Larry Foyt: Team Director
For Larry Foyt, the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series is the season when preparation meets opportunity!
Foyt and his ABC Supply team with driver Takuma Sato served notice right at the start when they 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.
“Takuma made it look too easy but it made me so nervous watching that race,” said Foyt. “He just drove a flawless race. I’ve never seen a guy drive a race like that, a perfect race. The car was great, the engineers [chief engineer Don Halliday and performance engineer Raul Prados] did a great set-up and what a pit crew, those ABC guys were fast. It just all came together. We’ve had flashes of being really quick but we knew we just had to put it all together. The ABC car looked awesome running up front all day.
“I felt like last year there was so much potential that didn’t get realized, so with our having the same core group, that excites me because we’re building something here,” said Foyt. “And to have a driver like Takuma, who from the moment you meet and speak to him, you can tell he loves racing, it’s great. He’s very passionate about racing and wants to win, so his attitude strengthens all of our attitudes as well.
“Takuma impressed me last year being in a one-car team and being competitive,” Foyt continued. “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. ”
Having sponsor ABC Supply return for another three years boosted Foyt’s confidence and gave the team the stability it needs to thrive.
“It’s wonderful having ABC Supply back 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 he has 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 has assembled the strongest engineering staff AJ Foyt Racing 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.
“The majority of the team is the same, but we’ve got some young guys coming in who we’re training,” Foyt added. “We’re moving things around on the pit stops. That hurt us in a few races last year where we had a couple problems in the pits so that’s been a focal point for us in the off 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 at least one victory under his belt, the challenge is no longer when he’ll win, but how to keep winning -- again and again.