The Passion of Racing

By Ryan Westman

The roar of the engine as it reverberates off of nearby city buildings, the art of passing as quick as a cobra’s strike, the patience, the persistence, the passion: this is racing. For as long as I can remember, I have been attending racing events around the globe. From Formula 1 to NASCAR, weekend warriors on the dirt track, short ovals in the corn fields of Indiana to F1 greats on the legendary, winding streets of Monaco, I have seen it all. These experiences have not just molded an interest in the sport but have also become the fabric of my life. Racing is my passion.

I grew up in Indiana, and the two hour car ride to Indianapolis was a pilgrimage my father and I made every year. Walking into the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, gazing down the 5/8- mile straightaway out onto 300,000 race fans, brings peace to the soul; you realize you are not the only one with the “bug.” Then it happens. Seemingly, out of nowhere, and then gone again for another 40 seconds; the whole place becomes as silent as the early May-morning dew clinging to the infield grass. The howl, the roar, the scream. No adjective does it justice but trust me, it gives you goose bumps. It gets inside you and once it is inside you, you can’t shake it.

Those who don’t understand the allure of racing may just interpret the sport as cars going around in circles. You don’t see what you don’t understand. Non-believers in the sport don’t see the meticulous engineering it takes to trim out the car and generate the down force to run at 230 mph. Did you know that an IndyCar generates enough down force or reverse lift that it could drive upside down at 150 mph? Maybe it’s that they don’t see the fuel conservation and intricate strategy required to win the race. Or perhaps they are unbeknownst to the team aspect and how even a minor mishap on a pit stop can cost a team its chances at victory. Perhaps, if they appreciated the danger every driver assumes when he gets inside the car, knowing that the Speedway has claimed 15 lives. Perhaps, if they were cognizant of the grueling, physical toll that the 2.5-hour race takes on a driver, who stands to lose an average of 5 pounds each race. I once asked Ironman and 10- time Indy 500 participant, Vitor Meira, “what is more difficult: an Ironman or the Indy 500?” Definitive in his answer, he responded, “the 500!”

IndyCar Announces 2013 Schedule and $1 Million Triple Crown

INDIANAPOLIS (Sept. 30, 2012) – Nineteen races over 16 event weekends highlight the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series schedule announced today.

The expanded schedule includes the return of Indy car racing to Pocono Raceway and the streets of Houston.

With a 400-mile race at Pocono Raceway joining the 500-mile events at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Auto Club Speedway on the schedule, the IZOD IndyCar Series will institute a Triple Crown award, which will pay a $1 million bonus to a driver that wins on all three ovals.  A driver that wins two of the three races will be awarded a $250,000 bonus.

Also new for 2013 are Saturday-Sunday doubleheaders scheduled for the street courses at Detroit’s Belle Isle Park, Toronto and Houston and the implementation of standing starts at those three venues.

Fourteen of the 15 venues that hosted IZOD IndyCar Series races in 2012 return. Six races – Indianapolis, the doubleheader at the Raceway at Belle Isle Park, the prime-time event at Texas Motor Speedway as well as Iowa and Pocono – will be broadcast on ABC.  The balance of the schedule, including the season opener at St. Petersburg and the finale at Auto Club Speedway, will be carried on NBC Sports Network.  Race distances and broadcast times will be announced at a later date.

Chris Economaki, Renowned Motorsports Journalist, Dies at Age 91

Friday, September 28, 2012--Chris Economaki, Dean of Motorsports Journalism, died early this morning at age 91. Economaki was known for his distinctive voice and incisive analysis as both a columnist for National Speed Sport News (a paper he worked for as a teenager and eventually bought) and as a broadcaster working for ABC, CBS, ESPN and TBS. He watched and chronicled the careers of most of our racing heroes including that of A.J. Foyt whose comments are below.

“Chris Economaki meant a whole lot to my career. He saw me when I first started and he said I’d be the next one coming up who’d be a good race driver.  He wrote, You will read about this boy.  I don’t remember if it was Ted Horn or who, but he compared me a couple times to these old greats which I felt very honored. I think he respected me and I respected him. He was a good friend. I really enjoyed his stories and it’s a shame to see good writers like him pass on.

To be honest, Chris was writing when racing was at its very best. I’m talking about midgets, sprints, dirt cars and Indy cars. He saw the sport grow to where it is today and how it grew, including NASCAR.  And he contributed to that growth. I’d say when he was in his heyday of writing that more people would read his column than any column that’s been written today by far—I know I did. And I’m not the only person who says that. He really knew what he was writing about and he understood the sport in every field of it because he came through all the different types of racing. Today’s writers haven’t done that and they don’t understand racing like Chris did.

Sometimes you didn’t agree with all his articles, but one thing about it, you might not agree today when he wrote it but in the next two or three weeks what he said happened, so you have to give him credit.”

