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I know the Indy 500 is over but, this is a cool article



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Post Fri Jun 10, 2011 11:17 am

I know the Indy 500 is over but, this is a cool article

I grew up in the midwest, so the Indy 500 has always been IT for me.
No other race compares.
Like AJ Foyt said, "Drivers don't make the Indy 500, the Indy 500 makes the drivers."
It's been great to have that feeling back again in Indiana (pun intended).
How many heartbreaks has this one race caused? Ask Robby Gordon, Tony Stewart, Scott Goodyear, Michael Andretti, Marco Andretti, and lots of former winners who could've won that race at least one other time (Parnelli Jones, Mario Andretti, AJ Foyt come to mind).

Anyhow, here's a cool article I must have missed last week, talking about the oldtimers, the excitement, the history, and the return of the excitement to the track. Although I'd have to say, the 2005 and 2006 Indy 500 were pretty #### exciting in my mind.
The luster was lost 10 years prior in 1996, which ultimately gave opportunities to Tony Stewart and Sam Hornish. In those years, AJ Foyt always brought extra machines to lend just so the Indy 500 would have a full field (he also gave Janet Guthrie a machine for her 1st ever entry in the Indy 500).

Whether I watch it in person, or watch it at the track, the Indy 500 is above and beyond any race I've ever seen.
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Post Fri Jun 10, 2011 11:19 am

Re: I know the Indy 500 is over but, this is a cool article

Past champions raise the bar at Indy

"You want to know the difference between Indianapolis and everywhere else?"

As Al Unser asked the question, he stood on the thin ribbon of asphalt that separates the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's first turn from the wide expanse of infield grass. The four-time Indy 500 winner, one of only three, has never enjoyed a reputation as a great orator. But here, nearly three hours before the green flag fell on the centennial edition of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, Big Al was feeling downright philosophical.

"Here comes your answer ..."

Hands clasped behind his back, the man who was also celebrating his 72nd birthday motioned toward the car in front of him with a flick of the chin. A group of mechanics crawled all over the dark blue barrel with little more than bicycle tires, a spindly race car that also happened to have won the second Indianapolis 500 in 1912. With a crank, a choke and a cloud of smoke, the pride of the National Motor Vehicle Co. coughed to life.

The old machine seemed eager to lurch into the first corner of the track, the same turn where driver Joe Dawson stunningly inherited the lead in 1912 with only 5 miles left to run in the 500-mile race. Ralph DePalma had led 196 of 198 laps before a cracked piston with two to go inexplicably took the win away and handed it to the car purring right in front of Unser.

"See?" He shouted over the century-old four-cylinder engine. "Other places with this kind of history, they talk about having ghosts. Here at Indianapolis our ghosts are still alive."

During this throwback weekend for the ages, they certainly were. So many ghosts, it became hard to keep track of them all. There were five former Indy 500 winners in Sunday's 33-car field and what seemed like another 50 wandering about Gasoline Alley. Unser was joined by his brother Bobby, a three-time winner, and son Al Jr., a two-time victor. Johnny Rutherford, also a three-time champ, smiled and worked the crowd just as smoothly as he always has.

Parnelli Jones, the 1963 winner, navigated the crowded garage behind the wheel of a golf cart. Then the 77-year-old slipped behind the wheel of the car that won the inaugural 500, Ray Harroun's bright yellow, cone-tailed Marmon Wasp, wheeling it for two emotionally charged ceremonial pace laps. During the first he was followed by a pack of cars that had also chased the Wasp back on May 30, 1911. During the second he led a line of 11 former Indy 500 champions, cruising the 2.5-mile rectangle in a kaleidoscope of classic racing machines.

"I was riding along there in my Chaparral," Rutherford said of his 1980 500-winning "Yellow Submarine" ride. "I could see Al Unser up ahead of me in Jimmy Clark's '64 Lotus. And I knew ['90 and '97 champion] Arie Luyendyk was behind me in that ['90] Domino's Pizza ride, that still just looks fast. I think we all wanted to haul it off the fourth turn and go for the finish line. I know I did. And my car did."

"Yeah," admitted Luyendyk, "I definitely had to keep my hands on the reins."

