A.J. Foyt’s Years at Indy

Following are some of the lesser known facts about A.J. Foyt’s years at Indy. As the Indianapolis Motor Speedway celebrates its 100th Anniversary of the Indianapolis 500, A.J. will mark his 54th consecutive year of competition at the Brickyard or to put it another way, he will have participated in 54 of the 94 Indy 500s run!

1955 –

As a spectator, A.J. Foyt sees his first Indy 500 race-- the year two-time defending winner (’53 and ’54) Bill Vukovich was killed while leading. The tagline ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Racing’ was coined.

1958 –

A.J.’s first Indy 500 as a driver was teenager Mario Andretti’s first as a spectator.

1959 –

First year that cars used the air jack in the Indy 500 (developed by Eddie Kuzma).

1960 –

First year both a trophy queen and the victory laurel wreath were used.

1961 –

A.J.’s first victory was the Golden Anniversary Year of the 500. It was the last year the front straight was brick. He met Ray Harroun (the first winner of the 500 in 1911) and both appeared on the TV show ‘What’s My Line?’ which can be seen on YouTube.

1964 –

A.J. won his second 500 with a front-engine roadster—the last roadster to win the 500. After that rear-engine cars would rule at Indy.

1967 –

A.J. would drive through a multi-car accident on the homestretch to find his way to the checkered flag-unscathed. It was Goodyear Tire’s first victory in the 500 since 1919.

1973 –

Debut of the Bob Riley-designed Coyote which would eventually carry A.J. to his record-setting fourth victory.

1974 –

First time that the race, which always ran on Memorial Day but never on Sunday, ran on Sunday. It has been run on Sunday ever since unless postponed due to weather (as in 1986, the first time it was scheduled to be televised live but ran the following Saturday, and in 1997, when it ran on Tuesday).

1977 –

The starting line was gouged out to lay in the yard of bricks—preparing the way for A.J. to win his fourth 500 (remember, he was the last winner to cross the bricks at the finish in 1961).

1983 –

A.J.’s father died in May (his mother had passed away in May in 1981). It was the only Indy car race that A.J. competed in that year.

1985 –

For the first time in Indy 500 history, all 33 starters were in new chassis (either March 85C, Lola T-900 or Gurney Eagle GC-85).

1988 –

The Presto-Lite factory was torn down removing the tall smoke stack chimney that drivers used since 1913 to figure out which way the wind was blowing coming down the front straightaway

1989 –

First time the race was run on a totally repaved track. The averaged qualifying speed of the field (216 mph) was 6 mph faster than the 1988 field’s averaged qualifying speed.

1991 –

Billed as A.J.’s final Indy 500, he qualified second in what was the 75th Running of the Indy 500. Knocked out early by debris from another accident, he decided to come back in 1992 wherein he finished ninth.

1993 –

A.J. surprised all by announcing his retirement from driving on Pole Day, May 15th after taking his final lap in an Indy car around the Speedway. He had competed in 35 straight Indy 500s, led 13 of them, won four and logged 4909 laps or 12,272.5 race miles. The No. 14 did not compete in the race that year.

1994 –

John Andretti (Foyt’s godson) drove Foyt’s No.33 car to finish 10th, then jetted to Charlotte to run the World 600 NASCAR race becoming the first driver to do ‘The Double.’  A.J.’s comment?  “I’m glad I have him first.”

1997 –

The first year in the history of the 500 that all 33 starters were in brand new cars, either Dallara or G-Force, as the Indy Racing League staged its second Indy 500.

1999 –

Kenny Brack wins driving for Foyt giving Foyt his first Indy 500 triumph as solely a team owner. The year before Brack was leading when he ran out of fuel, provoking Foyt to chunk the laptop that was used to calculate fuel mileage.

2002 –

First race after the installation of the SAFER (Steel and Foam Energy Reduction) Barrier inside the walls in the four turns.

2003 –

Foyt’s namesake and grandson A.J. Foyt IV makes his debut in the Indy 500 and is the youngest (to date) to ever start the 500 (started on his 19th birthday).

2005 –

ABC Supply’s first Indy 500 as sponsor of the No. 14.

2007 –

A.J. celebrates 50 Years in Indy Car racing and ABC Supply celebrates its Silver (25th) Anniversary.

2011 –

Indianapolis 500 celebrates its 100th anniversary while A.J. celebrates the 50th anniversary of his first Indy 500 victory. A.J. is asked to drive the Chevrolet Camaro pace car for the historic race for yet another first in his legendary career.

(A special thanks to Donald Davidson and Rick Shaffer whose 2006 tome The Official History of the Indianapolis 500 provided most of this information).