Americans are following the guidelines to #StayHome, as is the AJ Foyt Racing team. We asked race fans to submit questions for Team President Larry Foyt through Twitter (T), Instagram (I) and Facebook (F). Between fans and our own curiosity, we had a lot of questions so we will break it up into two parts. Here is Round 1 of #AskLarry ...
Q: During this quarantine period, have you discovered an activity that you enjoy doing that your normal schedule wouldn't allow for? - John Elkin (F)
LF: “I think the biggest thing that has been kind of a blessing is getting to be with our son every day. Normally I’d be missing half the week traveling, so being with him every day during this time—he just turned one--has been a lot of fun.”
Q: If you could lure any NASCAR driver to Indy to drive for you, who would it
be and why? - Rich Mar Florist (F)
LF: “I have a couple guys in mind…it’d be great to have Kurt Busch because he’s run there and run really well. Knowing Jimmie Johnson back in the day, I was a year behind him coming up in ASA, and I raced against him a little bit in the Busch Series, so I always had a lot of respect for Jimmie and what he was able to do. He’s shown interest in INDYCAR and it’d be great to have him in one of our cars. Would love to have Dale Jr. in one of our cars. How cool having an Earnhardt driving a Foyt car? I remember when Dad drove his dad’s car at the Brickyard for testing so that would be great to repay that favor.”
Q: Is having a TX branch and an Indiana branch a good idea? Wouldn't things be better if Foyt Racing were all under one roof? – Don Mulder (F)
LF: “We have a long term goal of getting it all under one roof. When we grew to two cars in 2015, we tried to do them both from Texas. We really struggled with getting experienced people to work in Texas, whether it was engineers or mechanics, and that really hurt us. It slowed our growth and our progress for a couple of years. That’s why we decided to open up the Indy shop which allowed us to have a good crew up there as well as our good crew down here in Texas. Long term it would be great to all be under one roof. We’ve got the engineering staff in Indianapolis so they all work together there but we have a really good group here in Texas. It’s where we’re at right now but, yes in the long term, it would be great to be under one roof.”
Q: Other than A.J., who was a childhood hero in racing that you looked up to? - Johnnie Crawford (F)
LF: “When I first started racing go karts in high school, it was around the time we had Robby Gordon (pictured left) driving for us. He was such a talented driver and it was fun watching him because he was really competitive. He made a big impression on me. You never knew what was going to happen but he was a lot of fun to watch. I really looked up to Robby. I also had a great admiration for Kenny Brack. I was able to do some spotting for him, and he is an amazingly talented and dedicated driver. Listening to him taught me a great deal about the mental preparation of race driving."
(L to R): A.J., driver Mike Conway, Larry, Kenny Brack and technical director Don Halliday in 2012 at Indy.
Q: Did you get to run any dirt coming up racing and if not, is that something you would have liked to try? - Johnnie Crawford (F)
LF: “I did a couple go kart races on dirt but never got to run dirt beyond that. I always wanted to try it, but it wasn’t in the cards for me. I was still going to school and didn’t have a lot of time to go chasing the dirt track stuff. I think it would have been a blast for sure.”
Q: Are you concerned that this shutdown/cancellation of races could possibly lead to sponsors taking a second look at renewals or withdrawing after contracts expire given the current economic state? - Dave Newell (@DaveNewellphoto (T)
LF: “Of course. I think every business in the world right now is wondering what economies are going to look like as we come out of this and how quickly we can rebound. I’m sure a lot of companies are going to have to make cuts in areas and some of that could be on the marketing side. We hope the economy comes back quickly and we know that companies are still going to have to do marketing, and motorsports is one of the greatest areas for it. All of our sponsors have been great through all of this. Everyone’s in this together I think and we just have to see what it’s going to look like. It’s a little bit nerve-wracking but I’m sure we’ll do the best we can and hopefully come out okay.”