As they slowed to a stop on pit road, A.J. Foyt climbed out of his ride, a '77 Olds Delta 88 Royale T-top that he hadn't driven. He'd ridden in the back and waved to the crowd, saving his wheel skills for his turn in the race's actual pace car an hour later. Super Tex, the race's first four-time winner and widely accepted greatest Indy 500 legend of them all, shouted back to his old friends, "Y'all had to finish behind ole A.J. again, didn't you?"

Then he pointed to Bobby Unser, driving Dawson's '12 National. "We should have let you borrow Fittipaldi's helmet. Did you see that thing?" Earlier in the day, Emerson Fittipaldi, the '89 and '93 Indy 500 winner, had driven one of the 1911 vehicles, complete with a leather helmet that looked like something he'd stolen from Red Grange's locker. There were laughs when he put it on and there were laughs when Foyt brought it back up.

Come to think of it, there were laughs for a full two weeks.

"It's been like this since we got here earlier in the month," Roger Penske admitted on race morning while overseeing the final preparation of his three cars. "Last weekend they had every driver who had ever run even one lap in this race. So many old friends and rivals you couldn't shake all their hands. People I hadn't seen in decades coming up and congratulating us on the success we've had here. It's truly humbling."

This coming from a man who has fielded a record 15 500-winning cars.

Though no one would dare say it aloud, it felt like a final roundup. The one-time wild men and wrench men who spent their days chasing speed and their nights chasing skirts now shuffled though Speedway, Ind., gingerly, on legs they long ago sacrificed to the speedway's old concrete walls. Andy "Mr. 500" Granatelli retraced the tire tracks of his legendary race cars -- the four-wheel-drive Lotus, the Novi, the turbine cars -- in his motorized scooter.

"It's easy to tell who is here from back in my day," said Donnie Allison, best known for his NASCAR accomplishments, but who also won Indy 500 Rookie of the Year in 1970. "They're the ones who are limping like they have thumbtacks in their shoes."

They limped along from garage to garage all day Sunday, the living legends that have their faces sculpted into the side of the Borg-Warner Trophy and, in Unser's words: "The mechanics that I know and the other racers know, but you wouldn't know from Adam. Those are guys that got our faces on that trophy."

The crowd that hung out around Foyt's garage stalls all morning looked like a convention of extras from both an Elvis musical and a "Pirates of the Caribbean" sequel.

But no matter what their level of fame, they were all in agreement on a topic that none of them saw eye-to-eye on for more than a decade. They all agreed the race they love so much felt like the old days again. Not because of their presence, but because of the lines they saw at the box offices on race morning and the vibe that everyone felt rolling down from Sunday's packed house.

"There's certainly an energy here today that maybe we haven't seen for a while," said Rutherford in a not-so-subtle reference to the Champ Car/IndyCar schism that tore the sport in half and weakened its signature event. "And it's not just in the grandstand. It's also been evident down here in the Indy 500 Old-Timers Club."

That's where the conversations have shifted the most. The old guard doesn't look down their noses quite like they used to and where the talk has moved away from "it was so much better when we raced" to "we had fun when we did it, but it sure looks like these kids today are having fun, too."

"I like where they're headed," admitted Jim Hall, who fielded Rutherford's Indy-winning cars. On Sunday afternoon he stood behind the pit wall, unnoticed by most despite his bright yellow Pennzoil jacket that proclaimed: 1980 INDY 500 WINNER. "Some of the stuff that might feel gimmicky, double-file restarts and all that, but there's also excitement to it." Then he pointed across the frontstretch to the stands. "These people want excitement."

During the 500's centennial celebration, they got it, capped with a "What the heck just happened?" finish. Rookie J.R. Hildebrand, like Ralph DePalma 99 years earlier, was running away with the win. But when he suddenly smacked the wall in the final turn of the race, he joined the likes of Michael Andretti, Scott Goodyear and Robby Gordon as members of the Indy 500 heartbreak club. Meanwhile, Wheldon was ushered into the realm of the two-time winners club, joining the legendary likes of Unser Jr., Luyendyk and Fittipaldi, not to mention Rodger Ward, Bill Vuckovich and Gordon Johncock.

Heck, we even had ourselves a good old-fashioned "let's check the replay" review of the finish.

"All the greatest names were here and we ended up with one of the greatest finishes of all time," said third-place finisher Graham Rahal, son of '86 winner Bobby. "I'm not sure what else you could have wanted today."

