- January 16, 1935
- United States
- Not Active
Anthony Joseph Foyt, better known as AJ Foyt, is one of the biggest legends in the history of racing in America. In reality, his life story deserves a huge book or a movie based on it, but we'll try our best to cover just a portion of the many achievements in his long-lasting career as a racing driver and an owner of a racing team.
Record number of 67 IndyCar victories
'Super Tex', as he was fondly known, was a versatile driver and had scored victories in virtually every North American racing venue. Midgets, sprint cars, Indy cars, stock cars and sport cars, on circuits ranging from quarter-mile dirt ovals to road courses and 2.5-mile superspeedways; he had done it all.
Foyt scored a record number of victories in USAC races (159 wins) and IndyCar races (67 wins), with a total of 14 major national championship titles in various categories (7 times IndyCar champion).
He is the only driver to win the Indianapolis 500 (four times), Daytona 500, 24 Hours of Daytona and 24 Hours of Le Mans. Foyt was the inaugural inductee into the Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1989 and he leads the list of inductees announced for the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1990. After competing in 35 Indy500 races, he retired from driving IndyCars in 1993, with 58 years of experience to his name.
Left the school to became a mechanic and racing driver
Anthony Joseph Foyt was born on January 16, 1935 in Houston, Texas. His father Tony owned a shop which specialized in racecars, so AJ dropped out of school early and decided to became a mechanic and a racing driver. He began racing midgets in 1953 in a car owned by his father. He started his USAC (United States Automobile Club) career in a midget car in 1956 and scored his first victory at Kansas City in 1957. After the 1957 season, his professional midget car career was over, but he did occasionally compete in midget car events, even after he had become a driving superstar.
Foyt competed in his first IndyCar race in 1957 and a year later he appeared for the first time at Indianapolis 500. It was his first out of 35 consecutive races at Indy 500. In 1960, he won his first IndyCar championship (USAC National). In 1961, he repeated the championship win and scored his first Indy 500 victory.
Four wins at Indianapolis 500
His second Indy 500 victory followed in 1964, making it his fourth IndyCar championship title. In the same year, he scored his first NASCAR victory after just ten races in the NASCAR Grand National Series (now Sprint Series). He was also victorious at the Daytona International Speedway.
AJ Foyt's next successfull season followed in 1967, when he scored his third win at Indy 500 and his own fifth championship title. He had to wait ten years for his fourth and last win at Indianapolis 500, achieving a record which had thus far been matched by only two more drivers (Al Unser and Rick Mears). None of his four Indy 500 wins wasn't scored after pole position start. He was fastest in qualifying four times (1965, 1969, 1974 and 1975), but didn't won any of those races.
Victory at Le Mans in his only career attempt
Apart from great achievements on American tracks, AJ Foyt left a mark on one of the most popular races in the world – the 24 Hours of Le Mans. In 1967, he scored an overall victory in his first and only attempt, together with Dan Gurney in Carroll Shelby's Ford GT40 MkIV.
The Ford GT40 Mark IV had an all new chassis designed and built in the United States, compared to the Mark I and II which had chassis that were built in England. AJ Foyt and Dan Gurney were surprise winner. They led all but the first 90 minutes of the race and defeated the factory Ferrari 330P4 of Italian Ludovico Scarfiotti and Briton Michael Parkes by nearly four laps. This victory was only all-American victory at Le Mans: an American-built car, prepared by an American team and driven by American drivers. It's interesting that the team had to fabricate a roof "bubble" to accommodate the helmet of 190-cm tall Dan Gurney.
Two Daytona 24-hour victories with Porsches
During the 1980s, Foyt also won the 12 Hours of Sebring (1985) and 24 Hours of Daytona (1983 and 1985) driving Porsches, making him one of the few to complete the "triple crown" of endurance racing.
