A legendary racing career that began six decades ago at Houston’s Playland Park, a quarter-mile racetrack, came full circle Tuesday night when A.J. Foyt received his Houston Sports Hall of Fame ring in a ceremony at the House of Blues.
The rings were awarded to honor Houston’s sports heroes inducted into the city’s Hall of Fame in February. Along with Foyt, the first four-time Indianapolis 500 champion and winner of more Indy car races (67) than any driver in history, fellow inductees were: Jackie Burke Jr., a Masters and PGA golf champion; George Foreman, the two-time world heavyweight boxing champion and Olympic gold medalist; and Dan Pastorini, the NFL quarterback who played nine seasons with the Houston Oilers.
Each custom-crafted ring designed by Fred Cuellar signified the champion’s career in sport: a golf ball flying off a tee for the 97-year-old Burke, a waving checkered flag for Foyt, a boxing glove for Foreman and the Oilers’ derrick logo for Pastorini. The photo above shows designer Cuellar behind the inductees (from left) Burke, Foyt, Foreman and Pastorini.
Foyt was visibly moved when presented his ring.
“It is fabulous,” said Foyt. “It is one of the nicest rings I’ve ever had and I’m real proud of it.”
Foyt, 84 and now team owner of AJ Foyt Racing in the NTT IndyCar Series, reflected on how his humble beginnings as a racer in Houston led to him becoming one of the greatest all time behind the wheel.
“I started here at Playland Park and my dream was to qualify for the Indy 500,” he said. “Well, luckily enough, I got there and I was lucky enough to win it, so my dream came true.”
After the rings were presented, the athletes moved outside to unveil their plaques on the Walk of Fame located on Green Street.
“When I was racing at Playland Park and lived in the Heights, I never dreamed of a day like this,” Foyt admitted. “It’s been a wonderful town that I was raised in, and to be recognized in your hometown with three other greats that I’m good friends with, what else can you ask for in life?”
INDYCAR drivers, analysts driving at Watkins Glen
Four current INDYCAR drivers and a pair of NBC Sports racing analysts on NTT IndyCar Series telecasts will be competing at Watkins Glen International this weekend in various sports car series.
Townsend Bell, the former Indy car driver who now serves as a TV analyst for NBC Sports, is teaming again with Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires driver Aaron Telitz in the No. 12 AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus, co-owned by Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan co-owners Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan. Along with third driver Frank Montecalvo, Bell and Telitz will be competing in the GT Daytona class in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship headline event, the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen, on Sunday.
Helio Castroneves, who drove in May’s INDYCAR Grand Prix and 103rd Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, will compete once again in the Daytona Prototype International class as part of Team Penske’s two-car operation.
In the Lamborghini Blancpan Super Trofeo Series, current NTT IndyCar Series driver Conor Daly and NBC analyst Paul Tracy will compete in the doubleheader support events Friday and Saturday. Daly is driving the No. 46 Precision Performance Motorsports entry in the Pro class, with Tracy in the No. 69 Prestige Performance entry in the ProAm class.
Finally, Indy Pro 2000 presented by Cooper Tires driver Parker Thompson, fresh off a pair of podium finishes at Road America, will drive in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge doubleheader for JDX Racing.