one talk show. Then Robby (Gordon), he already had wrecked my car twice that month. We ran very fast that day. And that morning I turned the fastest lap right before qualifying. And I said, "Who is it on the yellow?" on the radio. They said, "It's Robby again." I said, "Hell, there's no way I can drive and maintain and run a second car." So I decided just to quit. I felt like my name was made here at Indianapolis. People would have not known A.J. Foyt or any of the top names in the world if it hadn't been for Indianapolis. I said there was no way I could go through a season like this year tryin' to run him and still try to race. So I elected to say it's time to quit. It was just a big, sudden deal. I just said, "That's it." (Editor's note: With tears in his eyes for one of the few times in his life, Foyt got on the public address system and told the fans that he was retiring. He made a final farewell lap around the track. Emerson Fittipaldi got the jump on rookie Nigel Mansell on a late restart to win for a second time).
1994 (#14 returned to lineup with Bryan Herta) Foyt Drivers: Bryan Herta (Finished 9th), John Andretti (10th) I guess comin' back, the hardest thing was, I didn't mind missin' the qualifyin'. People were hollerin', "Get in the car, get in the car." I guess the hardest deal was that first year was when they said, "Gentlemen, start your engines," and bein' there standin' beside your car. I would say that was the hardest thing, not bein' there to perform that day. The rest of it was hard, but that was the hardest thing watchin' 'em drive off without you. It would be hard to single 'em out (toughest competitor he drove against). It was a lot of 'em on different days. But you had a lot more of 'em who was a lot more competitive back then than you have today. I would say one of the hardest guys to beat on the dirt was, actually when you got right down to it, Rodger Ward. Of course, he was way up in the years (when Foyt drove against him). Next you had Parnelli (Jones), you had (Jim) Hurtubise, who really was the toughest ones. Today, I think you've got four or five of who are pretty equal. On any given day they could win. (Editor's note: Herta signed with Foyt on May 3, qualified with 24 minutes left on Bubble Day and ran as high as eighth. Andretti became part of the Foyt/Jonathan Byrd team, qualified on Pole Day and ran as high as third. He then flew to Charlotte, N.C., and drove in NASCAR Coca-Cola 600 to become only driver to drive in both races on the same day. Al Unser Jr. won for the second time).
1995 (Eddie Cheever drove #14) Foyt Drivers: Scott Sharp (Finished 26th), Eddie Cheever (31st) That was a deal where we had Cheever, and we said take it easy. He was runnin' good, and he flew on the outside, and the big wreck happened there with Stan Fox (who was badly injured) and that kinda eliminated us pretty quick. It's all right if you're kinda crippled up, but I hate to see any of my friends, and I've had some of 'em where they're paralyzed and had head injuries. I just try to remember them as they were before that happened. (Editor's note: Second-year driver Jacques Villeneuve became the second-youngest winner ever at 22. Teammates and two-time winners Emerson Fittipaldi and Al Unser Jr. failed to qualify. This was the final race in which CART participated).
1996 (Davey Hamilton drove #14) Foyt Drivers: Scott Sharp (Finished 10th), Davey Hamilton (12th), Marco Greco (26th) That's what everybody says, that Scott gave me my first victory as a car owner (at New Hampshire on Aug. 18, 1996). How about me owning my own car? As an outside driver? Not really, because Jim McElreath did. Jim McElreath gave me my first win. He won the Ontario 500 (in 1970). That was my car that he drove then. So actually McElreath gave me my first win as a car owner. Scott won the (IRL) championship (shared with Buzz Calkins). Actually Marco, I remember, run real good and broke a motor real early. Scotty, if you recall, spun on the last lap comin' off of (Turn) 2, but he run a good race. We was havin' a throttle problem all day. Well, I was just tryin' to play as much strategy as I can (on radio in the pits). It's just a reverse deal, because a lot of times you got boys out there that did not come up through the ranks like I did, the hard ways without radios and that. So you try to take your experience and apply it with them. (Editor's note: Scott Brayton won his second straight pole, but later was killed in a practice crash. Arie Luyendyk was disqualified from the second starting spot but set an all-time qualifying record the next day with a speed average of 236.986 mph. Rookie Tony Stewart became the pole sitter. Buddy Lazier outraced the field to win for the first time).
1997 (Davey Hamilton drove #14) Foyt Drivers: Davey Hamilton (Finished 6th), Billy Boat (7th), Paul Durant (21st) We broken a wrist-pin lock and got Scotty (Scott Sharp) hurt. He crashed and was hurt a lot more than we all realized. We was trying to get him right back out on the racetrack. Then he turned around and pulled a very bad stunt in between (Turns) 3 and 4. I think he saw a car, he jumped out and then he spun and he hit the wall very hard. Then the throttle stuck and he come all the way down the straightaway. What happened then, we put Johnny O'Connell in the car. He was going good and an oil line broke, a fitting broke in the motor and sprayed goin' into (Turn) 1. He got his feet hurt. We just had a terrible month. So we finally got settled down after that. Everything went fairly well in the race. So it's been good. We're startin' off this year, we had little problems at Disney, but I've got two strong boys and two strong cars. I like to see it open up, like when I first started, like it is with IRL. If you've got a million dollars, a hundred-million dollars, the same guy with a little team can get the same equipment, get his own equipment, do his own work and then it's how smart you are with your people and your equipment. And that's what I think racin's all about. And I'm glad to see the Hulmans and the Georges do what they're doin'. It's bringin' back in reality the little guys have the same chance as the big guys. That's kinda what happened to us in the latter part of the 70s and the 80s. It got where you couldn't get the Chevrolet engine if you wasn't a good guy. Well, that ain't right. So I'm glad to see the Hulman-Georges realize that and put it back in reality where the little guy's got the same shot as the big guy. (Editor's note: Arie Luyendyk beat teammate Scott Goodyear by 0.570 of a second to gain his second Indy victory. Foyt's drivers finished one lap down. Foyt starts this May with Billy Boat, a sprint car ace from Phoenix, and Kenny Brack, a road racer from Sweden, as his drivers).