Larry Foyt: President
Larry Foyt enters the 2015 season with a new title: President of A.J. Foyt Enterprises, Inc., the corporation that underpins AJ Foyt Racing. For Foyt, the title is a formality that recognizes his role since his father first endured a serious illness several years ago.
"I really enjoy the business side of racing,” said Foyt, who is fully aware of the responsibility his position entails. “I think all of my past experience has helped me get to this point--whether it was at TCU as a student, or managing our stock car team while I competed in NASCAR. My time behind the wheel has helped me relate with the drivers and understand their needs as well.
“Mostly I am grateful to Dad and to our sponsors for sharing in and supporting this vision of expanding the race team,” he continued. “It’s been a goal of mine for a while, and now it has become a reality. One thing hasn’t changed though—I still go to him for advice and he will always be ‘The Boss’.”
This season promises to be the 38-year-old’s most challenging one yet—and his most personally satisfying.
Spearheading the expansion of the ABC Supply Racing team to become a two-car team in the Verizon IndyCar Series, Foyt has taken on the project with enthusiasm and vigor. Hiring a second team of mechanics to work with sophomore IndyCar driver Jack Hawksworth and newly promoted chief engineer Raul Prados, Foyt and his team will be sorting out the new aero kit developed by Honda. Keeping veteran driver Takuma Sato and highly respected chief engineer Don Halliday intact on the 14 car was key to Foyt’s expansion plan.
“A.J.’s run multicar teams for plenty of years so it’s nothing new for him but for us as a team it’s been a while so it’s a big step,” Foyt explained. “I’m sure there are going to be some growing pains—we’ve got a young driver and a young engineer on the 41 team and they have a lot to learn together. That’s why it was important to keep the 14 team together so we have some stability--we know what’s there. It’s going to be a lot of fun to watch the 41 team grow over the season. They’re a motivated group and they’ll help push Don and Takuma to the top of their game.
“That’s what you want—both teams helping each other out,” Foyt emphasized, saying, “That was the biggest thing with me—trying to pick the right people for the second team. I wanted to make sure we grew as one team and not two separate teams going head-to-head. Like A.J. said, friendly competition is good and he wants them to race as long as they don’t take each other out. I think we have two guys and two teams that can win races. I can’t wait to see it on track.”
Added to that is Foyt having to oversee the renovation of a 42,000 sq. ft. building in Speedway, Indiana acquired last fall. 1181 West Main Street will become a race shop to be used during the season. Moreover, the facility has been modified to include Foyt Wine Vault, a Foyt Family Wines tasting room and retail center that will also house memorabilia from A.J. Foyt’s historic career.
“It’s a big building so we already have a couple tenants, and we’ve leased some space to Takuma’s manager Steve Fusek, who’s using the space for some of his other businesses. So like our race team, it’s become a family affair. Anthony (A.J. Foyt IV) and I are opening up a wine tasting room which is really going to pay homage to A.J. It will feature some of his artifacts from his racing career. It’ll be a cool place where fans can see a lot of his history, taste some wines, and just have a good time.”
And, as if that wasn’t enough to make his head spin faster than a Honda engine revving at 11,000rpms, one of the Series’ most eligible bachelors became engaged to Houstonian Kelly Curran over the winter holidays! They set a wedding date of November 7.
“It’s a big step for me, and I’ve waited long enough I guess,” said Foyt. “I met Kelly at the race track in California two years ago. We were introduced by her brother but she was living out in L.A., so to meet her, I invited her to the races. She’s come to really enjoy racing so that’s good, and she understands our travel schedule which can be tough. She’s a great person and we’re having a lot of fun. Now she can focus on planning the wedding so we’re both going to be pretty busy. We’ll get married in the off season and I’m really excited.”
Last year was a character-building year as the team showed speed consistently but didn’t get the expected results.
“It was definitely disappointing when you look at the numbers,” Foyt said. “They don’t do justice to how competitive we were in many races unfortunately. We fell out of a bunch of races where we were super competitive and had a good car.
“Starting the season with a pole position like we did at St. Pete made us think it was going to be a great season with more victories but it just didn’t happen. But that’s IndyCar racing—it is so competitive. What we have to do is build a team that can withstand the struggles and keep going up. Some of the great teams might not start their season great but they know how to finish a year. We seem to have a tough time in the mid-season when everyone gets tired. I think adding the second car and growing the team will strengthen the whole organization.”
With just five top 10 finishes—and a stretch of nine straight races where the car was fast but failed to finish better than 18th, last year was a test of the team’s fortitude. There were several highlights but they were tempered by incidents which resulted in double digit finishes. He was running fifth at Indy in the closing laps when debris from Scott Dixon’s accident sliced into the 14 car’s bodywork requiring an extra stop. Sato scored a second pole in the second race at the Detroit Grand Prix and was looking at a podium finish—if not a victory—when he ran into trouble with some backmarkers. He placed 18th instead.
However, three top-10 results in the final five races (a fifth at Toronto, and career best finishes in California at Sonoma (fourth) and Fontana (sixth), allowed for a positive ending to a trying season.
In 2013, it quickly became evident that the addition of Sato to the team proved to be a recipe for success. The ex-Formula 1 driver qualified second in the season opener and followed up with a top-10 finish. Two races later, he 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 allowed him to miss 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, young Foyt assumed more responsibility and tackled new challenges head-on. In doing so, he gained valuable experience.
Foyt’s well-established confidence in his driver and his team comes from knowing there’s a special synergy among them. “Taku, our engineers and mechanics all gelled quickly, and getting to victory lane together was something we were all very proud of,” Foyt said.
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.”
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.
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 President 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.