And it all started not with the 224.290-mph lap with which Wheldon took the checkered flag, but instead with a bunch of old men, including Rahal's father, driving restored jalopies at speeds topping out at about 30.

"It could go faster, you know?" said Unser, taking one last look at Dawson's blue barrel and then pointing to the two levers mounted alongside a cockpit wall that consisted of little more than a sheet of snapped-on leather. "Let me get that steering wheel in one hand, that handbrake in the other, and take it up through that dirt parking lot over there. We'd find some speed in it then."

The living ghosts of Indianapolis would have loved that. Almost as much as they loved Sunday's finish.

John Oreovicz covers open-wheel racing for ESPN.com.
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Post Fri Jun 10, 2011 11:22 am

Re: I know the Indy 500 is over but, this is a cool article

One memory comes to mind, when Roberto Gurero (spelling?) crashed on the backstretch during parade laps.

I laughed so hard when that happened, and he was the pole sitter
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Post Fri Jun 10, 2011 11:27 am

Re: I know the Indy 500 is over but, this is a cool article

Here's another cool article 1 on 1 with AJ Foyt

Singular Foyt presence still looms large

INDIANAPOLIS -- A.J. Foyt is raising ever-lovin' #### at his team managers, just like always (but this is just the other day, mind you, on his cellphone), ordering them to change the electronic combination locks on his equipment trucks. Otherwise, "them Andrettis and Penskes'll just go up there and take what they need, and I'm tired of that crap."

After all these decades, you reckon you can razz him a little without getting decked. That wasn't always the case.

"Foyt's Soup Kitchen, huh?" you say. "Just stand in line for your handout from A.J."

"The motherf---ers," he says of teams that for years hardly gave old A.J. the time of day but come to him for help now that he's running competitive cars again.

Invited -- you'd #### well better be invited or you're out of here on your #### -- you sit down across the table from him in his million-dollar motor coach, parked on the same hallowed ground where in 1958 he waited for days, sleeping in a '57 Chevrolet, because nobody knew who he was and wouldn't let him through the gates of Gasoline Alley.

You tell him all the various polls and pundits have him ranked No. 1 among all drivers in the Indianapolis 500's century as an American institution.

In response, he sits there giving you a look that asks just what the #### that's supposed to mean.

Anthony Joseph Foyt Jr. never has given a #### about opinions, and he isn't going to start now, at age 76, here hiding out from strolling bands of fans on Community Day at the track.

For 50 years now, since his Indianapolis 500 win in 1961, the first of his four, nobody around Indianapolis Motor Speedway has doubted who A.J. Foyt is, or dared to stop his bull-like lumbering (some years limping) through any gates he pleases.

In that time, he nearly died of a broken back and crushed sternum, nearly suffocated, at Riverside, Calif., in 1965 … nearly burned to death at Milwaukee in '66, … got his feet and legs splintered and shattered at Elkhart Lake, Wis., in '91 … and yet he has kept on coming.


Even now, he keeps on. Even this week, as a team owner, he has stirred up a storm of controversy by renting out one of his cars, already qualified for Sunday's race, to his bitterest rival family of the past 46 years, the Andrettis.

Should that car, to be driven by Ryan Hunter-Reay, win on Sunday, might Foyt actually hug the Andrettis in Victory Circle?

He smiles, just a little, sort of.

"I'll be there," he says. "To Mario, I'll say, 'Keep your #### out.' 'Cause Mario ain't got nothing to do with this deal. This is all me and Michael."

As a team owner, Michael Andretti had landed a major sponsor for Hunter-Reay's car for the IndyCar season, but it failed to qualify for the 500. Knowing making the 500 is critical to sponsorship, Foyt rented Michael a car that was already in the field to carry the colors of the sponsor.

"Way I look at it, everybody needs major sponsors," Foyt says. "We don't need to run 'em off. Big major sponsors, I don't care if it's NASCAR, are hard to bring into the game. I had a chance to help them out. Help to save a big sponsor over there."

Most of all, "Let's face it: Michael is a lot different from his daddy."

Michael has always been duly reverent in the presence of A.J. Foyt. As for the old man, Mario, well …


[+] EnlargeAP Photo/Hamilton
A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti have not always seen eye-to-eye.

