Stewart, Foyt a heck of a comedy team
Tony Stewart and A.J. Foyt have formed a mutual admiration society of sorts. Well, one that includes a string of good-natured barbs and cut-downs, writes Terry Blount.
Foyt always has said Stewart is just like him. How so?
"Well, excuse my French," Foyt said, "but he's known to be an a------ sometimes."
"Don't worry," Stewart said. "That's not the first time he's told me that."
There you have it, the link between two generations of racing greatness. They speak each other's language, and they both tell it like it is.
Foyt is in Daytona this week as Stewart's guest, sitting on the pit box to watch Stewart make his debut as a driver/team owner.
"Nobody gives me a harder time than this man [pointing at Foyt], but it's all in fun," Stewart said. "This is a big week for us, and it's icing on the cake having him here."
Stewart is an Indiana boy who grew up idolizing Foyt in Foyt's heyday as a four-time winner of the Indianapolis 500. He drove for Foyt in sprint cars a decade ago.
Foyt remains the only man to win the Indy 500, the Daytona 500, the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona.
"He constantly reminds me of all those accomplishments," Stewart said.
"Tony says he respects me, but he don't show me no respect," Foyt said.
The two of them put on quite a show in the media center Friday, talking about their close relationship.
"He calls a spade a spade," Foyt said of Stewart. "Somewhere down the line, our genes must have crossed. That's what made me what I am. I didn't sugarcoat stuff. Tell fans the truth. That's one thing I respect Tony for over some other drivers."
Foyt was on Stewart's pit box for the Gatorade Duel race Thursday when Stewart finished second in the No. 14 Chevy.
"He gave me a radio, and I found out the button didn't work," Foyt said. "But it was nice to just sit there and not be raising hell. I was listening pretty close. He wasn't crying, for a change."
Stewart never intended to give Foyt a working radio.
"Just drive once for him and listen and you'll know why," Stewart said. "He demands performance. If he thinks you're not in the right spot at the right time, he'll tell you about it. I had enough stuff to worry about."
Foyt gave Stewart a grade of A-minus for his qualifying race effort. Why not an A?
"He run second," Foyt said. "Very simple. I thought he was going to win. I was pulling for him, but I don't think he had anybody really helping him."
Foyt, who owns an IndyCar Series team and previously owned a Cup team, was asked whether he had any words of wisdom for Stewart's new venture.
"Their motor homes cost more than when I first put my team together," Foyt said. "You just have to watch your p's and q's and watch what you spend. You go back to basics and surround yourself with good people. That's where Tony's been smarter than a lot of others who tried it."
Like Foyt, Stewart's roots are in open-wheel. He won the IRL championship in 1997.
Foyt was asked why some of the good open-wheel drivers who recently switched to NASCAR didn't have success in stock cars.
"Whoever said they were good open-wheel drivers?" Foyt asked. "Some of those guys never were good open-wheel drivers."
No driver in history had more success in different racing disciplines than Foyt.
"I think it's something you're born with, not something you can learn," Foyt said. "Have you ever driven a sports car? Now, have you ever driven a Greyhound bus? That's the difference."
Stewart chose his new car number in honor of Foyt, who used 14 most of his career. Stewart's honoring Foyt in the Daytona 500 with a decal above the wheel well that reads: Heroes Drive Us. Foyt's signature is under the slogan.
"Hey, what does it pay me, Tony?" Foyt asked.
"Don't worry about that," Stewart said. "It's in a place where it will get rubbed off after a few laps."
Stewart is one of the few people who can trade good-natured insults with the racing legend.
Foyt was telling a long story and mentioned that he went to White Castle and ate two burgers (which are quite small there, for those who don't know).
"A.J., there's no way you only ate two of those," Stewart said.
"Tony, when I was your age, I was a little bit lighter," Foyt said.
Even when praising Stewart, Foyt couldn't resist a little dig.
"I'm proud to see him do what he's doing with his new team," Foyt said. "And they are going to have to deal with him a few more years, unless he gets too fat."
Terry Blount covers motorsports for ESPN.com. His book, "The Blount Report: NASCAR's Most Overrated and Underrated Drivers, Cars, Teams, and Tracks," was published by Triumph Books and is available in bookstores. Click here to order a copy. Terry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.