Conway Steps Down and Cunningham Steps Up for IndyCar Season Finale

FONTANA, Calif. September 13, 2012—AJ Foyt Racing announced today that Wade Cunningham will replace Mike Conway in the No. 14 ABC Supply Honda for the MAVTV 500 IndyCar race this weekend at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.

The decision to hire Cunningham was reached after Conway asked to sit out this weekend’s event.

“I’m truly sorry for putting the team and our sponsors in a difficult position, but this is the hardest decision I have ever made in my racing career,” said Conway. “I’ve come to realize I’m not comfortable on the ovals and no longer wish to compete on them. I want to stress that I am not finished racing and to this end, I would love to continue with Foyt Racing, but that’s something we need to discuss in the future.”

After talking with Conway, Team Director Larry Foyt contacted Cunningham, who lives in Indianapolis, and asked him to drive this weekend. Cunningham had driven for the team in the No. 41 ECAT/ABC Supply Honda in the Indianapolis 500 this year. He arrives today to be fitted in the car.

“Fortunately, Wade was available to drive for us, and we’re looking forward to working with him again,” said Foyt, adding, “Mike’s been a great asset to our team, and I’m disappointed that we can’t finish out the season together. However, it took a lot of courage for Mike to come forward and we respect him highly for that and we certainly want to honor his decision.”

Cunningham will be making his fifth start in the IZOD IndyCar Series, having competed in three races in 2011 in addition to racing at Indy this year. However, it won’t be his first visit to the Southern California superspeedway. In 2005, he competed at the track in the Firestone Indy Lights Series where he started fifth and won the race, his first of eight victories in that series.

Practice gets underway Friday morning with qualifying for the 500-miler set for Friday afternoon. Final practice will take place Friday evening. The IndyCar Series season finale will be broadcast live Saturday night on the NBC Sports Network with coverage starting at 7:30 p.m. ET.

Congratulations!!

We at AJ Foyt Racing would like to extend a hearty congratulations to Michelle and Rick Gleaslen on the birth of their twin daughters who were born Tuesday night at 9 p.m. Claire Marie arrived first at 8:59 p.m. weighing 4 lbs. 9 oz. and measuring 18 inches. She was quickly followed by Faith Mkenna who was born at 9:00 a.m. Faith measured  4 lbs. 11 oz.and measured 18 in. Both babies are doing well. Michelle is the race team's liaison for ABC Supply.

A. J. FOYT RACING TO ENTER AFRICAN-AMERICAN DRIVER CHASE AUSTIN IN THE 2013 INDIANAPOLIS 500

Starting Grid, Inc. and American Honda’s Motorsports Diversity Initiative Continues with Historic Effort

LEXINGTON, Ohio (August 4, 2012) - A. J. Foyt, in conjunction with Starting Grid, Inc. principal Chris Miles, announced today that 22-year-old Chase Austin will campaign an AJ Foyt Racing entry in the 97th running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 26, 2013, through a partnership with American Honda Motor Company Inc.

Austin made history last year when he became the first African-American driver to compete in the Firestone Indy Lights series with Willy T. Ribbs Racing. In qualifying for next year’s race, Austin stands to become only the third African-American driver to ever compete in the 97-year history of the Indianapolis 500.

“My son Larry [Foyt] and I have watched Chase drive and we want to give him a chance,” said A.J. Foyt, the first four-time winner of the Indianapolis 500. “What I like about him is that he has driven all types of race cars with different horsepower in his career, and I believe that’s important when evaluating talent. He’s done a real good job in the Lights series, and I believe he can qualify for the Indy 500 with Honda on board.”

“Chris approached me about fielding a car for Chase and I talked it over with Dad and we agreed that it could turn into something pretty cool,” said Larry Foyt, Team Director of AJ Foyt Racing. “Chris has put together a marketing program which will reach a new generation of fans, and I think this opportunity will not only be good for Chase and our team, but also for INDYCAR.”

This historic attempt for Austin to compete in the 2013 Indianapolis 500 is the continuation of a three-year motorsports diversity initiative between Starting Grid, Inc. and American Honda. Miles, a New Albany, Indiana native, who founded Starting Grid, Inc. 18 years ago to facilitate equal opportunities for minority participation within all facets of the motorsports industry - looks forward to the association with AJ Foyt Racing.

AJ Foyt Racing Welcomes Another Boy!

Congratulations to Amanda and Brent Nedbalek (chief pilot of "AJ Air") on the birth of their first child, Greyson Wayne Nedbalek on Tuesday, July 17! Greyson was so anxious to get here he came four weeks early and weighed 5 lbs. 7 oz and was 19 in. long. Both mother and son are doing fine even though 'Dad' has to work this weekend. In addition to flying A.J. and team members to the races, Brent also works during the pit stops by pulling the airgun hose from the outside front wheel.

IT'S A BOY!