At 1983 Daytona 24-hour race Foyt was driving Porsche 935L of Henn's Swap Shop Racing Team. His team-mates were Preston Henn, Bob Wollek and Claude Ballot-Lena. Two years later at Daytona and Sebring endurance races he competed with Porsche 962, again as a member of Henn's Swap Shop Racing Team. At 1985 24 Hours of Daytona Foyt's teammates were Bob Wollek, Al Unser and Thierry Boutsen. At Sebring's race there was just Bob Wollek as Foyt's co-driver.
Daytona 500 victory in 1972
One more famous race to his credit is the NASCAR Daytona 500, which he won in 1972 driving a Mercury. At a biggest of all NASCAR races AJ Foyt participated 28 times between 1962 and 1992. In such a long period he competed with all major American manufacturers which were represented in Sprint Cup, beginning with Pontiac and 1963. After that he tried Ford, Mercury, Chevrolet and Buick. In the last ten attempts he competed with Oldsmobile.
Besides 1972 victory Foyt scored five more Top 5 finishes at Daytona 500. In total, Foyt raced in 128 NASCAR Sprint Cup events and won seven races in 30 years of career. His last Sprint Cup race was the 1994 Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motors Speedway.
His overall driving career ended with a few races in the NASCAR Craftman Truck Series. With his team AJ Foyt Enterprises he participated in one Truck Series race in 1995 and in two races in 1996. His last race was the Carquest 420K at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Not interested for racing in Formula One
It was recorded that AJ Foyt participated in three races of Formula One, all three at the Indianapolis because Indianapolis 500 was a part of the World Drivers Championship. In 1958 he finished 16th, next year he was 10th and in 1960 Foyt was 25th. He didn't have a particular interest in competing in other F1 tracks and races. He had a chance to compete against some F1 drivers at the annual Race of Champions events and won the event in 1976 and 1977.
Successful team owner with five Indy titles
AJ Foyt became a car owner very early, during his driving career in 1965. He partnered up with businessman Jim Gilmore and they formed Gilmore-Foyt Racing. The team later became AJ Foyt Enterprises and was involved in various racing series (CART, IndyCar, NASCAR). As a team owner, Foyt won the national IndyCar title five times. In 1967, 1975 and 1979 when he was a driver, in 1996 with driver Scott Sharp and in 1998 with driver Kenny Brack. Brack also won the 1999 Indy 500.
Only two wins for AJ Foyt Enterprises in a 15-year period
Since 2000 results of Foyt's team was under expectations, with rare podiums and victories. The team scored only two championship victories. Brasilian Airton Dare scored his only career victory driving Chevrolet-powered Dallara IR-02 at Kansas Speedway in 2002. Next victory followed more than a decade later, when Takuma Sato was fastest at 2013 Grand Prix of Long Beach.
Some of the drivers between who competed for AJ Foyt's teams were his adopted son Larry Foyt and his grandson AJ Foyt IV. Larry was a team manager, but also competed in NASCAR and Indy races, while AJ Foyt recorded 82 Indy races between 2003 and 2008.
Survived few dangerous incidents
We all know that motorsport can be dangerous, AJ Foyt experienced a few unfortunate incidents including major crashes which caused serious injuries. In January 1965, during the NASCAR race at Riverside he suffered severe chest injuries, broke his back and fractured an ankle. The track doctor even pronounced Foyt dead, but his fellow driver Parnelli Jones managed to revive him.
The following year at the IndyCar practice at Milwaukee he sustained severe burns. In 1972, he sustained burns and broke his leg in a dirt car race at DuQuoin. He recorded two more injuries in the IndyCar races — in 1981 he injured his arm at Michigan and in 1990 he injured himself at Road America. Each time he returned stronger and even more determined to continue his career.
“I knew people wanted me to retire, heck my own family wanted me to. But I didn’t want to go out on crutches. I was determined to walk to my race car without crutches,” he once famously said.
This impressive career full of victories hasn't yet come to an end. The man who was voted Driver of the Century, by a panel of experts and Associated Press, still has a lot to give as a team owner and a mentor, especially as a role model for young drivers. His determination and toughness have set him apart from his competitors and have created a career that has made him one of the auto racing’s most inspiring champions.
