Another Foyt taking on Indy trackPosted: Wednesday July 30, 2003 1:33 PM
Updated: Wednesday July 30, 2003 7:33 PM
The name Foyt has been linked to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for more than four decades.
First, there was A.J. Foyt Jr., who was the first four-time winner of the Indianapolis 500 and drove in that premier race for 35 consecutive years. He announced his retirement at the track in 1993 after taking one final lap around the historic 21/2-mile oval.
Then came A.J. Foyt IV, the grandson of the Indy legend. The younger Foyt, at 19, became the youngest known starter in the 500 and finished 18th in May while driving for his gr"I've come here every year of my life to watch the Indy 500," Larry Foyt said. "It's a really special place to me. Indianapolis is what made me want to be a race car driver."
However, it wasn't until a test session two weeks ago that he first got the chance to drive on the track.
"I think the only time I had been around the track before that was when I was about 5 years old and Dad took me around it in a station wagon," he said. "When I went out to drive it for the first time, I told my spotter to make sure that there was no one coming up behind me because I might take it a little slow and enjoy the lap -- and I did.
"I drove around and looked all around, going by turn 2 where I used to always sit and watch the race and my Dad would wave at us from his Indy car."
Larry has many other memories of Indy.
"As a kid, my Dad used to always wait for me and let me walk over with him through Gasoline Alley," Foyt said. To hear the people cheer for him when he'd walk by is something I'll never forget."
Foyt, who has failed to qualify for six of the 19 Cup races he has entered this season, is confident he will be in the lineup Sunday.
"I'm not sure if I'll be able to contain my excitement on Sunday, and a good run would mean so much to myself and the team," Foyt said. "I got the chance to race at Daytona in February and July, and it was absolutely thrilling. But, to compete at Indianapolis for the first time, I'm not sure if words can accurately describe what it really means."
Forcing the issue
Twelve-time champion John Force is not slumping any more.
After going through the first 12 events of the National Hot Rod Association season without a race victory while struggling to get through the eliminations, Force is suddenly a surging.
He has gone to the Funny Car finals in each of the last four events and won the last two, in Denver and Kent, Wash., moving up to third in the points with nine events remaining in 2003. That's an improvement of four positions in as many events.
But Force is still 241 points behind the leader, teammate Tony Pedregon.
"I'm not thinking championship," said Force, winner of the last 10 Funny Car titles. "I can still win the championship, but I feel my job is to take out the other contenders for Tony."
Force, who trails Pedregon and Whit Bazemore in the points, will have a chance to sweep the NHRA's three-week Western swing when he competes this week in Sonoma, Calif.
Kurt Busch isn't exactly a shoe-in, but the International Race of Champions rookie is the favorite to wrap up the series title Saturday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
In his first four races in the all-star series, the budding NASCAR Winston Cup star has finished second to Roush Racing teammate Mark Martin at Daytona, won at Talladega and finished third behind another rookie, 2002 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion Mike Bliss, at Chicagoland Speedway.
He will go into the finale with an eight-point lead over Bliss, who is one-point ahead of four-time IROC champion Martin. Ryan Newman, Greg Biffle and 2002 IROC champion Kevin Harvick, all NASCAR stars, all have a mathematical, though slim, chance at the $250,000 championship.
Martin won the first three IROC races at Indianapolis, from 1998-2000.
The series standings will be inverted to determine the starting grid Saturday, so IndyCar Series star Helio Castroneves -- winner of the 2000 and 2001 Indianapolis 500s, second this year at Indy and last in the IROC points -- will start from the pole.
Though he hasn't had much to smile about in IROC this year, Castroneves did finish second to NASCAR's Dale Jarrett in the Indy IROC last August.