They referred to him as Super Tex. A.J. Foyt, a native of Houston, got this moniker through victories in stock cars, sports cars, and sprint cars. But Foyt’s biggest accomplishments occurred in the Indianapolis 500, where he won four times as a driver and once more as a team owner.
Born to Take the Wheel
On January 16, 1935, Anthony Joseph Foyt Jr. made his debut into the world in Houston, Texas. Foyt’s father, Tony Foyt, was an auto mechanic and race car driver who also owned and operated a garage that specialized in racing automobiles. Foyt rapidly developed an interest in the sport. Tony constructed him a miniature open-wheel racer to drive around their backyard when he was three years old. At the Houston Speed Bowl, Tony staged a three-lap race between Foyt and Doc Cossey, a local adult racer, when Foyt was five years old. Foyt won the duel and determined that he would spend the rest of his life racing automobiles.
A Little Background on the Inventor
Anthony Joseph Foyt Jr. grew up in his father’s auto repair shop, surrounded by automobiles, while listening to the Indianapolis 500 on the radio and dreamed of one day winning a spot on the starting grid. 1953 marked the beginning of a 40-year driving career marked by success and adaptability. Foyt effortlessly transitioned between open-wheel, stock, and sports cars, capturing many championships in the USAC, IndyCar, and IROC series. He won the Daytona 500, Daytona 24-hour, Sebring 12-hour, and Le Mans 24 Hours.
When asked to select his greatest achievement, A.J. Foyt responds without hesitation, “qualifying for his first Indianapolis 500 race in 1958.” It was the realization of a lifelong ambition, but merely the beginning of an astonishing 35-year run in which he participated in the marathon every year until 1992. Foyt won the Indianapolis 500 four times, in 1961, 1964, 1967, and 1977, becoming the first four-time champion in the event’s history.
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Foyt’s A.J. Foyt Enterprises racing team competed in IndyCar and NASCAR events after his 1994 retirement as a driver. In 1999, when Kenny Brack won the Indianapolis 500, Foyt made his fifth journey to Victory Lane at the Brickyard, this time as a team owner.
What Motivates Him to Innovate
Foyt desired nothing other than to be a race car driver. His commitment and perseverance kept him in the sport despite accidents and injuries that would have forced other drivers to retire. From the 1960s Indianapolis rear-engine revolution through the 1970s adoption of ground effects, his intuitive sense of design kept him at the forefront of many of racing’s most significant developments.
- J. Foyt IV is the father of Jerry Foyt. A. J. Foyt IV’s grandfather is Foyt. Foyt is Larry Foyt’s grandfather and adoptive father. In addition, he is the godfather of the driver John Andretti.
- J. Foyt enjoys spending time at his family’s ranches in Hockley and Del Rio, Texas, when the racing season is not in full swing.
The Foyts are also part of the Indianapolis Colts’ ownership group by marriage. A. J. Foyt IV is married to the daughter of Jim Irsay, the owner of the Colts.
Foyt in Retrospect
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The greatest race car driver in the world has not changed. Only a few of numbers have been modified. He is now 46 years old and weighs several pounds more than he did in the 1960s. But he has not truly changed. Anthony Joseph Foyt Jr. is a constant, if being unrelentingly unpredictable can be considered a constant. He was sweet and sour, fiercely competitive, and occasionally obstinate before, and he is still sweet and sour, fiercely competitive, and occasionally obstinate now.
Foyt is seated in his Houston office, oddly calm as he reflects on his life and turbulent times. He goes on to say, “There was a time when racing was the only thing on my mind.” And I am aware that I used to occasionally perform extremely risky actions, but I no longer do so. Uh, uh. Too often have I been in that old crash house. Listen, I have a right kneecap that pops out all the time — I can be standing here or walking along normally when it happens — and it hurts me constantly.
He pauses, contemplating the knee operation. He detests the notion. “Listen,” he says. “I have experienced severe wrecks. I’ve been broken, burned, and twisted in every direction, yet I’m able to withstand it. I can tolerate pain. However,” he indicates with his right index finger, “do you know what truly terrifies me? It is the portion of the hospital visit where they prick your finger for the blood test.”
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- First driver to win the Indianapolis 500 four times (1961, 1964, 1967, 1977); won 1999 Indy 500 with driver Kenny Brack.
- The only driver to start 35 consecutive Indianapolis 500-mile races (1958-1992)
- Only driver to win the Indy 500, Daytona 500 (1972), and 24 Hours of LeMans (1967)
- The only driver to have won seven Indy car national championships.
- The only driver to win 67 Indy Car races.
- Won 53 pole positions in Indy cars (4 Indianapolis 500 poles)
- Associated Press Panel and ESPN’s RPM 2Night’s “Driver of the Century”.
- Awarded the title of Grand Marshal of the 50th Anniversary Rolex 24 at Daytona
- In 2018, he was the Grand Marshal of the 12 Hours of Sebring.
- Indy Racing League championships won by Scott Sharp (1996) and Kenny Brack (1998)
- Inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame for the first time in 1989.
- In 1979 the only season in which a driver won both the national Indy Car and Stock Car championships.
- Two-time winner of the International Race of Champions: IROC III in 1976 and IV in 1977
- Winner of fourteen major driving titles
- Seven victories in the NASCAR Cup Series and nine pole positions
- Two-time winner of the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona (1983 and 1985)
- 1985 champion of the 12 Hours of Sebring
- Holder of the record for the highest percentage of Indy car victories in a season: 77 percent in 1964, when he won ten of thirteen races.
- Driver of the Year for 1975
- In 1953, he made his midget racing debut at Houston’s Playland Park.