In 1965, an immigrant kid from Italy started to challenge the badass young Texan on the heartland dirt tracks of America. This, even after a tough old chief mechanic leaned into the cockpit before the start of a race and said, "'Kid, forget about beating Foyt today,'" as Mario tells the story. "'The only guy who could stop Foyt from winning today would be a jealous husband in the grandstands with a deer rifle.'"

But Mario showed no reverence, no fear, no concession to Foyt, and they've been "at heads," as Foyt puts it now, ever since, even deep into both their retirements from driving.

Foyt talks about the good of the 500, the good of keeping sponsors at a time when IndyCar is wounded, struggling in the shadows of NASCAR. So, with all that in mind, would he have given a car to the Andretti team even if Mario were the owner?

His chief publicist interrupts.

"He'd have to think about it," she says. Now, he's trying to cooperate with her sense of diplomacy, really trying. But he can do that only to a point.

"Pretty #### serious thinking," he says.


As for Roger Penske's outfit, the team that has won this race a runaway record 15 times, Foyt still savors the memory of the year of Penske's great humiliation, 1995.

"Who'd have ever thought Penske would have two 500 winners [Emerson Fittipaldi and Al Unser Jr.] and can't qualify for this race?

"I can truthfully say we've been in the back before, but we have never missed this race."

The last Indy 500 that was run without Foyt in it, as a driver or an owner, was 1957.

"I've seen Penske go buy two cars from [Bobby] Rahal [in a desperate, last-minute switch in '95] that was running fast, and they changed everything on the #### things before they went out there, and they still missed it."

Several of Penske's drivers through the years, and Mario and Michael Andretti, and three Unsers (Bobby, Al and Al Jr.) have made most lists of the all-time field of 33 in Indy's 100 years.

None, nor any other driver down through the decades, has come close to challenging Foyt for the mythical all-time pole.


You ask him whether he has even bothered to notice the polls and pundits, and that they have placed him at the pinnacle of this race's history.

He tosses the back of that big right hand at the air (thankfully not at your face) and says, "I noticed it one day, a paper had me …"

Across the table, he gives you that glare, that unique A.J. Foyt hybrid of fiery, towering pride and boyish humility and reverence for this place, and he says:

Yeah, in my time, I was pretty #### good. I mean, my records show that.

-- A.J. Foyt

"Yeah, in my time, I was pretty #### good. I mean, my records show that."

He was the first to win four Indy 500s, and he added historic victories in the 24 Hours of Le Mans (with Dan Gurney in 1967) and the Daytona 500 (1972) in his spare time along the way.

His fourth Indy win, in 1977, "has to stand out pretty good because it was my own car [he called his design a Coyote], my own motor [a Foyt V-8] and I drove it. That makes you feel good."

####, it ought to. He was the first driver to win in a car of his own design powered by his own engine. And he remains the last.

But the greatest driver ever here? He isn't buying that. Can't. Nobody can say, he reckons.

"Who's gonna say that waaay back [to Ray Harroun in 1911, up through Ralph DePalma in the early years, Frank Lockhart in the 1920s, Louis Meyer in the '30s, Mauri Rose in the '40s, Bill Vukovich in the '50s], I could beat them guys?

"Who right now can say I could beat these boys [the current drivers]?

"I don't know.

"Way I look at it, to be truthful with you, it's nice for people to say that. But: I'm A.J. I'm glad to be named amongst 'em. It's not that I'm any better."


His whole adult life, he has shown reverence for only three men: Anthony Joseph Foyt Sr., called "Tony"; longtime IMS owner Tony Hulman; and NASCAR founder Bill France Sr.

But they're all long dead now (although once, old Tony Foyt walked out of the grave to comfort A.J. in his direst hours, as we'll explain in a minute), so Foyt's reverence focuses now on one place, this place, and on those who came here before him, dying at rates unthinkable today in cars that didn't even have seat belts.

"I look at some of them cars that they drove that I wouldn't drive down the freeway at 100 mph. It would scare the #### out of me. And I know probably these boys think the same of what I drove [at 200 mph].

"To me, it's just different times. … Everything's different."


But, God almighty, he can't hold back the pride in his time, the era when it took "balls that wouldn't fit into a boxcar," as old-line NASCAR drivers used to say of the fire-scarred men who drove Indy cars.

"In my time, every time you hit the wall, with no fuel cell, you got burned automatically. I had already been burned a couple of times when I crashed and got burned pretty bad at Milwaukee in '66.