Congratulations to Casey and A.J. Foyt IV on the birth of their son Lockey James Foyt who was born at 1:21 p.m. on Monday, July 16 in Indianapolis. The baby weighed 7 lbs. 15 oz. and measured 20 in. Lockey (or maybe 'L.J'.?)  is the couple's second son with A.J. Foyt V born nearly two years ago on Sept. 18, 2010.

The baby is named after his grandfather Jim Irsay, owner of the Indianapolis Colts, and A.J. IV's great-great-grandfather's brother Lockey Foyt. In the AJ Foyt Racing shop there hangs a sepia-colored photo of the Foyt Bros. Garage with a photo of A.J. Foyt's grandfather Tom Foyt and his two brothers, Willie and Lockey, standing in front of the garage in the early 1900s. The couple liked the name Lockey and decided to name their son after his great-great-great-great-uncle.

The baby is the fourth grandchild for Irsay and the sixth great grandchild for A.J. Foyt. His granddaughter (and A.J. IV's sister) Tonia Poe gave birth to a son -- Monte Joseph Poe - earlier this year.

Cunningham Participates in Indy 500 Rookie Orientation Program

INDIANAPOLIS May 10, 2012—Wade Cunningham participated in the Rookie Orientation Program at Indianapolis Motor Speedway today in preparation for his bid to compete in the Indianapolis 500 later this month.

Driving the car Mike Conway piloted in the first four races of the year (although with a different Honda engine), Cunningham completed two phases of his rookie test. He will complete the final phase after the track opens for practice for all competitors on Saturday.

Tomorrow the ABC Supply team will finish up preparing two brand new Dallaras (which arrived Thursday) for Conway and Cunningham to drive starting Saturday. Per the rules, the team will have to switch the engine used today into Cunningham’s new car, the No. 41 ECat/ABC Supply car.

“It’s a proud day to be in an Indy car here with the history of IMS,” Cunningham said.  “In terms of getting through rookie orientation, we didn’t finish it but we’re able to do that on the regular days of running, so we can just slide it in with the regular guys and get those laps knocked out and get signed off. We’re going to get out of the backup car now and change the motor over to our primary car and get it prepared and roll out on Saturday.”

Cunningham, the Firestone Indy Lights only three-time winner of this track’s Freedom 100, compared the Lights car to the Indy Car, saying, “The speeds are a bit higher, you’re in the corners for a bit less time than I was used to in the past in the Lights car. The Indy car’s definitely more wind sensitive and maybe a little bit more line dependent than the Lights car just because of the high speed but it’s a race car and it gives similar feedback so you just have to trust your instincts, trust your gut and your hands.”

Foyt Family Wines Continues Growth with Upcoming Release of the 2010 No. 67 Chardonnay

SEBASTOPOL, Calif.  May 9, 2012--The month of May brings welcoming weather, beautiful flowers and plans for the upcoming summer.

For the Foyt family, May brings an event that all open wheel racing fans spend each year looking forward to: the annual running of the world’s most famous automobile race, the Indianapolis 500. Foyt family patriarch, A.J. Foyt Jr., labeled the King of Indy, is probably best known for his dominance of that race for decades, starting with his first Indy 500 win in 1961.

So how does this tough Texan, known for his prowess at Indy and on race tracks across America, find his name on bottles of fine wine? Foyt Family Wines was created by Larry Foyt and A.J. Foyt IV because of their passion for fine wine, but it quickly became a means of paying tribute to A.J. and his amazing career. Each wine offering has been labeled with a number significant in A.J.’s career, either a car number (No. 14 was the first) or a year in which he won an important race.

“My dad has done so many things for open wheel racing and ultimately the IndyCar Series, and with so many new drivers and younger fans coming into the sport, it’s important for us to pay respect and acknowledge what he has accomplished and what his name means to American motorsports, the Indy 500 and its fans,” Larry Foyt said.

The response to the brand has been tremendous not only because of A.J.’s success and popularity throughout his 60 years of racing, but also because of winemaker Tom Meadowcroft’s skill and Larry’s and A.J. IV’s palates. When a consumer tries a Foyt Family Wine, their reaction is usually along the lines of, “Wow, I’m impressed, this is not what I was expecting.”

And the Winner Is…

HOUSTON May 4, 2012--The votes are in and the race fans seemed to have had as hard a time as A.J. Foyt in deciding which A.J. Foyt Legends shirt they liked the most!

As of around 12 pm ET, the tally was:  Shirt 2 with 30% (210 votes) of the vote to win the design contest.  As for the other designs, Shirt 1 (all Coyote Red) and Shirt 4 (all Black) were running neck-and-neck throughout with Shirt 1 edging ahead with 27.7% (193) of the vote to Shirt 4’s 27.6% (192). Shirt 3 (Coyote Red bottom) was fourth with nearly 15% (102) of the vote.

Look for the winning design to be sold at IndyCar official stores at the tracks and online at Indycar.com and ajfoytracing.com later this month. Thanks to all who voted!