Larry Foyt might drive for A.J.
INDIANAPOLIS -- A.J. Foyt never wanted his boys to go into auto racing. For a while it seemed like he would get his wish.
His oldest son, Tony, became a horse breeder and trainer. Middle son Jerry gave racing a try, mainly in the Formula 2000 series and in stock cars, but now manages an auto dealership near Houston.
It's the two youngest Foyt boys, 27-year-old son Larry and 19-year-old grandson A.J. IV -- Tony's son -- who are now following closely in the old man's tire tracks. That's not what A.J. would have preferred, but he couldn't have talked them out of it even if he wanted to.
"It was good to me," said the elder Foyt, the first four-time Indianapolis 500 winner and now a team owner in the Indy Racing League and NASCAR's Nextel Cup series. "I never wanted any of my kids to race because it is such a tough sport, but when that's all they want to do, what can you say?"
Especially at Indianapolis, where the lure of the world's richest and most tradition-filled race often draws sons, brothers, cousins and nephews to the famed Brickyard. The Unsers and Andrettis are the most prominent families, of course. Maybe the Foyts will be joining them soon.
"If that's what they want to do, you try to make 'em as happy as you can," the 67-year-old racing patriarch said. "Life goes by a lot quicker than you think."
Foyt's grandson, whom he calls Anthony, began racing junior dragsters at age 9, moved to go-karts two years later and then raced sports cars and in the U.S. Auto Club Silver Crown series. Two years ago, while also working on his grandfather's crew for driver Airton Dare, he won the inaugural Infiniti Pro Series championship, the IRL's developmental program for younger drivers.
He joined A.J.'s team as a driver last year and competed in 16 races, with his best finish 11th at Nazareth, Pa. He was 18th at Indianapolis, the first Foyt in the race since his grandfather's finale in 1992.
This year, for the first time, there may be two Foyts in the race.
Larry Foyt, who has driven without much success the past two seasons in NASCAR, tested his father's IndyCar during the Rookie Orientation Program at the Speedway on Monday, even though he was exempt because of his NASCAR experience. He completed 59 laps with ease, had a top speed of more than 210 mph and was smooth enough to prompt serious consideration by his father to make him Anthony's teammate for the May 30 race.
Nothing would make Larry happier.
"I've been here my whole life, watching this race, watching the Indy 500," he said.
And that's not an exaggeration.
He was born in February 1977, three months before A.J. won the race for the fourth time, and boasts that he attended that race and every one since then. He also drove in NASCAR's Brickyard 400 last year at the Speedway.
"I love this race track. This is the coolest place ever," Larry said. "It just felt right. Coming here just seemed like the right thing to do."
A.J. has not officially confirmed his intention to let his son drive in the Indy 500, but a news release from Foyt Racing on Tuesday said he would be behind the wheel of a second Foyt entry "if all goes according to plan."
In the meantime, Larry has even turned to Anthony for advice.
"Anthony's come so far in his year since he was here last year. We had dinner last night and I talked to him for a while, just things I need to know," Larry Foyt said. "You've also got A.J. Foyt telling you a lot of things, and he can see what a lot of people just can't see from just watching the car go around the track, especially here. He made a couple little changes, and everything seemed to help.
"I know it's going to be a lot more difficult when we try to trim the car out and go a lot faster, so I don't want to be overly excited, but it was still a big day for me to know you can do it and go that fast."
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press