Larry Foyt participates in rookie orientation
The youngest son of four-time Indianapolis 500 winner A.J. Foyt took the wheel of an Indy car at the Speedway for the first time Monday and couldn't contain his excitement.
"It's everything I thought it would be," he said. "This place is obviously so special. I've been here every year of my life, and this is just the coolest day of my life. It's amazing."
The 26-year-old Foyt took part in the annual Rookie Orientation Program in anticipation of a possible ride next month with his father's team, which also includes second-year driver A.J. Foyt IV, his nephew and A.J.'s grandson.
Other rookies included Ed Carpenter, the stepson of Speedway president Tony George, last year's Infiniti Pro Series champion Mark Taylor of England, Kosuke Matsuura of Japan, Luis Diaz of Mexico and Marty Roth of Canada. Larry Foyt took part even though he was exempt from the mandatory rookie program because of his experience in the NASCAR Nextel Cup series.
"I was real impressed with how well the car handled," he said of the Dallara-Toyota. "I was just out there trying to get laps and get out of that stock car line here. We run quite a different line in the stock car than you run in the Indy car."
Foyt was 32nd as a NASCAR rookie in the Brickyard 400 and 41st in the series points last year, when he qualified for only 20 races. This year, driving only a partial schedule, he dropped to 44th in the standings after his father's Dodge was impounded and penalized by NASCAR for not meeting specifications at Bristol last month.
The elder Foyt has not decided whether to add Larry to his IRL operation at Indianapolis.
"I'm going to talk to him a little bit in private," A.J. said. "I think he really enjoys it because of the way we've been getting screwed around back yonder (in NASCAR). He hasn't had no breaks down there. ... It's all politics."
Larry Foyt drove 59 laps Monday and had a top speed of 210.013 mph as the rookie drivers worked up speeds in four 10-lap phases starting at 195 mph. Jeff Simmons, who drives in the Infiniti series, the IRL's developmental program, also practiced in Foyt's car and had a top speed of 212.261.
"I was pretty happy," the younger Foyt said. "My dad didn't want me to push the speed too much. I could have gone faster, but I think that was plenty fast for what we wanted to do today. This whole time, I haven't been that nervous. As soon as I went out and got up to speed, everything seemed really good. Today was great, because there was no pressure."
Carpenter, who won the inaugural Freedom 100 Infiniti race last year, was one of the four who completed all four phases of the rookie tests Monday and had the top overall speed of the day at 215.584 mph. The other three were Matsuura, who had a fast lap at 214.322; Taylor, at 212.920; and Diaz, at 210.498.
Those four, along with Foyt and other veteran drivers, may participate Wednesday and Thursday in open tests at the track. Simmons and Roth, who completed three of the four rookie phases Monday, may finish their tests on May 9, the first full day of practice for the May 30 race.
The IRL advisers who are tutoring the rookie drivers this week include former Indy winners Al Unser, Rick Mears and Johnny Rutherford.
"You just can't beat that," Larry Foyt said. "You've got so much experience to draw from.
"I still really like racing NASCAR, and I'm real happy there," he added. "I had a lot of fun today -- I wasn't planning on having that much fun -- but I still think right now I'd like to have a home in NASCAR full-time. I sure would love to run the double, too."
If nothing else, Foyt figures his relationship with the boss might carry some weight.
"He knows I drive for pretty cheap, so maybe I'll get the call."
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press