A. J. Foyt, Mike Bliss - Experiment?

Blissful experiment for Foyt in Cup? By Brett Borden DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 12, 2000) In a sport where chemistry is such a delicate entity, theirs seems destined to end up like a sixth-grade experiment. One is tempted to watch them from...

Blissful experiment for Foyt in Cup? By Brett Borden

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 12, 2000) In a sport where chemistry is such a delicate entity, theirs seems destined to end up like a sixth-grade experiment. One is tempted to watch them from outside their garage and wait for that foamy stuff to come out of the volcano. Michael Bliss and Anthony Joseph Foyt joined forces this year in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series to make runs at redemption from opposite sides. Bliss is the up-and-comer, trying to prove himself after five years of hit-and-miss (mostly miss) success in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.

Foyt is the been-there-done-that legend. He won the Daytona 500 when Bliss was only six years old, and now is trying to prove himself all over again as a car owner. He's trying to become the first man ever to win the Daytona 500 AND Indianapolis 500 both as a driver and an owner. He has the Indy half covered, as well as the driver's portion of the Daytona double.

"Victory in the future is always what you're looking for," Foyt said. "I still have so much I'd like to accomplish as a team owner and success at Daytona and in Winston Cup is high on the list.

"My experience in NASCAR as a car owner always included me as a driver," he said (Foyt won the 1972 Daytona 500 while driving for the Wood Brothers). "But we're going to have a lot of fun with this new team. I've just got to pop the whip and get them working."

Bliss hasn't exactly shown signs of responding to the whip here lately. Foyt is his third car owner in three years, directly following Jack Roush, another man not known for having the patience of Job. But the Oregon native says that this case is different. He believes in A.J., and is determined to make A.J. believe in him.

"We've got some work to do but we know where to gain speed," said Bliss. "A.J. is a positive role model for me. He knows what it takes to be successful here. A.J.'s got a good eye for balance and what he suggests works.

"It's not intimidating at all having him there. If anything, he is helping me. He tells us what he sees, and what he thinks. And it works, too - the things that he is saying. He's helping me get around here. He is a positive role model for me. I've always looked up to him, so what he says, I believe."

For Foyt's part, the tough Texan who used to get out of his car during pit stops and work on the car himself says he has a ten-gallon hat full of racing knowledge to help round up his Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate.

"I try to give him all the input I possibly can, and say, 'This is what I would suggest,'" said Foyt. "This morning, we probably helped pick him up by a half-second. This is a tricky race track. You can run all over it, but with a (restrictor) plated motor, there are certain spots that you have to run to run fast. You want to be smooth and find the shortest way around without binding the car up. That's mainly what I've been talking to Mike about."

And Mike was about as fast as the veteran drivers Tuesday at Daytona, where he was part of GM's open test on the 2.5-mile trioval track. Bliss and Foyt have cast their lot with Pontiac this season, a move Foyt hopes will pay off.

"I have a lot of confidence in Pontiac," said Foyt. "I drove for Pontiac years ago and won with them. We won the Indy 500 in '99 with a GM product and I'm happy that they're part of this effort."

Effort is not lacking in the Foyt/Bliss camp at this point. Combined experience is. Bliss says that the former commodity will start showing when the latter starts kicking in.

"They always tell you the wicked rumors about plate testing, and how you're going to be stumped, and not able to get that last little bit out of the car," he said. "But, we're working pretty hard at it, and trying to pick up some speed.

"It's there, but this is our first test. From here, we're going to the wind tunnel and then we'll be back here next week. This was just a shakedown test to see where we were at. We've got some work to do, but we know where we need to improve."

-nascar.com-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Mike Bliss , Jack Roush