Larry Foyt: Team Director
In auto racing, the taste of victory always leaves a burning desire for more. Team Director Larry Foyt knows this feeling all too well, but is also aware of the key to such success – consistency.
2013 was a year of revival for the ABC Supply/AJ Foyt Racing team. The addition of Takuma Sato to Foyt’s carefully assembled crew proved to be a recipe for success. Sato qualified second in the season opener and followed up with a top-10 finish. Two races later, Sato qualified fourth and won the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach to become the first Japanese driver to win an IndyCar race. It was the team’s first visit to victory lane since 2002.
That success did not come without obstacles. A.J. Foyt’s unwavering passion for the sport rarely allows him to miss out on a single race let alone 11, but when hip-replacement surgery was inevitable for the driving legend, Larry found himself calling the shots in his father’s absence. With steadfast determination and a solid team to support him, Foyt assumed more responsibility and tackled new challenges head-on. In doing so, he gained valuable experience that led him to ascertain the key to achieving continued success in the upcoming season.
“The goal for 2014 is to win!” Foyt said, adding, “We definitely want to win more, but a major accompaniment to this is improving our consistency. We showed a great deal of competitiveness at many tracks last season, but we failed to finish the races far too often. If we can improve this, we will undoubtedly win more races and achieve a much higher standing in the championship.”
Foyt’s well-established confidence in his driver and his team comes from knowing there’s a special synergy among them, one that has blossomed over the past year.
“Takuma impressed me last year being in a one-car team and being competitive,” Foyt said. “That can be tough to do against some of the big multi-car teams, so having a guy that’s been in that situation and understands it and can help develop a car is great for us. He’s shown he can be very competitive on ovals and road courses so that was something that was important because the Indy 500 is super important to us--but the majority of the series is on road and street courses. It’s great to have a guy who’s versatile and competitive on both types of tracks.
“Taku, our engineers and mechanics all gelled quickly last year, and getting to victory lane together was something we are all very proud of,” Foyt said. “We are focused on building on the positives from last season and working towards more victories and a higher standing in the championship. I know with Taku’s talent and our race team personnel, these are realistic goals.”
Keeping those goals in mind, Foyt and his crew devoted the off-season to preparing for what lies ahead in 2014.
“We always take this time to examine our processes and try to identify where we can improve them for performance and efficiency. This year the Indy Racing League has mandated some safety cell modifications to improve driver safety. All of the ABC Supply cars had to be transported to Indianapolis and modified for the 2014 season.”
“We have many winter projects underway in efforts to gain performance on track in 2014. These include a weight reduction analysis and implementation, shaker rig shock development testing, gearbox and upright drag analysis and testing, as well as on track testing at tracks like Sebring and Sonoma,” Foyt revealed.
Foyt knows that none of this would be possible without a central part of the team, sponsor ABC Supply, who has provided steady support since partnering with A.J. Foyt Racing in 2005.
“It’s wonderful having ABC Supply as our sponsor,” Foyt said. “It’s been such an amazing relationship. We’ve become kind of a family together. Their company is one of the biggest small companies you’ll ever see. They run their business like a small family business yet they are huge and dominate their industry. They’ve been behind us the whole time and they’re a partner and a great fit for our race team.”
Foyt believes one of the keys to having a strong team is having a strong engineering staff, so last season he continued to emphasize and strengthen the engineering program. With the hiring of Don Halliday in 2012, a renowned engineer whose strong resume includes stints in Formula 1 and Indy cars dating back to 1977, Foyt had assembled the strongest engineering staff the team has had in the past decade.
Halliday is supported by Raul Prados, an engineer who was working in Europe in the GP2 Series before consulting for the Foyt team in 2012. Foyt and Halliday liked the contributions Prados made during the year so he was hired full-time for the 2013 season.
With his father’s blessing, Foyt has assumed more responsibility each year. With that increase in responsibility came an increase in power to change the way things were done. By all counts, he’s made a positive impact on the team’s performance since becoming Team Director in the fall of 2006.
Initially, Larry accepted the challenge of running the IndyCar team, but wanted to pursue driving opportunities in NASCAR also. The change was gradual at first, but now he is focused entirely on running the Indy car team. It hasn’t been without a struggle; A.J. sought to teach his son about the economic realities and Larry introduced programs that affected the team’s bottom line.
“The best part of it all is that A.J. has supported me,” said Foyt. “I spent the first couple years learning, watching a lot and listening too. At the time I came on board, I’d spent the last seven years in the stock cars. I always felt comfortable around Indy car racing because I grew up with it, but I had to get back into the Indy car mentality. They do some things differently from NASCAR and the cars are more technologically advanced.
“It was important see how things were done, analyze and see where we could improve and work to make changes in those areas. By making small changes, it can add up to big results on the track. I also try to get the best out of our guys. Sometimes you may have to shift things around a bit to put them in areas where they can thrive.”
Foyt began his career with the Indy car team as a driver! He competed in three Indianapolis 500s (2004 – 2006) but handling problems resulted in disappointing finishes for the second generation driver.
Prior to his Indy car experience, Foyt spent four years competing in the NASCAR Nationwide (2001-2002) and Sprint Cup Series (2003-2004). His best performance in Sprint Cup came in Miami where he started 12th and was running in the top 10 but slow pit stops kept relegating him to the rear—he finished 16th.
After starting in karts and progressing to Formula 2000, Foyt jumped to stock cars in 2000 and spent a season in the American Speed Association (ASA). He led laps in numerous events, while earning one pole and posting 10 Top-10 starts and four Top-10 finishes.
As a youngster, Larry never thought he had an opportunity to pursue motor sports as a career because A.J. was always against his children racing.
“It’s easy for my kids to look at the success I’ve had and think, yeah I’d like to do that,” said A.J., Indy’s first four-time winner. “But I look back at some of the accidents I’ve had, the scars I have now and the friends I’ve lost over the years, and I think, who would want that for their kids? I had to do it because I didn’t know anything else. My success gave my kids choices -- like a college education. That’s what I wanted for my kids and I tried to insist on it.”
Foyt obliged by graduating with a bachelor’s degree in communications from Texas Christian University in 2000.
As the future owner of A.J. Foyt Enterprises, Larry Foyt knows the challenges ahead of him. However, now that he has tasted victory, the challenge is no longer when he’ll win, but how to keep winning…consistently.