Video : A story about AJ Foyt
Foyt's championship titles:
1960 - USAC Sprint Car Series Champion
1960 - USAC National Champion
1961 - USAC National Champion
1963 - USAC National Champion
1964 - USAC National Champion
1967 - USAC National Champion
1968 - USAC Stock Car Champion
1972 - USAC Silver Crown Series Champion
1975 - USAC National Champion
1976 - IROC Champion
1977 - IROC Champion
1978 - USAC Stock Car Champion
1979 - USAC Gold Crown Champion
1979 - USAC Stock Car Champion
Foyt's Indy 500 results:
1958 - Kuzma/Brawner (Offenhauser) - 16th
1959 - Kuzma (Offenhauser) - 10th
1960 - Kurtis/Epperly (Offenhauser) - 25th
1961 - Trevis (Offenhauser) - 1st
1962 - Trevis (Offenhauser) - 23rd
1963 - Trevis (Offenhauser)- 3rd
1964 - Watson (Offenhauser)- 1st
1965 - Lotus 34 (Ford) - 15th
1966 - Lotus 38 (Ford) - 26th
1967 - Coyote 67 (Ford) - 1st
1968 - Coyote 68 (Ford) - 20th
1969 - Coyote/Kuzma (Ford) - 8th
1970 - Coyote 70 (Ford) - 10th
1971 - Coyote 71 (Ford) - 3rd
1972 - Coyote 72 (Foyt) - 25th
1973 - Coyote 73 (Foyt) - 25th
1974 - Coyote 73 (Foyt) - 15th
1975 - Coyote 75 (Foyt) - 3rd
1976 - Coyote 75 (Foyt) - 2nd
1977 - Coyote 75 (Foyt) - 1st
1978 - Coyote 75 (Foyt) - 7th
1979 - Parnelli VPJ6C (Cosworth) - 2nd
1980 - Parnelli VPJ6C (Cosworth) - 14th
1981 - Coyote 81 (Cosworth) - 13th
1982 - March 82C (Cosworth) - 19th
1983 - March 83C (Cosworth) - 31st
1984 - March 84C (Cosworth) - 6th
1985 - March 85C (Cosworth) - 28th
1986 - March 86C (Cosworth) - 24th
1987 - Lola T87/00 (Cosworth) - 19th
1988 - Lola T87/00 (Cosworth) - 26th
1989 - Lola T89/00 (Cosworth) - 5th
1990 - Lola T90/00 (Chevrolet) - 6th
1991 - Lola T91/00 (Chevrolet) - 28th
1992 - Lola T92/00 (Chevrolet) - 9th
1993 - Lola T93/00 (Ford) - retired
Foyt's Daytona 500 results:
1963 - Nichels / Pontiac - 27th
1964 - Matthews / Ford - 24th
1966 - Junior Johnson / Ford - 33rd
1967 - Matthews / Ford - 37th
1968 - Matthews / Ford - 12th
1969 - Bowsher / Ford - 4th
1970 - Bowsher / Ford - 32nd
1971 - Wood Brothers / Mercury - 3rd
1972 - Wood Brothers / Mercury - 1st
1973 - Foyt / Chevrolet - 4th
1974 - Foyt / Chevrolet - 5th
1975 - Ellington / Chevrolet - 11th
1976 - Ellington / Chevrolet - 22nd
1977 - Foyt / Chevrolet - 6th
1978 - Foyt / Buick - 32nd
1979 - Foyt / Oldsmobile - 3rd
1980 - Foyt/ Oldsmobile - 31st
1981 - Foyt / Oldsmobile - 35th
1982 - Foyt / Oldsmobile - 21st
1983 - Foyt / Chevrolet - 11st
1984 - Foyt / Oldsmobile - 39th
1985 - Foyt / Oldsmobile - 30th
1986 - Foyt / Oldsmobile - 29th
1987 - Foyt / Oldsmobile - 42nd
1988 - Foyt / Oldsmobile - 33rd
1989 - Foyt / Oldsmobile - 38th
1990 - Foyt / Oldsmobile - 36th
1992 - Bierschwale / Oldsmobile - 21st