Twenty hours after all the screaming had stopped, calmer, cleaner and $171,227 richer, Anthony Joseph Foyt Jr. sat at the Indianapolis Speedway Motel and ate hugely of steak, eggs, potatoes and hot toast. The dining room looks out through big windows on the first tee of the Speedway golf course, and there, a few yards away, stood Rufus Parnell Jones. He planted his black-and-white saddle shoes on the tee and prepared to slam out a drive on his frustrations. Beyond both of them lay the Speedway itself, where another group of men were waiting to take pictures of Foyt in his marvelous orange racing machine. And out around everybody, in a circle of spring green, lay all of Indiana, which can be described as a state of emotional wreckage.
This was last Thursday, a day to remember because, after the craziest Indy 500 ever, it was the day when people gradually began to realize that there docs not seem to be much old Indy can ever do for an encore, short of firing the drivers out of cannons.
Foyt, as everyone knows by now, won the race—his third 500 victory—and all that money in a scary finish. Jones, in the tradition-shattering turbine car, lost out at the very end after sassing along in front all day. But there was much more. Foyt's winning speed of 151.207 mph was a new record and his tires were Good-years, breaking the victory string Firestone had enjoyed since 1919. Jones, a Firestone man, broke so many track records it left everybody dizzy, and he led every lap but a few in the middle, when he whooshed in to fill 'er up with kerosene, and the four on the end that really counted. The race got off to the smoothest start in its history and went on to the smashingest finish, full of flying machinery. The 51st running of this hoary classic put up 32 glittering piston cars against the turbine, and one cannot be too sure that the jet really lost. A new era in Indy racing may have whistled in, and if it did, they might as well change the name of the old Brickyard to the Indianapolis Motor-Jet Speedway.
The unshakable Mr. Foyt won the race only by a bit of driving instinct so perfect it is slightly spooky. He could not sleep all last Wednesday night just thinking about it. He had pictured to himself the possibility of a last-lap smashup just seconds before it actually happened—then slammed on his brakes and avoided it.
On Thursday morning he gestured with a forkful of steak and said: "Man, I don't know what it was, but I just had this instinct and I put the binders on her and slowed down. I must of been going only about 100 miles an hour; hell, I could of walked faster than I was going. But I knew there was gonna be this crash.
"When I pecked around the No. 4 turn and saw all that smoke, I said, 'Oh, God!' I popped her into low and pulled down to the inside of the track. And as soon as I could see where everybody was spinning to, I stood on it again and drove her on through to the finish line."
Foyt was the only man who made it. After his orange car streaked through the smoke Race Starter Pat Vidan red-flagged everybody else. It was just as well. Even auto racing fans, who make pro football enthusiasts look like bird watchers, can stand just so many emotional peaks and put-downs. In the first place, anyone with a lick of sense could see on the morning of Memorial Day that it was going to rain. The day was grim, a chilled 56�; skies were elephant-colored and the weather bureau warned of a squall line moving toward the city.
Still, there were those 33 beautiful, siren cars out on the track, qualified at a record average speed of 164.173 mph. An estimated 275,000 overoptimistic people trooped to the Speedway dressed as though they were going to watch the Holmenkollen ski jumping championships.
Thirty-two cars revved up, spitting and barking. Jones's jet sat humming—a high, sinister whine that nobody could hear in the thunder of pistons. There was a burst of aerial bombs over the track and a splash of balloons—and away they went.
In the next 18� minutes Jones ran 18 lovely laps, everybody chased him as well as they could, which was not very, and Indy saw the shape of things to come. The shape of things to come is a two-foot-high, six-foot-wide, 12�-foot-long, 1,750-pound hunk of insurrection. It has four-wheel drive, a horsepower output estimated at somewhere between 500 and 1,000, and if it stays legal every driver is going to demand one.