"I did not know if I wanted to come back in '67. I didn't really plan on coming back. I was gonna run Joe Leonard for the championship that year."

But Leonard was offered bigger money by another team, "and he left, and then I said, 'Well, I'm gonna go for the championship myself now.'

"And we did win it."

####, '67 was his most glorious year. He won the Indy 500 by hurtling headlong through a fiery pileup and a blinding cloud of smoke on the final lap. A fortnight later, he was in France insulting the French by calling the storied Circuit de la Sarthe and its deadly Mulsanne Straight "nothin' but a li'l ol' country road," and then he and Dan Gurney went out and blew away the international competition, easily winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans in a Ford GT-40. They remain the only all-American driving team, in an all-American car, to win Le Mans.

Then what really miffed the French was that he wouldn't eat the food at the victory party: "Li'l ol' fish with the heads still on and the eyes lookin' up at you, and, uh-uhhhh," he once explained to you.

The only trouble with 1967, for A.J. Foyt, was that Mario Andretti won the Daytona 500.
(I copied & pasted this article, and just noticed this typo. Mario won the Indy 500 in 69, AJ won it in 67)


But now, at the table in his motor coach, he is back in 2011, arguing on and on that you can't compare eras in motor racing. He cites a prime example, his long-ago protégé in NASCAR, Dale Earnhardt.

Foyt instantly liked the rough young driver from the Carolinas. You should have heard them argue, one-upping each other, about the guns they owned, until Foyt finally trumped with his 50-caliber machine gun mounted on a Jeep on his ranch down at Del Rio, Texas, and Earnhardt stomped off in a huff with nothing more than a .375 Weatherby, capable of knocking a grizzly bear flat, to brag about.

"I thought the world of the guy, and the guy in his time was a helluva race driver," Foyt says. "Could he beat the boys today? Who knows? Could he have beat 'em before that [in the Richard Petty-David Pearson era of NASCAR]? Who knows?

"I mean, in his time, he was good.

"When you look way back, certain race drivers were at the top of their class. Time moves on, I guess is what I'm saying."


Time passed Foyt by circa 1990, he reckons now.

"I feel like I raced maybe three or four years too long."

But he just by God wasn't going to go out that way, limping on legs torn to bits below the knees at Elkhart Lake. At the crash scene, he hurt so bad that 15 cc of morphine didn't faze him, and he howled at the doctors, "Just find a #### hammer and knock me in the head!"

Still, "I was determined to prove a point that I could come back and run fast," which he did here in '91.

After months of agonizing surgery and rehabilitation, still limping badly, he climbed back on the horse -- into the race car -- for a test here in April of '91, just to see whether he could still do it.

On the very first lap at high speed, he touched the brake pedal and it went to the floor, useless. Just like at Elkhart Lake the previous fall.

He coasted back in, laughing, ordering his crew to rework the brakes, then he went back out.

"I had a big flashback," he remembers of the brake failure here. "I didn't know if I wanted no part of this crap no more.

"Well, I mean, I ain't gonna lie to you. It scared the crap out of me. A lot of these race drivers say they never been scared. I can't name you one #### race, not one, that at one time or another, I didn't thrill the #### out of myself. And you hear this, 'Oh, nothing thrills me.' They're bull-----ing their selves. I've run as fast as any of 'em, I've won as much as any of 'em, and when they're saying that, they're just telling you -- excuse my French -- bull----."

What scared him most about the Indy brake failure was that his feet "weren't even healed up good. … When I got in that car, they weren't feeling good anyway. I didn't need 'em shoved up my butt."


[+] EnlargeAP Photo
A.J. Foyt receives a drink from the hands of his wife, Lucy, in June 1966 in Milwaukee. He spent plenty of time in hospitals over the years.

The man who brought him back to Indy in '91 was his daddy, who'd been dead eight years.

A.J. lay in that hospital in Milwaukee, the morphine doing little more for him than making him vomit his stomach dry. But old Tony came and stood by the bed and talked to A.J.

A.J. was certain of that 20 years ago, and he's certain of it now.

"Oh, yeah. That was a weird deal. I'll still tell you what I told you then: He more or less says, 'You're hurt bad, but you're gonna be all right.'

"I mean, just like I'm talking to you now. I know that sounds crazy to a lot of people. You say that to people, they'll say, 'Well, they had you drugged up.' Yeah, I was on drugs and all like that. But why [Tony came], I don't know."

