Among active NTT INDYCAR SERIES drivers, only three were alive when A.J. Foyt earned the fourth of his record-setting Indianapolis 500 victories, in 1977. Some of the drivers weren’t even born when Foyt turned his retirement laps at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1993 or qualified for NASCAR’s inaugural Brickyard 400 -- amid 86 entries – in 1994.
But Foyt, who celebrates his 86th birthday Saturday, achieved marks so impressive that racers of all generations must appreciate, and they do.
Foyt not only was the first driver to win the Indianapolis 500 four times, but he competed in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” a record 35 consecutive years spanning five decades, feats likely never to be bettered. Foyt is the only driver to have won the race in both front- and rear-engine cars, winning twice with both configurations.
Houston native Foyt also is the only driver to have won the “500” and the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the same season – 1967 – and he won NASCAR’s Daytona 500, the 12 Hours of Sebring and the Rolex 24 at Daytona (twice).
Foyt’s numerical INDYCAR marks are almost unimaginable: A record 67 wins and seven season championships, plus 52 poles (second all-time). In stock car racing, he won seven NASCAR Cup Series races, including the 1972 Daytona 500, and three USAC stock car championships. In all, he won 12 major driving championships in various categories, including two in the International Race of Champions, and his mark of 138 wins across all USAC divisions is a mark which stands.
Next to winning Indy, Foyt might argue that winning the pole at the Milwaukee Mile in 1965 was his most gratifying moment. Using an upright dirt car that had won the prior day at the Illinois State Fairgrounds, Foyt outqualified a field of low-slung rear-engine cars. He finished second in the race and might have won had his car not needed an extra pit stop for fuel.
In team ownership, AJ Foyt Racing has won 44 INDYCAR SERIES races, including three Indianapolis 500s (Foyt’s wins in 1967 and 1977 along with Kenny Brack’s in 1999) and five season titles. The team has signed four-time INDYCAR SERIES champion Sebastien Bourdais and Dalton Kellett for the upcoming season.
Foyt has had his share of humorous moments, too, led by his interview with television broadcaster Chris Economaki after Kevin Cogan started a multi-car accident from the front row of the 1982 Indianapolis 500. Following a few choice words, Foyt famously called him “Coogan.”
Foyt has tossed a computer on pit lane and angrily climbed out of an ailing car in a bid to fix it with a hammer. He even took a swipe at Arie Luyendyk following INDYCAR’s inaugural race at Texas Motor Speedway in 1997 as Luyendyk challenged officials to make him the rightful winner over Foyt’s Billy Boat -- Luyendyk was declared so the next day.
Super Tex also overcame serious injuries to his legs in a horrific accident in 1990 at Road America, returning to qualify second in 1991 at Indianapolis – at age 55. He also has survived open-heart surgery and two attacks from killer bees.
Foyt has crammed so much into his 86 years, and people will take notice Saturday -- and likely forever.