#Ask A.J. ...Round 2

April 2, 2020

Two weeks ago as Americans were asked to #StayHome, we asked race fans to submit questions for A.J. Foyt through Twitter (T), Instagram (IG) and Facebook (FB). A.J. is maintaining his social distance on his ranch but he took some time from his outdoor projects to answer more questions. Here is Round 2 of #AskA.J. ... 

 

Q: What is your first memory of the feeling of being at a racetrack? - Sebastian Lopez Jr.  (F)

A.J.: “I guess the first races I went to were the midget races with my mother and daddy, I was very young. My favorite driver was named Doc Cossey, he drove an outboard midget. My daddy built me a little race car which was a copy of Doc Cossey’s and we had a match race and I think I was six years old. That’s my memories of my first races in Buff Stadium, it was a quarter mile dirt track in Houston.”

 

Q: AJ, I first heard of you in the mid-sixties when friends of my dad’s who owned a garage in South Milwaukee, WI (Jim & Jerry’s) pointed out to me that an engine they had for their race car was given to them by you. Don’t know if you remember that, but that was my intro to Good ‘Ol AJ. Got hooked on racing and Indy in ‘67 when you won #3. It took me 51 years to get to Indy but in 2018 you were kind enough to sign “one more but that’s it” which was a photo I had of you and your dad. It is prominently displayed in my house. Always wanted to race cars but never did and it’s a regret I carry. I know this is a personal question, but how about regrets with you - racing wise. Got any? – Jim Brown (F)

Do you have ANY regrets about something that happened during your career? - Jeff Sittloh (@JSITTLOH) (T)

A.J.: “If I was reborn, I’d want to come up the same way I did this time in racing. I don’t know of anything I regret. I couldn’t have had a happier life in racing—you made all the moves yourself back then, you didn’t have all the radios talking like you do now or computers. Every decision you made you had to make on your own while you were out there on the race track. If I was reborn, I’d want my life to be the same as it was this time.”

 

Q: With your competitive fire that I am sure a driver of your caliber has, how tough is it not be able to hop behind the wheel and race? - spb197209 (IG)

A.J.: “Well it’s so much different now and I always said if I ever got out, I would never want to get back in because I had too many friends that lost their life (who did get back in after quitting). And if you’re not competing every week with the race drivers, you never know what kind of moves they’ll make and all you’re going to do is get hurt. And I’ve been hurt enough. I don’t regret retiring. I had a great career. I don’t regret anything I did in racing, it was a wonderful life." 

 

Q: A.J. you were supposed to race at the Hardie Ferodo 1000 at Bathurst in Australia. Could you tell us your thoughts on what happened behind the scenes that robbed us of seeing you in a touring car? – Rutty (F)

A.J.: “Well I was never scheduled to do that.” (That he recalls)

 

Q: AJ, I’ve been a big fan since 1964. I saw an entry list for the 1966 Formula 1 race in Belgium where you were entered in an All American Racers Eagle as a team mate to Dan Gurney. What prompted the entry and did you have to withdraw due to your injuries from the Milwaukee crash? – Mike Jablo (F)

A.J.: “I knew they were talking about it but then I got burnt at Milwaukee so I was unable to fulfill that deal. I don’t think it went that far, it was all in the talking stage. I busted my butt so that killed that entry.”

 

Q: Do you wish you could have raced sprints against Steve Kinser, Sammy Swindell & Doug Wolfgang? The Big Three for a latter era. Thanks for the memories AJ!!! I used your #14 on my modified & named my oldest AJ!!! – Jeff Caldwell (F)

A.J.: “Well you know they were great in their type of racing, and at the time they were really strong, I was kind of at the end of my sprint car racing. Yes, I would have liked to race against them but it was two different series. At that time you could only run one series and if you ran the Outlaw Series, they suspended you. I was with USAC then and I didn’t want to get suspended.”

A.J. in action at Terre Haute, the "Action Track" in 1974.

 

Q: Who do you think is the best driver you raced against who never won the Indy 500? - Tammy Veach (F)

A.J.: “Wheww…Lloyd Ruby was very good and so was Jim Hurtubise. Jim Hurtubise was hard to beat day in and day out. And I’m talking about everything from midgets to sprints to Indy cars.”

 

Q: Does AJ have any contact with George Ziggy Snider? I really enjoyed when George drove for AJ at Indy. What a combo. - TG Van Horne @tgvanhorne (T)

A.J.: “George Snider and I are very good friends and we still talk all the time.”

 

Q: Of all the cars you’ve driven and all of the circuits you’ve competed on which was your favorite car and your favorite track?  - Gordon Ingraham (F)

A.J.: “I’d say one of my favorite tracks was Ascot in California where I’d run the midgets against the California guys and was fortunate enough to beat them. It was a lot of fun.”

Wheeling the No. 5 midget, A.J. fends off Parnelli Jones (98) at Ascot Speedway in 1963. (Dave Friedman Photo)

 

Q: What driver did you enjoy competing against the most? - dddonahue (IG)

A.J.: “It’s hard to pick out one of them. Rodger Ward was really a tough competitor on dirt and pavement. Another one was Parnelli Jones, he was very tough and I enjoyed racing against him. We were friends and we raced hard against each other. When I came back from LeMans, I read the paper after we won and saw where my sprint car raced at Salem. Parnelli and Herb Porter went and took it out of my garage and took it down and raced it that weekend. They said they had nothing to do so they just borrowed my car while I was gone. And won the race in Salem, Indiana.”

 

Q: Who was the biggest PITA that you raced against? On track or off. (PITA = pain in the ass) - @jrnan (T)

A.J.: “Well there were a lot of them, I couldn’t pick out just one.”