Q: As team president would you consider doing one of the final two @IndyCar @iRacing events? - Ben Johnston @BSJ2008 – (T)
Q:Hope everyone at AJ FoytRacing is doing well! Are we going to see Larry guest star in one of the IndyCar iRacing Challenge races? - @imperial_motorsports (I)
LF: “It’d probably have to be an oval (laughs). I’m not going to be spending the big money on these sim rigs like a lot of these guys have. My stuff’s very basic so I don’t think I’d be very competitive on a road course. The oval looked like a lot of fun, I’ve gone in and done a little bit of practicing when the guys are racing amd it’s been fun. It takes a lot of time and I think with a baby, I’m a lot like Charlie Kimball, there’s a little too much going on to put the time in to try to beat those guys. Some of them are incredible on iRacing.”
Q: Larry, I had the pleasure of watching you race a stock car in Milwaukee. Do you miss driving and if so, what specifically do you miss about it? Brutuski @brutuski (T)
Q: Does he ever miss his days driving that Harrah’s car in NASCAR? I always loved that purple and yellow #14. - @bstargel
Q: Do you miss racing (driving) yourself? - @55TbirdChick (T)
LF: “I definitely do every year that Daytona rolls around, I miss that. I really enjoyed driving stock cars at some of those big tracks. But you move on from it. I miss some parts of it and some parts I don’t miss. The days when we were struggling and being a small team, it wasn’t always a lot of fun. Being a rookie, you’re hard on yourself, those days were pretty trying for sure. The love of racing will always be there whether you’re behind the wheel or on the pitstand or just watching your cars. I do miss it sometimes but I really enjoy the business side. Building this team and working with my dad on it has been a fantastic experience. Hopefully we’ll be involved in it as long as we can.
Q: “Hi, Larry! This is Kellyanne. How are you and your family doing, and what are y’all up to during the quarantine?” - @autumndandelion (I)
LF: “Hi Kellyanne! Well I get up and I work about half a day catching up on emails and phone calls. We still have a lot of racing communications going back and forth with the engineers who are working from home. I’m talking with our sponsors and trying to stay ahead of what our schedule is going to look like and how busy we’re going to be in the late summer and fall. Also working a little bit building the winery and museum in Fredericksburg, Texas. I spend a couple hours on that, and then when the weather’s nice in the afternoon, it’s great to be able and go out to swing the golf clubs. Have to be socially distant from everybody but at least I get a little swinging of the golf clubs and walking outside. And then playing with the baby so the day fills up pretty fast.”
Q: Do you want your son to become a race car driver?
LF: “You know we talk about that a lot around here these days. I get asked that quite a bit. I probably won’t push it on him but if he shows interest and wants to try it, I’ll let him. I know how hard I had to fight A.J. to convince him to let me try it. The baby goes crazy over a steering wheel. We bought him a little remote control Indy car that he rides in and he loves it. Anything he gets in, he’s going for the steering wheel. I’m sure that’s common with a lot of babies but I think we might be in trouble.”
Q: Are you interested in rejoining our team this year to take on the iRacing Indy 500? ;) - Tim Doyle (@TimDoyle19)
LF: “My old buddy Tim! I definitely would do that. If he’ll give me a good setup, I’m in.”
Q: What’s the most challenging part of your job? - @1ironabrams (I)
LF: “What I’ve learned in racing is that it’s all about your people. You try to put a winning group together and try to be optimistic that you’re putting the right pieces in place but you really don’t know till you get to the race track. And in racing, so many things come into play from budgets to all types of things that weigh in on the difference in outcomes. You hope you’ve got the right group together to capitalize when the time is right. That’s the toughest thing - getting the best people you can and all the teams are trying to do that as well, so it’s very competitive within the workforce of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. It’s tough but it’s enjoyable because you meet so many people. We do pride ourselves on having really good people -- people we enjoy working with and enjoy having work for us. I think we have a really good group.”