"To believe that," you say, "people have to understand how close you and your daddy were."

"Well, we were. We weren't like a father and son. We were like maybe two very, very close friends, or brothers."

But still, he still knows Tony came to him in Milwaukee?

"Oh, yes."


So here he came back in '91, and "We almost won the pole that year."

And don't think Mario Andretti wasn't livid, didn't raise all ####, when Foyt edged him with what appeared to be the pole speed early in that qualifying round.

On live national television, Mario strongly implied that officials had let Foyt cheat, maintaining that even via the in-car camera you could see the turbocharger pressure gauge going well over the legal limits.

A man of California cool and peace, Rick Mears, kept the old boys from each other's throats when he came along later in qualifying and won the pole, moving them both over on the front row.

Whatever, "I knew I was slowing down," Foyt remembers. He had meant to make '91 his last ride at Indy, but got caught up early in someone else's crash. So he came back in '92 for one last drive, and that was it.


When CART teams pulled out of here in 1996, taking "the stars and cars of Indy" to a rebellious rival race in Michigan, Foyt had this mantra:

"The race makes the drivers," he said then. "The drivers don't make the race."

"I've always said that," he says now.

You push the issue. Isn't there a singular exception, the very embodiment of the Indy 500, A.J. Foyt?

"People didn't know me from winning Daytona. They didn't know me from winning California. They didn't know me from winning Pocono.

"They knew me from Le Mans a little bit. They don't know me from Sebring [which he won]. They don't know me from the Daytona 24-hour race [which he won] or Nassau [the old Grand Prix of the Bahamas, which he won].

"Race after race after race, they just really know me from Indianapolis."


Having made himself rich decades ago, and Texan to his marrow, Foyt has long owned and raced thoroughbred horses.

[+] EnlargeGetty Images
A.J. Foyt and his team were supposed to take to the track at Indy for the last time in 1991, but he found it unfulfilling and returned in 1992.

"I've got some now," but, "I'm not near as active. I haven't even seen none of the new ones run. They've won four or five races."

But he has always loved horse racing analogies, and now he applies one to the Indy 500, even in its wounded state after the civil war in Indy car racing that dragged on from 1996 to 2008.

"This race to me is like the Kentucky Derby. It's got tradition that you cannot buy. It's just tradition, I'm sorry. Daytona's a great race. And it's got good tradition. But it don't have the tradition Indianapolis has. The Preakness, the Belmont, they're great horse races, right? But you only got one Kentucky Derby.

"And it don't make a #### which horse wins it, good or bad. That horse dies known for winning the Kentucky Derby."

Swedish driver Kenny Brack won the 500 here in 1999, driving for Foyt. It remains Brack's only claim to fame.

"We was in Colorado about a month after we won this race," Foyt recalls. "We were running about fourth or fifth, and Kenny was #### a little bit. I says, 'Kenny, stop!'

"He said, 'What?'

"I said, 'Lemme ask you something. Anybody remember you winning this race last year? Anybody say anything to you?'

"'Oh, no.'"

"I said, 'You know that race you won about a month ago?'


"I said, 'That'll live with you the rest of your life.'"


He remembers every one of his wins here, and some of his losses, like they just concluded this morning.

"In '61, see, I had to make a [late] fuel stop because my fuel hose broke and I didn't get a full load of fuel. And he [Eddie Sachs] was running so hard he wore his tires out trying to run with me. At the time, we carried 75 gallons of fuel. I didn't have enough, so they said late stop.

"We was havin' a helluva race up until then [when Sachs' tires wore out]. In that one, I had a race won, I lost, and then it came back."

Early in the '64 race, Sachs and young Dave MacDonald died in a fire cloud, from those huge loads of fuel. But Foyt would have dominated that day anyway -- "We ran strong in the roadster," the last front-engine car ever to win Indy.

"I knew them boys that got killed. Sure, it was a victory, but it wasn't a victory like I won. It wasn't that they were beating me; it's just knowing that you had some friends that lost their lives."

In '67, "Parnelli [Jones] and I lapped the field. But he had such an advantage that the only way I could beat him was if something happened.

"I couldn't outrun the turbine car. It [Jones' advantage] would be like me running Daytona now with no plate, and the rest of 'em had plates."

