2004 IRL Preview: Foyt Inherits Drive From Famous Grandfather INDIANAPOLIS, Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2004 -- A.J. Foyt IV doesn't give credence to the "sophomore jinx." He figures he had enough pitfalls as an Indy Racing League IndyCarÂ® Series rookie...
2004 IRL Preview: Foyt Inherits Drive From Famous Grandfather
INDIANAPOLIS, Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2004 -- A.J. Foyt IV doesn't give credence to the "sophomore jinx." He figures he had enough pitfalls as an Indy Racing League IndyCar® Series rookie to cover at least two seasons.
Gearbox problems, handling issues and accidents in three races were among the things that derailed Foyt's challenge for the Bombardier Rookie of the Year award. He was running at the end of seven of the 16 races, and finished 21st in the point standings.
It was a large learning curve for Foyt, who became the youngest driver in IRL IndyCar Series history when he started the season opener at Homestead-Miami Speedway at age 18. The Hockley, Texas, resident had a best finish of 11th at Nashville and placed 18th at the Indianapolis 500 -- on his 19th birthday.
"My goals are to be competitive at every race and to finish in the top 10 in points," said Foyt, won captured four of the seven races and four pole positions en route to winning the 2002 IRL Menards Infiniti Pro Series^Ù inaugural championship. "I learned a lot last year."
Foyt retains his youthful enthusiasm and determination. The four testing sessions Feb. 11-12 at Phoenix International Raceway put the team on solid footing entering the season opener Feb. 29 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The No. 14 Conseco/A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Toyota/Firestone had a quick time of 20.8562 seconds (172.611 mph) on the 1-mile Phoenix International Raceway oval.
"I think last year he took the blame for some of the team's mistakes in the pits or the garage," said family patriarch A.J. Foyt, the four-time Indianapolis 500 winner who also is his grandson's boss. "This year, we are taking steps to change that."
Foyt's ascent through the ranks has been quick. In 2001, he won the SCCA Formula Continental series southwest championship, winning six races. He was named Rookie of the Year and finished third in the national point standings despite missing three races. Six years earlier, he began competing in karts.
A CAPSULE LOOK AT CONSECO/A.J. FOYT RACING:
Car number: 14
Owner: A.J. Foyt
Driver: A.J. Foyt IV
Team manager: Craig Baranouski
Crew chief: Rich Simon
Chief mechanic: Bill Spencer
Engineer: A.J. Foyt
A.J. Foyt: "A.J. IV has won in everything he's done so he knows how to win. We just have to get him in position to win, which I think we can do this year. He's learned how to handle the Indy cars, which are heavier and more powerful than anything he's run before. He's confident in the car and confident racing with the other drivers. It will come together for him and he will win. We have to do our job, too."
A.J. Foyt IV: "One of the areas where I improved the most was my feedback to the team. By the end of the year we were communicating much better and that made it easier to set up the car."
The 2004 IRL IndyCar Series season begins with the Toyota Indy 300 at 2 p.m. (EST) on Feb. 29, 2004, at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The race will be broadcast live on ESPN and the IMS Radio Network.