A.J. Foyt will turn 65 on Jan. 16, 2000, and he certainly cuts a bigger figure than in the days when he used to slide into a Sprint Car or prototype sports car or an Indy car--preferably one of his trademark "Poppy Red" Coyotes built in Houston. But at a time when many folks A.J.'s age are relaxing into retirement, Foyt is doing everything he can to remain forever young.
For that we should be thankful. Because anyone involved with motor sports is going to regret the day when this colorful and complex Texan parks it for the final time.
Apparently, that moment is not yet marked on one of Foyt's Snap-On Tools calendars. Already a championship car owner in the Pep Boys Indy Racing League, Foyt is moving full bore into the NASCAR Winston Cup Series in 2000. The Winston Cup is racing's toughest arena, tougher now than when A.J. won the Daytona 500 in 1972. It may be 10 times tougher than the last time Foyt competed at Daytona, in 1992.
No matter. Foyt, who dropped his bombshell announcement at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway last month, disclosed last week that his Winston Cup car of choice is the Pontiac. Financial giant Conseco, one of Foyt's former IRL backers, will be primary sponsor of the No. 14 Grand Prix.
Foyt's Mooresville, N.C.-based NASCAR operation will be set up by Tommy LaMance, who learned about racing by working next to his famous uncle on Indy cars. NASCAR veteran Waddell Wilson is the general manager and Terry Wooten the crew chief. Gregg Wilson is the engine-builder and Bobby Watson the fabricator.
As the roster fills up, everyone wants to know who Foyt's first Winston Cup driver will be. Series regular Johnny Benson is said to be a candidate. And the names of Billy Boat, one of Foyt's current IRL drivers, and Scott Sharp, an IRL championship contender and former Foyt employee, have topped recent reports.
"I would say, at the present time, both of them are rumors," said Foyt, referring to Boat and Sharp. "We're evaluating what's out there and trying to decide if we want to bring in a complete rookie or someone seasoned. Ninety percent of the great drivers over there are tied up, and they're successful. We're still evaluating which way we want to go."
The IRL season ends today, and Foyt driver Kenny Brack trails series leader Greg Ray by 13 points going into the Mall.com 500 in Fort Worth. After the race, Foyt will be done for the year.
But next year at this time, Foyt will be 65 and prepping for four season-ending Winston Cup races.
Wouldn't it be easier just to plop down on the sofa and turn on "Wheel of Fortune"?
"I work 24 hours a day, have all my life," Foyt said. "I've always wanted to do this, and that's the reason I'm doing this."
Revving Up Math Classes
David Starr, who drives in the NASCAR truck series, is part of a yearlong math project being conducted in a sixth-grade classroom in Forth Worth, Texas.
The class at All Saints' Episcopal School has been busy this fall incorporating mathematics found in auto racing into its daily lessons, with students keeping racing statistics as part of the program.
Starr, who lives in nearby Arlington, was recruited to help with the program by Pixie Moseley, assistant head of the Lower School at All Saints'.
"We are so lucky David has agreed to become part of the program," Moseley said. "We are very excited about the potential for this team effort to promote math and racing."