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One Great Race Car Driver

Apr 1, 2008
A.J. Foyt is one of the stellar names in the history of motorsports. This Texan started his racing career on a small dirt track in the town of Springfield, Illinois in 1957. Though his career had him traveling over a large part of the world, the most exciting races were those in America. He became the first four time winner of the Indianapolis 500, on that famous motor speedway. He has competed in 35 Indy 500s as a driver, which is a record that probably will stay unchallenged.

A.J. has driven in a number of different venues: NASCAR, midgets, sprints, and even Le Mans. He won over 150 major races during his driving career, which has been over more than four decades. Not only is this man talented and versatile, but his long career has showed off two of his major character qualities: perseverance and toughness.

Not only has A.J. instilled a love of cars and racing to his children, he himself received it from his father. His father was an auto mechanic that loved racing, and would tell A.J. stories of the auto racing of years gone by. They worked on cars together, as his father had them as a hobby as well as a business.

He took one of the cars from his father and started out on the racing circuit in the years 1953 through 1957. Though he persevered, driving the tow vehicle to get the racer to the various tracks, success did not happen often. However, other race car owners noticed the young man, and made him offers to be a driver for more established teams.

The year 1958 was his first year driving in the Indy 500. He got past the rookie weedout, and finished 16th in the race, actually earning several thousand dollars for the effort. This was a great encouragement for someone used to sleeping in the towing vehicle, or on an extra cot in someone's house.

The cars of that era did not have many safety features, and accidents often caused severe injury to the drivers. In 1965, an accident in Riverside, California left him with a broken ankle, a broken back, and severe chest injuries. A doctor pronounced Foyt dead at the scene, but driver Parnelli Jones say some movement and revived him. Only ten weeks later, Foyt was back behind the wheel, winning five races that season.

The next year his car hit the wall in Wisconsin, causing the fuel tank to rupture, and burning A.J.'s hands and face. The rest of that season was a difficult one to finish, and his point ranking put him 13th in the list. Other people began talking about his retiring from the track. This caused A.J. to make 1967 a banner year, and he won the national title for the fifth time. This included his third win at Indianapolis. The Indy 500 that year had a remarkable finish. A.J. was in front by nearly one lap, and as he was making the last lap, there was a large group of cars in front of him. All of a sudden, a number of cars were spinning, and bouncing off the walls. A.J. dropped his car into second gear, deciding he was going to win even if he had to push a few cars ahead of him across the finish line.

Many more notable successes came, along with a number of other injuries, through the 1970s and 1980s. One of the worst happened in 1990, when his brakes failed and the car sailed off of the track at 190 mph and landed in a dirt wall. Though the injuries were not life threatening, both of his legs were shattered. The pain was intense, and required several surgeries. After another six months of therapy, he limped to his car to qualify second for the Indy 500. Though he did not complete this race due to a mechanical malfunction, the heart and determination of this great racer is exemplified by this victory over circumstance.
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