Q: What are you doing for all the crew now that there’s no racing? - @bigdocmike (I)
LF: “Well I told them to stay home so I hope they’re doing that. We’ve all been in touch by email. We’ve done a couple fun things. We had a little concert one night on Facebook with a friend of mine that sings country music. The engineers are working from home on their computers so they’ve stayed busy. They had a lot of projects they wanted to catch up on, so it’s been good for them. I’m hoping we can get back to work within a month and get our schedule going before it gets too late in the year. We’re trying to follow the guidelines that the health and government officials have set to keep everyone as safe as possible, and when the time comes, get back to work.”
Larry qualified for the first of his three Indy 500 starts in 2004.
Q: What was your most memorable moment of your career as a driver?
LF: “As a driver, I’d say certainly the first time I qualified for the Indy 500 because Indy cars were always my dream. When the split happened as I was coming up, it just made sense to go the NASCAR route. I would say the most fun year I had in racing was ASA stock cars. Getting to work with and race against Butch Miller is something I will never forget. I had basically never been on a short track before and I was racing against some of the best short trackers around. A moment I will always remember was qualifying on the pole and getting the track record at Winchester. I believe it beat a longtime record by Mark Martin and still stands today. I had gone out early and wanted the pole so badly, I snuck up in the stands and watched the rest of qualifying and jumped up when it held. I called A.J. to tell him and he said "What happened? Did the throttle stick?" We had a good laugh with that one.
I had a lot of fun over there but my dream was to be at Indy. Going to the Indy 500 my whole life, watching it from Turn 2 and having my dad waving at us as he drove by, well Indy was the dream for me. In 2004, when I took that first lap around the Speedway, and then qualified and raced in the 500 -- that was the experience of a lifetime. Coming down for the start of that race is something you can’t prepare yourself for--it’s such an incredible experience! I think the other cool thing was being able to race in the Brickyard 400 because not a lot of drivers have been able to do both.”
Q: What was your most memorable moment on the team management side?
LF: “Being on the team side, I’d have to say the Long Beach Grand Prix win. That was such a great day. We all really needed that. Dad had been sick at home and I knew he was watching so to be able to call him from victory lane—well it was a pretty special day. And it was great for our whole organization.”
Takuma Sato with his 2013 ABC Supply Racing team in victory lane at Long Beach. Larry is standing second from right.
Q: What do you think of the IndyCar iRacing series?
LF: “I’ve enjoyed watching it on TV. iRacing has been working on this for a very long time and for them to have this moment is great. It really is a fun platform and fun to watch. I think it’s tougher for some of the older guys that didn’t grow up with the sims as much as these younger drivers have. I know Will Power’s been doing it for a really long time because back when I was doing it years and years ago, he was already doing it. He’s got a lot of experience and he’s shown that. When I talk to our drivers, I love that they’re all so competitive. Tony has put a lot into this as have Sebastien and Dalton. They’re racers! It just goes to show that these guys will race anything. Give them a steering wheel and some pedals, and the competition comes out. I think it’s great because it keeps us thinking about racing. We get to see all the liveries out there which is pretty cool. It doesn’t replace the real thing though and we hope to do that sooner rather than later.”
Dalton Kellett is currently 11th in the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge Series standings.
Q: What is your silver lining to the pandemic?
LF: “It’s tough to say because so many people have really suffered a lot and lives have been lost. I’m concerned that a lot of small businesses in America aren’t going to recover from this. It’s hard to say there’s a silver lining. For us, we’ve tried to make sure our families and employees are safe. For me having this extra time to spend with my son is what I’ve tried to focus on. It’s sad because we’re probably all going to know somebody who’ll lose to this pandemic, it’s just heartbreaking to be living in this time. Two months ago if you had said this was even a possibility, I don’t think any of us could fathom it. We just need to pray for the people that are deeply affected by it and hope we can get this behind us. Have to hope that the medical professionals and scientists can come up with a vaccine and a really effective way to treat this virus—that would be a prayer come true.”