Foyt looks back historic 500 career - 13 WTHR Indianapolis

Foyt looks back historic 500 career

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A.J. Foyt first came to Indianapolis to race in 1958. A.J. Foyt first came to Indianapolis to race in 1958.
Foyt won the first of four Indy 500s in 1961. Foyt won the first of four Indy 500s in 1961.
He will drive the pace car for this year's race next Sunday. He will drive the pace car for this year's race next Sunday.
Foyt spends his days on a 1,500 acre ranch he built near Houston. Foyt spends his days on a 1,500 acre ranch he built near Houston.

HOUSTON - Far away from the city life of Houston, Texas is the private getaway of A.J. Foyt.

The four-time Indianapolis 500 winner enjoys 1,500 acres of simple country living, where you'll see more bald eagles than people. It's like a little slice of heaven.

"It's alright," Foyt says.

He built the incredible ranch in the late 1980s and packed it full of memories from racing and more. That included a basketball autographed by former Indiana University basketball coach Bob Knight.

"Super guy. I liked him because he called a spade a spade and didn't sugar coat it," Foyt said.

A lot like Foyt himself?

"No, I am easy going," Foyt laughs.

Foyt was an intense competitor, often brash and blunt. That fiery personality set him apart from the first day he arrived in Indianapolis in 1958, a young rookie with an empty wallet and a ton of talent, chasing his dream.

It didn't take long for Foyt's talents to emerge. In his fourth try, Foyt found fame in Victory Lane at Indianapolis in 1961.

"that was a great win that day. It kind of was a win, I felt like I had it won, then I felt like I lost it, then I came back," he said.

He was the last driver to win Indianapolis while racing on bricks down the entire front straightaway.

"The fillings would fall out of your teeth," Foyt said. "When you would come off the pavement, hit the front straightaway, it was very slick and very, very rough. It was a different ballgame."

That was just the beginning of his incredible career. His race shop in Texas is a shrine to his success.

Foyt won a record 172 major races and 12 national championships in various forms of racing. But 50 years later, it all comes back to Indy.

"I have to say, Dave, this is probably one of the most important trophies of all of them. 1961 500 mile race, Borg Warner Trophy," Foyt says, holding a replica of the famous 500 trophy.

Has it really been 50 years?

"That's what they tell me. But I guess it has. It's been a lot of fun. I guess when you are having fun in life, time flies by," Foyt said.

Time did fly by. Foyt made history in 1977 as the first four-time 500 winner. He started a record 35 consecutive Indy 500s, completing over 12,000 miles of racing. Yet he never seemed to have fear at Indianapolis, always seeming to get in the car and enter a different world.

"Everytime I got hurt, something broke. I had a lot of respect for that place, because I knew how bad it could bite you. I saw it happen to a bunch of my friends. I had a lot of respect, but I always felt like I wasn't going to do something that I felt like I couldn't do," said Foyt.

This spring, doctors discovered Foyt had a 90 percent blockage in his heart. A stent may have saved the 77-year-old's life. Foyt says his health is doing okay.

"I am still looking down at the grass, not up at it," he laughs.

That's Foyt's style, saying he doesn't worry about health issues.

"You know, the way I look at life, I don't care if we are sitting here having an interview, when your time is up, it's up. I have felt like that my whole career," he said.

Foyt has no regrets about his life. He does wish, however, that he may have slowed down a little bit and enjoyed those wins.

"I'm glad to be named amongst some of the great, great race drivers. I don't think at any given time I was any better than anybody else, but I knew I was a very competitive race driver and just remembered as 'Old A.J.'," he said.

Foyt will return to the track on Race Day, leading the field around the Brickyard once again, driving the pace car.

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