An impressive new exhibit at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum celebrates the career of AJ Foyt with more than 30 of his historic race cars. Here are a few examples from the once-in-a-lifetime show.
To mark the 40th anniversary of AJ Foyt’s fourth Indianapolis 500 victory in 1977, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum has assembled a once-in-a-lifetime show. The exhibit, officially titled “AJ Foyt: A Legendary Exhibition, Presented by ABC Supply,” features nearly three dozen race cars from Foyt’s amazing six-decade driving career.
Museum Director and Curator Ellen Birely has accomplished the seemingly impossible, gathering historically important cars from multiple eras and disciplines and from all over the country. The show, which runs through October 31 at the Museum, is truly one of the ages. You’ll want to see it in person if you possibly can. From our visit, here are just a few of the Foyt racers on display.
Foyt made his rookie appearance at the Speedway in 1958, and he chalked up his first Indy 500 victory in 1961 driving the Bowes Seal Fast Special for George Bignotti. Foyt’s mount was a Trevis-Offy, a carbon copy of the Watson roadster chassis built by Floyd Trevis.
Foyt is well known for his four victories in the Indianapolis 500 (1961, 1964, 1967, and 1977) but he is equally revered for his tremendous versatility in all forms of racing. Even as a part-timer he was a tough competitor in NASCAR, where he won seven Grand National races, including three driving for the famed Wood Brothers team. Foyt qualified on the pole at the Riverside road course in 1972 with this 1971 Mercury Cyclone, which was also driven to great success by teammate David Pearson.
A key element in the Foyt legend, and one of the great stories in American racing lore, was AJ’s performance at the Milwaukee 200 in August of 1965. When his rear-engine Indy car wasn’t ready, he unloaded and hosed off his trusty dirt champ car (which had just won the night before at Springfield) and qualified it on the pole. Foyt then wrestled the Meskowski dirt chassis to a second-place finish on the one-mile paved oval against a field of roadsters and rear-engine champ cars. It reads like a corny bench-racing tale, but it actually happened.
In 1987, AJ was hired by Oldsmobile to drive the Aerotech, a March Indy car chassis with a slick, streamlined body and an Olds Quad Four engine that was turbocharged to within an inch of its life. At a seven-mile track test in Fort Stockton, Texas, Foyt stood on the gas and set a closed-course record of 257.123 mph.
Through much of his career, Foyt was a frequent and ferocious part-time competitor on the Midget scene. In 1960 and 1961, he won eight USAC West Coast Midget series events in 11 starts in this Kurtis-Offy midget, which carried the same Bowes Seal Fast livery as his Indy roadster.
As an endurance sports car driver, Foyt racked up victories Le Mans in 1967, the Daytona 24 Hours in 1983 and 1985, and the 12 Hours of Sebring in 1983. And in 1987 and 1988, he campaigned his own Porsche 962 with co-drivers Danny Sullivan, Al Unser Senior and Junior, Elliott Forbes-Robinson, and Hurley Haywood. The Foyt/Haywood combo finished fourth at Sebring in ’88.
A technically savvy driver if there ever was, AJ campaigned his own Coyote Indy car chassis for many years, often powered by his own Foyt turbo V8 engine (an updated and rebadged version of the Ford DOHC Indy engine). Two of Foyt’s four Indy 500 car victories came in Coyote chassis, including his fourth 500 win in 1977 in the Bob Riley-designed Coyote-Foyt shown here.
AJ Foyt: A Legendary Exhibition, Presented by ABC Supply; Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, 4790 W. 16th St., 46222, Indianapolis, Indiana ; April 17 through October 31, 2017; Hours and other info at the IMS Museum website or phone (317) 492-6784.