Larry Foyt, president of AJ Foyt Racing, took time last week to answer questions from the fans as well as some that we had. There were so many questions that we created two rounds. Following is Round 2 of the #AskLarry Q&A...
Q: What is your favorite moment you shared with A.J. in racing?
LF: “When I was young in racing, it was tough because he was definitely hard on you. I knew going in he would be that way. He came to my second go kart race and I won it. I
was so happy. [At right: Larry with A.J. IV and Mike Cockayne, a longtime friend and big supporter]. Then in victory lane, he started chewing on me on some of the things I did wrong during the race. And I’m thinking ‘Oh man, this is going to be a long road if we’re really going to do this.’ That’s how he was as a racer, he really was a perfectionist, and second place is the first loser. That attitude is part of why he was so successful. Still, being with him at Indianapolis when he is standing out on pit road, watching his cars and checking them on his stopwatch, I love seeing him in his element. His experience and his love for racing is so deep. When we have a good day, it’s really a joy to see it on his face. It is cool being able to work with him. We’ve had our moments where I may want something he doesn’t want, but we talk about it and figure it out. As the years pass, he’s trusted me more and more and has been able to relax a little bit and enjoy it. I think the whole team, from the mechanics to the engineers to the drivers, we all want to win for him, get him to victory lane and give him a reason to smile again.”
Q: What is one of your funniest moments with A.J.?
LF: “We were racing F2000 cars at Atlanta and there was a really big multicar crash
(see video below) and I flipped down the straightaway, hit the wall and there was a lot of fire. I was pretty dizzy from the hit, but I wanted to get out because I didn’t know if the car was on fire or not. I remember stumbling to the grass and laying there. First thing when I opened my eyes, I saw A.J. leaning over me and I thought, ‘Oh my God, am I dead?’ (Laughs) I didn’t know how he got there that fast! When I watched the replay, you can see him running and this is after his accident where his legs were torn up so bad at Elkhart Lake. It was unbelievable he could still run like that! The safety guys had seen me get out of my car, and there were a couple guys in really bad shape and the safety team was doing some on-track tracheotomies. It was a really nasty crash. For those little cars to be going on a big oval wasn’t the safest thing. Luckily, I was okay, but it was pretty crazy seeing him get to me first.”
Q: Have you ever been scared in a race car?
LF: “Oh yeah, I think you’re always going to scare yourself at some point or you’re probably not trying hard enough. I wouldn’t say the stock cars are that scary. But you get in an Indy car going over 200 miles an hour and you know that concrete wall is out there, and you’re loose, it can get your heartrate up. But even when I broke my back at Indy, it was really important for me to come back and qualify one more time.”
Q: What is new with the Foyt Wine business?
LF: “We’re building a winery down in the Texas Hill Country and we’re super excited about that. It’s a legacy project for me, to be honest. We’ve got so much great memorabilia of A.J. and his cars, and I wanted a place where people can see it. We’re going to build a really nice museum which will have a lot of his stuff – A.J. is the centerpiece but it will show the history of all of Foyt Racing. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time; we’ve broken ground on the winery part of the complex so hopefully we can get it opened to the public later this year. It’s a huge step for us but I think it’s something a lot of people will enjoy.”
Q: What advice would you give to a young person who wants to get involved in motorsports as a driver?
LF: “You have to make sure you love it because it’s going to take up a lot. It takes your full focus, full energy and time. You really need to learn all the different aspects of it. Even as a young driver, you need to understand that you’re going to have to work on sponsorship, work on all aspects of motorsports. It’s a really rewarding, great business. For a young person, you’ve got to build up your confidence because there are going to be good days and bad days and you can’t let it get you down. Unlike a football game where you’re up against one other team, in racing you’re usually up against twenty or thirty guys and girls. It can be tough, but you just have to stay focused and give it your all.”
Q: What was your favorite subject in school growing up?
LF: “Ha, anything but Math. I liked about everything else, I enjoyed science. I was really
into sports. I wanted to get classes over so we could get to practice. Sports was a lot of my life growing up. Later in high school when I got into racing, it was never about the adrenalin rush for me. I just like competition. It wasn’t about going fast, it was about competing and once I was in the race car, I just loved it.”
Q: If you weren’t involved in racing, what do you think you would have pursued as a career?
LF: “Coming out of high school, I was really into film. I wanted to be a film director. When I went to TCU, I signed up for the film classes and when A.J. saw my report card, he said I’m not paying for you to go watch movies. You need to go join the business school. That was the end of that one. I used to be into movies but now later in life, I like golf. I wish A.J. had put some golf clubs in my hands when I was young. That’s my relaxation now but it’s also my frustration a lot of times.”
Q: What’s the most interesting place you’ve travelled for racing?
LF: “Probably Japan. I really enjoyed going to Japan. It’s such a beautiful country and what an interesting and great culture. It’s so different from the States. I really miss going over there. That was a lot of fun for me.”