[+] EnlargeAP Photo
A.J. Foyt celebrates winning his third Indy 500 in 1967, perhaps his best year in racing.

But, in perhaps the most notorious loss in Indy history, the turbine broke a small bolt with seven laps to go, Jones was out of the race, and Foyt led by a lap over the rest of the field.

Still, at the end, "It was very dramatic," Foyt remembers of flying blind through that cloud of smoke and sea of wreckage between the fourth turn and the checkered flag.

On the last lap, "For some reason, I backed off a little bit going into [Turn] 3, 'cause I had a lap on the field. I lifted because I could see all that group of cars ahead of me kind of jockeying around. I said, 'Man, this ain't looking good.' And then when I got off 4, 'Holy crap, it don't look good.'"

"I couldn't see nothing… I think my heart missed a beat.

"But I said, 'Whoever I hit, I'm gonna carry 'em past that start-finish line.' I already had my mind made up. You know me. I was in the smoke, and I said, 'Whoever I hit, I'm gonna be wide open when I get there, and whoever I hit, we're gonna go by the finish line.' "

He didn't hit anybody. He sailed clear of the cloud of smoke to the thunderous roars from Indy's grandstands, and that was the newsreel footage that preceded him to Le Mans and captured the fancy of all of Europe the next month.

"Then you take '77."

No, first you take the decade leading up to '77, and all that frustration trying to become the first four-time winner here. But especially the two years before '77.

"All right, '75, '76, nobody could run close to me. I run out of fuel once, then the rain caught me, and then finally I won it."

Here you gotta razz him again.

"You remember the first thing you said when you walked into that media center in '77?" you ask him. "You snatched up that microphone, and you said, "####, we did it."

Yeah, he remembers. He tosses that right backhand at the air again.

"Well, after two years of losing, you get to thinking can you win it again or not? Like Earnhardt at Daytona [the Man in Black went winless in the Daytona 500 until his 20th try.]

"I used to tease him: 'Man, I won that #### thing.'"

"'Aw, shut up,' he'd say.

"Tony Stewart, I tease. We're good friends. I say, 'Well, you still ain't done the big stuff yet.'"


A.J. Foyt has done all the big stuff, all over the world, except for the Grand Prix of Monaco, and that's only because he despised the concept of team orders in Formula One and refused to participate.

Here, at the place that made him -- and a place he made, whether he will admit it or not -- "I would say I won a couple that I shouldn't have, but I lost three or four I should have won.

"Like '69."

And here he goes with another oblique shot at Mario Andretti, whose only win here came in '69, even though he led more career laps here than Foyt, 556 to 555.

"In '69, I sat on the pole and run away from everybody," Foyt says. "And the manifold had a little crack. I still came back and finished eighth. That's how strong I was.

"So what I mean [that's a vocalized pause he picked up from his old friend Richard Petty years ago], it seems like sometimes when you should win you don't, and sometimes when you shouldn't win you do.

"So as long as the good offsets the bad, who cares?"


He will drive the pace car here Sunday. For the first time ever here, he will lead the field to the green flag driving a car with fenders on it.

He won't admit it, but he got his juices going a little bit the other day, practicing in that pace car.

"Yesterday was the first day that I've run up to about 125 or 130. I went off into Turn 1 and the car felt like maybe a tire was a little low, so I just let the car go up on the grade, you know, I wasn't gonna turn yet."

[+] EnlargeAP Photo/Michael Conroy
A.J. Foyt is busy getting ready to drive the pace car to start Sunday's race.

It was sort of the way a NASCAR driver lets the car drift early in a run, with right-front tire pressure low before the heat fully inflates it.

Indy's pace car coordinator was riding with Foyt.

"And he says, 'TURN!' He seen that wall coming at him, and I think it scared the crap out of him.

"He said, 'TURN!' and I said, 'I'm all right. Don't worry. You know me.'

"I did let it go on up the grade. He's sitting there like, 'Oh, s---, here comes that wall!'"

Was it fun to be back out there, even at half the speed he used to run? Bring back any goose bumps?

"Not really. I just wanted to make sure I could feel the car. And I'm gonna run some more laps just to make sure I don't screw up. When you've laid off as long as I have, I don't care if you're running 100 mph or 200 mph, you don't want to do something stupid. And it's so easy at that speed to do something. Your closing speed is pretty quick."

