PRI 2017: The A.J. Foyt Exhibit At The Convention Center

A.J. Foyt’s amazing career encompassed everything from midget dirt track racecars to sprints, Champ cars, Indy Cars, Sports cars, and even NASCAR stock cars. He is the only driver to win the Indianapolis 500, the Daytona 500, the 24 Hours of Daytona, and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. When it came time for the PRI Show to honor Foyt with an exhibit at the event located in Indianapolis, there was very little doubt that it would focus on the Indy 500 wins collected by the racer. The four winning cars were lined up behind a courtesy rope that barely kept people from jumping the barrier to jump in the seat of these history making machines. Here’s a brief look at each car in the display:

The Floyd Trevis built, Bignotti-Bowes Racing roadster 1961 race winner.

1961 Indianapolis 500: Foyt’s First Indy 500 Win

The 1961 Indianapolis 500 began with a shadow cast over the race. Tony Bettenhausen Sr., the “odds on” favorite, was killed in a practice session for the race. The race really became a two car race on lap 76 when A.J. Foyt and Eddie Sachs swapped the lead several times. Foyt took over the lead on lap 198, holding the top position for the final two laps, earning his first of four wins of the great race.

His Bowes Seal Fast Roadster-style Indy racer was powered with the 255 cubic-inch Offenhauser, built and prepped by Floyd Trevis. Legendary Indy mechanic George Bignotti served as Foyt’s Chief Mechanic. The car is currently owned by the IMS Museum.

While this 255 Offenhauser equipped roadster was the first Indy 500 win for Foyt, it was a record seventh for chief mechanic, and Indy legend, George Bignotti.

1964 was the final year that a front-engine roadster won the Indianapolis 500. This AJ Watson built Sheraton-Thompson Offy roadster was built for the 1963 race but Foyt chose to race his 1961 winning car instead. With minor changes for 1964, Foyt took the car to his second Indy victory.

1964 Indianapolis 500: The Second Win

Foyt had builder A.J. Watson build an Offenhauser powered roadster in 1963, but decided to use his 1961 race winning car for the 1963 race. The following year Foyt brought out the Watson-built roadster to do battle with the rear engine cars of Jim Clark and Dan Gurney. A number of events created an easy race for Foyt as he took the lead on lap 55 and never relinquished it. This would be the last time a front-engine roadster would win the Indy 500.

Foyt became the first and only driver to win the Indianapolis 500 with both front-engine and rear engine cars when he took this Ansted-Thompson Coyote, built by AJ Foyt, to his third win in 1967. He joined Louis Meyer, Wilbur Shaw, and Mauri Rose as three-time winners of the race.

1967 Indianapolis 500: Third Win

The Granatelli brothers’ gas turbine “turbocar” made all the pre-race headlines. With veteran driver, and former Indy winner Parnelli Jones at the wheel, the turbocar seemed to be heading for certain victory until a six-dollar bearing failed in the drivetrain with four laps to go. The crowd watched in disbelief as Foyt drove by the wounded Granatelli car, taking over first place, then skillfully weaving through a four car-crash to take the checkered flag.

The winning car was an A.J. Foyt built Coyote chassis with the 255 cubic-inch Ford engine. With the win, Foyt became the only driver to win the Indy 500 in both front and rear engine cars. This car is also owned by the IMS museum.

Foyt became the first driver to win the Indianapolis 500 four-times in 1977 in this AJ Foyt built Coyote chassis with a Foyt 161 cubic-inch turbocharged engine.

1977 Indianapolis 500: The First To Win Four Times

A.J. Foyt combined his own Coyote chassis with a 161 cubic-inch supercharged Foyt-manufactured engine. This was the first year that the great Sid Collins did not announce the race since taking over as the Indy 500 anchor 29 years earlier. It was also the final Indy 500 for track owner Tony Hulman, who would pass away five months later of heart failure. Foyt won the race and invited Hulman to join him in a lap around the track in the pace car to celebrate the victory, making it a monumental moment in the track’s history.

Foyt started the race in the second row on the inside with Gordon Johncock next to him. The two waged a furious battle with Johncock dominating most of the second half of the race. Johncock began complaining of dehydration and heat exhaustion before his race ended with a broken crankshaft with 16 laps to go. Foyt took over the lead and cruised to nearly a thirty second lead win over Tom Sneva.

The Foyt 159 Cubic-Inch Quad-Cam Race Engine

Another static display in the Foyt Exhibit had one of Foyt’s 159 cubic-inch, four-cam, V8 supercharged race engines that had competed and won in the 1969, 1970, and 1971 Indy 500 as a Ford, and again in 1977 as a Foyt engine as Foyt continued the development after the factory involvement ended and the racer bought up Ford Motor Company’s remaining inventory of the race specific V8 engines.

Career Summary

  • Foyt drove in the Indianapolis 500 for 35 consecutive years.
  • Foyt is the only driver to have won the Indy 500 in both front and rear- engined cars, having won twice with both configurations.
  • Foyt is the only driver to have won the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Indianapolis 500 the same year (1967).
  • He is the only person to have recorded victories in the Indianapolis 500, the Daytona 500 stock car race, the 24 Hours of Daytona (1983 and 1985) the 24 Hours of Le Mans international sports car endurance race in Le Mans, France, as well as the 12 Hours of Sebring (his last major professional win in 1985).
  • He is one of only 12 drivers to have completed the Triple Crown of endurance racing (victories in the 12 Hours of Sebring, 24 Hours of Daytona and 24 Hours of Le Mans).
  • He also has 41 USAC Stock Car wins and 50 Sprint Car, Midget, and Dirt Champ Car wins.
  • He won the 1975 and 1976 Australian Speedcar Grand Prix at the Liverpool International Speedway in Sydney (Australian midgets race cars).
  • He has won 12 total major driving championships in various categories.
  • His USAC wins tally is a record 138 wins
  • Foyt won the 1976 and 1977 IROC championships.
  • Foyt won seven NASCAR races.
  • Foyt and Mario Andretti are the only men to have won both the Indianapolis and Daytona 500s.
  • Foyt holds the closed course speed record driving the Oldsmobile Aerotech at an average speed of 257.123 miles per hour. He set the record on 27 August 1987 at a 7.712-mile test track near Fort Stockton, Texas.
  • Despite having won more USAC sanctioned events than any other driver Foyt has never won a CART sanctioned event.

About the author

Bobby Kimbrough

Bobby grew up in the heart of Illinois, becoming an avid dirt track race fan which has developed into a life long passion. Taking a break from the Midwest dirt tracks to fight evil doers in the world, he completed a full 21 year career in the Marine Corps.
Read My Articles

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