Q: What’s the most interesting place you’ve travelled for vacation?
LF: “We’re pretty partial to Italy. On my last trip there a couple years ago, my wife and I went up to Parma to visit the Dallara factory which was a lot of fun. And then we went down to Cinque Terre and up to the Alba wine region of northwest Italy. I also love Venice, it’s such a unique city. And Florence. I love everything in Italy, the food, the people—we had so much fun over there.”
Q: Do you think INDYCAR’s relationship with iRacing will continue once things get back to normal?
LF: “I think it should because when we’re not actually racing, it’s something we can still do. It’s been a lot of fun for a lot of people. How cool to be a fan who is good at it and they can race against someone who does it in reality? There are a lot of positives to it and cool aspects of it that help to enhance and expand INDYCAR’s fanbase and audience.”
Q: Dogs or cats?
LF: “Dogs. We have two. We lost one last year which was tough as a lot of people know.”
Q: What is your dream car?
LF: “I’ve never really dreamt of having a sports car or anything like that. But now that you ask, I’d love to have a classic old Corvette.”
Q: What’s the fastest you’ve ever driven both on a racetrack and on the road?
LF: “Well I always go the speed limit (laughs). Actually, I don’t drive typically fast on the road unless I’m in a hurry to get somewhere and even then, I’m pretty careful. And I drive an SUV so it’s not like it’s a sports car. At Indy when you’re practicing for qualifying and you see that big 235 (mph) number in a tow, that’s pretty fast.”
Q: Who’s your biggest inspiration? We would assume A.J., so if him, what is it about him that inspires you the most?
LF: “There’s a lot of things about A.J. that are inspirational. When I was young, I knew
all of his records, but it wasn’t until I actually started driving myself, that I realized these things he achieved are quite incredible. When I was young and even now, I hear him tell young drivers, ‘Yeah, I’ve won about everything you can win and I’ve also hit the wall as hard as you can hit it and hurt yourself, so don’t try to impress me. Just go out there and do what you can do. He never tried to push you past what he thought you were capable of that day. There were a lot of moments where he can be super hard and tough on you, but then there were moments when you had a bad day and you think he’s going to be angry and he comes out with great understanding. He really is a complex personality. People see the persona, they’ve seen him throw the laptop or have a scuffle, but he’s got such a big heart and really cares for his family and his people. He’s shown it a little bit more as he’s gotten older. He’s really complete in that way and I wish more people knew that, but I know he doesn’t like them to know that.
Q: If the Indy 500 runs in August, how do you think it will be different?
LF: “I think the hope is that it is not that different but I’m quite sure it will be. A lot of us understand things will be different for a while, maybe some things forever. I don’t know, we’ll see. It’s going to be warm, that’s for sure but we’ve had warm Indy 500s before. Everybody has respect and trust for the Firestone people and I’m sure Cara and her staff will have their work cut out for them to see what the tire loads are like in those temperatures. It will also be our first race there with the aeroscreen so there are a lot of different factors coming into play. I think you’ve got some great people there to help us get the best out if it so I’m really not concerned about it. I’m sure they’ll do a fantastic job.”
Q: What is the team working on at this time? How are they preparing for the season when it starts?
LF: “Our engineers have gotten caught up on a lot of projects. We don’t have the manpower of some of these bigger teams, so it’s been a good little break to get caught up from some of the pre-season testing and projects we’d done in the off season. Logistically, I’m looking at what our season even looks like. Now with this changing between the oval races, the road course races and our multi-driver situation, there are a lot of different cogs in place that we’re trying to figure out once we know for sure what the schedule looks like.”
Q: What’s a week in the life for Larry in regards of preparation for a race week? @masonlandis (Instagram)
LF: “Here is what a normal race week would look for us in the summertime. Typically, if we race Sunday afternoon, our guys fly out Monday morning, so Monday is a travel day and they don’t come to the shop, except for the truck drivers who drop off the cars. However, the engineers are already looking at all the data.
Tuesday morning the crews unload the cars, but it is a day of meetings. These meetings are streamed through both shops’ conference rooms so we can share data and see and talk to each other. It’s as close as you can get to being in the same room as the guys. We start the meeting with management, crew chiefs and engineers and then separate meetings break out as they become more granular. I pop in and out because I’m dealing with a variety of issues including budgets, sponsor requests and updates, travel and looking at the upcoming weekend.
On Wednesday, the engineers are getting their setups to the crews who make the changes to the cars for the next race. Either Wednesday evening or Thursday morning the crews are buttoning up the cars and getting them loaded into the haulers to head out for the next race. If all goes well and we get the cars off, I try to sneak out around 3 o’clock on Thursday to get a round of golf in; golf is my enjoyment of sports outside of racing. But sometimes we’re flying out Thursday afternoon and just like that we’re at another race weekend! That’s why the middle of the season is a real grind for the teams, so we try to make sure that it doesn’t wear us down mentally and physically.”