A.J. Foyt Returns to NASCAR

Foyt makes return to NASCAR as team owner By Dave Rodman DARLINGTON, S.C. (Sept. 3, 1999) A.J. Foyt will have Conseco on his NASCAR Winston Cup Series car in 2000. United States auto racing legend A.J. Foyt announced Friday morning...

Foyt makes return to NASCAR as team owner By Dave Rodman

DARLINGTON, S.C. (Sept. 3, 1999) A.J. Foyt will have Conseco on his NASCAR Winston Cup Series car in 2000. United States auto racing legend A.J. Foyt announced Friday morning prior to the opening of practice for NASCAR's oldest superspeedway race at Darlington Raceway that he would return to the sanctioning body in 2000 as the owner of a fulltime NASCAR Winston Cup Series team. Foyt, 64, said that in the interest of keeping his intentions under wraps, he's had virtually no conversations with drivers, manufacturers or engine suppliers for the team. Foyt, who will serve as the president of the new organization, does however have a stout support staff already in place for the team, which will be based in a new building just purchased outside Charlotte, N.C.

"Everything starts popping today," said Foyt, who anticipates a lengthy line of applicants for what could be a plum driving or crew assignment. "We have no plans to race at all in 1999. As it is we'll have a helluva time making the Daytona 500 with the late start we're getting but we've started taking some steps."

Foyt's nephew Tommy LaMance, the team manager of Foyt's two-car team in the Pep Boys Indy Racing League, will be vice president of the NASCAR Winston Cup Series team; veteran crew chief Waddell Wilson is already serving as general manager; and stock car racing luminary Dick Hutcherson, a race-winning driver and car builder who has long been associated with Foyt's stock car program, will also be involved.

In conjunction with Foyt's announcement of the team's debut in the 2000 Daytona 500 on Feb. 20 at Daytona International Speedway, on the eve of the 50th annual Pepsi Southern 500, Conseco Inc. and NASCAR announced a marketing partnership that designates Conseco the "Official Financial Services Provider of NASCAR."

Foyt said the decision to return to NASCAR and to get involved for his sponsor was a simple one. The venerable native of Houston last competed in a NASCAR event when he ran the 1996 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series finale in a truck he owned at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. He finished 28th

"The biggest thing was that Conseco and I have been involved in a lot of stuff through the years, and they looked at getting involved in NASCAR and really investigated what they wanted to do," Foyt said of his decision to make his first full-time effort in a sport that he has dabbled in -- quite successfully -- since the 1960s. "I have always really enjoyed running with NASCAR and did it all the time, as much as possible through the years."

"As many friends as I've got down here, it was just something we felt we had to to. And you know, it's just good racing -- that's it."

Foyt, who has seven career win in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series, including two straight (1964-65) in the Firecracker 400 at Daytona and the 1972 Daytona 500, said his shop complex, located off Exit 33 on I-77 in the racing hotbed of Mooresville, N.C., would eventually total some "30,000 square feet when it is completed." The existing main structure is 20,000 square feet and plans are in place to add additional buildings to the complex. Foyt said a display area would be created in the main lobby of the complex that would house memorabilia including a 1998-vintage record-holding Conseco Indy car.

Foyt said he and Wilson had not gotten far in their discussions with potential crew chiefs or drivers, for a couple reasons.

"A final decision on a crew chief is up to Waddell," said Foyt, who has fended off repeated assaults from the 'rumor mill' in relation to his plans. "He's talked to two or three people but the thing is people are all working for their current teams and we don't want to be disruptive to that. As far as drivers, I haven't really talked to too many people at all, to keep this all as quiet as possible.

"As crazy as it sounds, we haven't really even been talking to Chevrolet, Ford or Pontiac, to keep it (random talk) down. Now Dick (Hutcherson), said he don't want to get involved but I've been up to talk to him and (brother) Ron and I'm gonna make 'em get in there with the set-up process."

"This is an extremely exciting day for Conseco, our 16,000 employee associates, our representatives and our 12 million customers across America," said Thomas J. Kilian, Conseco's executive vice president and chief operations officer. "For us and for an entire generation of auto racing professionals, teams and fans, A.J. Foyt is a hero. We're very pleased to be part of A.J.'s return to NASCAR, and we expect Team Conseco to be a force to be reckoned with."

Kilian also spoke to the exemplary allegiance shown by NASCAR fans to not only their favorite drivers, but to corporate sponsors as well. Foyt also said the "mid-American target market" that forms the core of NASCAR's fan base had gotten Conseco's attention, after LaMance began conversations with the company about a possible NASCAR venture in March.

"As the Official Financial Services Provider of NASCAR, we have the opportunity to connect in a truly unique way with the values and interests of our customers, representatives and employee associates," Kilian said. "For many of them, NASCAR is a religion, not just a sport. We're planning to capitalize on that opportunity through an extensive program of advertising, promotions, hospitality and other special events."

Conseco also announced a "Team Conseco sweepstakes" to celebrate its new relationship with NASCAR. Racing fans across the country can register now at the company's Web site: www.conseco.com, to win the grand prize, an all-expense paid trip for two to the 2000 NASCAR Winston Cup Series race of their choice and experience the thrill of meeting Foyt and Team Conseco, or one of more than 1,000 other prizes.

"We're proud to join the NASCAR family, and to make NASCAR a key part of our brand-building strategy, which also includes naming rights for Conseco Fieldhouse, the home of the NBA's Indiana Pacers which opens Nov. 6, 1999," Kilian said.

Conseco's official sponsorship was facilitated by NASCAR's New York marketing team, which helps execute opportunities benefiting the sport's drivers, teams and tracks.

"We're looking forward to partnering with the leading financial services firm serving middle-America, Conseco," said Brian France, senior vice president of NASCAR. "With its commitment to building a winning team around the legendary A.J. Foyt, together with its exclusive category sponsorship, Conseco has made it clear that it plans to be a major player in our sport, taking its place alongside other top sponsors and consumer brands like Coca-Cola, Kellogg's and Eastman Kodak.

"These companies earn the support of NASCAR fans because they are just as serious about contributing to NASCAR's growth and excitement as they are about building their own brands."

"I'm really excited to be back in the NASCAR family," Foyt said. "The folks at Conseco are proven winners and are making a strong commitment to Team Conseco and to NASCAR, and we aim to win. NASCAR is a very competitive sport, but with the support of an outstanding sponsor, we feel like we're going to get off to a flying start."

Foyt, who is the only driver to win the Daytona 500, the Indianapolis 500 and the 24 Hours of Le Mans, will be making his first appearance on NASCAR's premier circuit since 1994, when he competed as a driver in the inaugural Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where he scored four victories as a driver and a fifth as a car owner, in 1999 with Kenny Brack.

Headquartered in Carmel, Ind., Conseco is one of middle-America's leading sources for insurance, investment and lending products. Through its subsidiaries and a nationwide network of insurance agents and finance dealers, Conseco provides solutions for both wealth protection and wealth creation to 12 million customers.

Managing director Brett Yormark, whose efforts helped Conseco become the first diversified national financial services company to join NASCAR's Official ranks, heads up NASCAR's New York City-based corporate marketing team. The New York team has signed more than 12 such sponsorships since July 1998.

Source: NASCAR Online

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dick Hutcherson , A.J. Foyt