Foyt was first to win four Indy 500's

Updated: May 9, 2001, 9:47 PM ET
By Fred W. Kiger | Special to

Signature Race
May 29, 1977 - A.J. Foyt, the people's choice, waged a brilliant and grueling bumper-to-bumper battle with Gordon Johncock at the Indy 500. But under the pressure of Foyt's pursuit, Johncock's engine blew on the final turn of the 184th lap and the driver steered his car off the track and parked on the grass. As Foyt zipped into the lead in his red Gilmore Coyote, Johncock waved to him.

Foyt eased up the pace and all but coasted to his fourth Indy 500 victory, the first driver to achieve this feat. He averaged 161.331 miles per hour in easily beating runner-up Tom Sneva.

"I talked to the car. I talked to the good Lord and everybody that would listen that I could win and nobody would get hurt today," said Foyt, a 42-year-old grandfather whose previous victories came in 1961, 1964 and 1967.

Odds 'n' Ends

  • As a young rising star in the southwest, Foyt wore silk shirts and spruce-laundered white trousers for every race. He was called "Fancy Pants."

  • Early in his career, Foyt, down on his luck, was stranded with his midget car in Florida. His parents rolled $50 in pennies and sent it to him so he would have enough money to get home.

  • In one early race that Foyt won, a technical inspector who had caught him cheating disqualified his car. That inspector -- who was an automobile mechanic by trade -- was his father, A.J. Sr.

  • At the Sebring 12-hour race in March 1964, Foyt got a late start. Frustrated and angry, he overtook 51 cars on the first lap.

  • Foyt was pronounced dead after a 1965 crash at Riverside, California. Ten weeks later, he was racing again.

  • His fiery nature and volcanic temper have angered some racing fans over the years. At the 1979 Indy 500, Foyt was booed during qualifications. One fan wore a hat that read, "Turn Right."

  • Foyt's biggest racing fear was to be trapped in a burning car.

  • He is the only driver to compete in the 50th and 75th Indy 500s.

  • In May 1981, of the 33 drivers who had started with Foyt in his first Indy 500 (1958), 16 were dead, 13 by racing. He was the only driver still active.

  • On the night after Foyt qualified for the 1981 Indy 500, his mother Evelyn died of heart failure.

  • On the night after qualifying for the 1983 Indy 500, Foyt lost his father to cancer. Soon thereafter, A.J. bulldozed his parents' home because it "hurt too much to look at it."

  • Foyt earned $5,357,589 in Indy car racing.

  • He led the Indy 500 in 13 races, the most by any driver.

  • He was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2000.

  • Foyt and his wife Lucy have raised three children: A.J. III, who trains racehorses in Kentucky; Terry, who is a housewife; and Jerry, who has served as vice-president of his father's Honda dealership near Houston.

  • When Terry was a little girl, a horse rolled over her. Acute anxiety gave way to searing anger and Foyt shot the horse to death on the spot.

  • Foyt owns a 1,500-acre ranch in Hockley, Tex., where he raises and breeds thoroughbreds. He has a second ranch in West Texas as well as homes in Houston and Austin.