 

Q: How hard did you actually punch Robin Miller? - @M_Rainman_Globe (T)

A.J.: “Not enough to hurt him. I kind of grabbed him by his long hair, and the people hollered ‘Get him A.J.,’ and I thought I can’t do this in front of all these people.”

Sports writer Robin Miller presents A.J. with a bee hat to keep him safe when he gets on his bulldozer.

 

Q: What can I do if I accidentally step on Killerby's (killer bees) nest? - @Ina_D_Indycar) (T)– (translated from Japanese)

A.J.: “If you step on them, you’re gonna lose. So just don’t do it. That’s something you don’t want to mess with, believe me. They play for keeps.”

 

Q: Is there a track you never had the chance to race from the past? Also, which of the newer, current tracks would you like to turn some laps? – Jeff Arns (F)

A.J.: “I would have liked to have run Bristol. It looks like it was a lot of fun. Of the newer tracks, I would have liked to race on the one in Dallas-Ft. Worth, Texas Motor Speedway. That would be one of my favorite tracks probably.”

 

Q: Ever been to Tri State Speedway in Haubstadt, IN??? - Jeremy Aydt (@runcoach34) (T)

A.J.: “No, I don’t think so.”

 

Q: Racing cars is a dream job...what was your plan b or dream career if racing didn’t? - Steve Evenson (@nevadaracer00v) (T)

A.J.: “I’d probably be a mechanic in my daddy’s garage like I was before I started racing fulltime. I figured racing was better than when you had to jack up a car and it was dripping cold water on you.”

 

Q: I noticed in a photo from ’64 or ’65 a test session in a Lotus with the new Ford DOHC engine that there were four (4) exhaust pipes instead of the normal two (2) that was used for years. Does A.J. recall why Ford decided to use two instead of four? Just curious.  – thompson8253 (email)

A.J.: “People played with the exhaust systems and some liked the two and some liked the four. I always ran the two pipes because they made more horsepower. I tried four but it wasn’t as good.”

A.J. won the pole at Indy in 1965 with this rear-engine car with dual exhaust pipes. His feat was quite a comeback after life-threatening injuries from an accident in the NASCAR race at Riverside, Calif. in January of that year--the day after he turned 30. (IMS Photo)

 

Q: Who is in charge of cooking for the team while y’all are out on the road? - Dave Newell (@DaveNewellphoto) (T)

A.J.: “We have a caterer prepare it, then our truck driver Rodney [Klausmeyer] picks it up and sets it up in our hospitality area for the guys.”  

 

Q: What is the best gambling tip that Robin Miller has given to you? - mccracna (IG)

A.J.: “He didn’t give me any tips. I lost my first contract ($6500 with Bowes Seal Fast) in Las Vegas—that’s what taught me a good tip about not gambling. I raced all summer to pay for my sprint car. It was a contract for me to drive the Indy cars but I bought a sprint car with the money. That was pretty cheap, wasn’t it? I still got the contract.”

 

Q: Hi AJ, Were you surprised that the Hulman-George family sold IMS? Thank you for returning to Indiana year after year! – Angie Chesser (F)

A.J.: “Yes I was. I never thought the Speedway would ever be sold in my lifetime. All I can say is there couldn’t have been a better person to buy it than Roger Penske.”

 

Q: When you won your 4th Indy it had been a culmination on multiple years efforts. 3rd in 1975, 2nd in 1976, and finally the Win in 1977. The two previous years had shortened races due to rain. Conceivably you could have won 3 in a row. So the question is if the races had gone the distance could have you won either or even both? Did you feel it was in your grasp? Love you AJ– James Lafreeda (F)

A.J.: “It felt like in ’75 and ’76, I had everybody covered real bad and in ’77 too. All I had to do was stay out of trouble. Then the rain caught me when I pitted in ’76 and I had to get fuel in ’75. I just couldn’t believe I didn’t win it in 75 or 76 but you know everything’s got to fall your way for you to win it, so I was just glad I finally did it in ’77.”

This picture was snapped from the 1977 Carl Hungness Indianapolis 500 Yearbook chronicling A.J.'s Indy 500 career. This Coyote was designed by Bob Riley in 1973 and evolved into the 1977 winner. It was built in Houston by Jack Starne and a team led by A.J.'s dad Tony Foyt. 

 

Q: You’re running a 150 mph lap in your roadster at Indy. What would be your top speed on the straight and min speed in the turns? Given prevailing winds in Indy out of the NW that time of year (May) was T2 the toughest? - Peter Lohmar (@PeterLohmar) (T)

A.J.: “I’d say you’d slow down 25-30 miles an hour in the turns so you’d probably go about 125-130 mph in the turns and close to 200 mph down the straightaway. Turn 2 was by far the toughest, yes. It’d always want to push the front end because where it [wind] blowed up. What helped Turn 2 a lot was when they put the grandstand all around there and also when they added the suites.”

 

Q: What do you remember most about your first Indy 500 start in 1958? – historymysteryman (IG)

A.J.: “Going down the backstraight and everybody crashing. They told you about drafting and they told you ‘Don’t do this and Don’t do that’ but they didn’t tell you about everybody going to wreck down in Turn 3. A very good friend of mine, a man I thought a lot of, Pat O’Connor, lost his life that day so I didn’t know if I wanted to race in the Indy 500 or not after that. I wasn’t used to seeing people get killed.”

 

Q: Hey there AJ, does life get any easier when you are on the farm? -  Derek Green (@derekg14) (T)

A.J.: “I enjoy what I do on the ranches but trying to get people to do something the way you want it done is getting harder every day. I think the older you get, the less tolerant you get. You try to tell people the way you want it, but nowadays, they want to do it the way they want it. They forget who’s paying them. Right or wrong, I want it my way.”

 A.J. doing it "My Way" last week.

 

 

 

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