He'll drive just for the start, not for all the caution periods likely to come in the race. After the start, "I'll have to go get on my pit box."

And run his team, with Vitor Meira as his driver. Michael Andretti's staff will be responsible for pitting the loaned car driven by Hunter-Reay.


And he still doesn't see what's so all-fired controversial about him putting Hunter-Reay, whom he deems "a good boy," in a car.

####, Foyt put Donnie Allison in one of his cars in 1970, and Allison finished fourth, was named rookie of the year and remains the highest-finishing NASCAR driver ever in the Indy 500.

In 1976, when half the garage area was ridiculing Janet Guthrie for her attempt to become the first woman ever to qualify for the 500, Foyt put her in one of his cars, gave her a chance, though she missed the field that first year.

In 1980, the rookie he gave a ride was a wild kid named Tim Richmond.

In the dark, lean years since the devastating split of '96, "When they needed cars here to fill the field, I did that out of my own pocket."

Through the great years and the tough years for Indy, "My second car that I always ran here, I carried my sponsors' names on it because they were nice to me and very good people. But I didn't get paid nothing extra for it. That was A.J. So every time something happened, it was out of A.J.'s pocket if the car got totaled out."

And now, this deal is "just kind of a friendship, helping somebody out, even though Andretti and Foyt has been at heads."

He doesn't think of this as a sellout but as an investment. He already has the money for the loaned-out car making the Indy field. If Andretti's crew and driver win, the money goes to Foyt.

And so, "I hope they do win. I won't get mad. I'll make some money."

So really, the Andrettis are working for Foyt?

He winks.

"Bottom line, yeah."


Bruno Junqueira was the driver displaced by Hunter-Reay when the Foyt-Andretti deal (that still sounds like an oxymoron) came down. But Junqueira had been a beneficiary of Foyt's custom of giving drivers rides in the first place.

"Nice kid," Foyt says of Junquiera. "Before I did anything, I talked to him about it. And he said, 'I understand clearly.' He said, 'If you wouldn't have given me a ride, I'd have been home in Brazil.'

"He said, 'Nobody called me; you asked me if I would, and I said yes.' I'd guaranteed him X amount of dollars to come here. He understood."


When reporters set his cellphone vibrating and chirping over the Andretti deal, "I was out at a CVS buying my grandson a birthday card."

Even at 76, gray-haired, way too overweight to fit into an Indy car's cockpit anymore, A.J. Foyt can't go anywhere in Indianapolis, to this day, without being recognized and swarmed.

"Oh, they know who I am. I had one old ugly lady the other day. I mean, ugly. Big, fat, got a black beard, I mean, mustache, big old mole.

"Says, 'A.J., do you remember when you gave me a hundred-dollar tip?' I'm thinking, 'There's no way you could have looked that good that I would give you a hundred-dollar tip.' I just said, 'Oh, not really.' What can you say?

"You can't believe some of the crap I've seen."

And then he bows his head as boyishly as he did right after he said, "####, we did it!" in '77, as the humility returns.

"I gotta say one thing: A lot of people know me. That's the reason you see me hiding a lot."

Ed Hinton is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at edward.t.hinton@espn.com.
Do something with your life and go get me a beer.



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Post Fri Jun 10, 2011 11:52 am

Re: I know the Indy 500 is over but, this is a cool article

jam i dont appreciate you hogging this board with your informative articles, please abide by the rules and post senseless jibberish. thank you................................... :mrgreen:
I miss you Frehley........


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Post Fri Jun 10, 2011 11:54 am

Re: I know the Indy 500 is over but, this is a cool article

The Dude abides.............. 8-)
Do something with your life and go get me a beer.



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Post Fri Jun 10, 2011 12:01 pm

Re: I know the Indy 500 is over but, this is a cool article

jamo14 wrote:One memory comes to mind, when Roberto Gurero (spelling?) crashed on the backstretch during parade laps.

I laughed so hard when that happened, and he was the pole sitter

I was at that race Jamo. It was a cool day at the start, temps in the upper 50's. You should have heard the crowd cheer when Tom Carnegie announced "and Michael Andretti is slowing down", after leading most of the race. That was the year that Al Unser Jr. beat Scott Goodyear in the closest finish in Indy 500 history. Great times.
" I've got a cooler full of Schlitz and I'm not gonna stop drinkin till I get to the bottom." - Tony Stewart


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