On Wednesday, Foyt practiced a bare minimum, his Coyote bearing rookie stripes, ostensibly for the mysterious Sam Houston. He still refused comment on whether or not he planned to race. At Thursday's qualifying, Foyt held back until the last half-hour, and was greeted by boos from the crowd. It annoyed him, he noted later, but it didn't slow him: his 189.474 mph average bumped Rutherford off the pole and moved Andretti to third. Behind them, in the second row, sat Sneva.
That done, Foyt made a rude gesture to the crowd, snubbed the track announcer waiting for the customary interview, refused to speak to newsmen and left the track. In parting, he said, "I don't like the way people act. Why should I? Those guys who boo don't know what they're talking about. I think that by going out and taking the pole position I answered any questions that needed to be answered."
Later that day A.J. refused for a time to pose with Rutherford and Andretti for the traditional front-row photograph. The next night he stood up 250 fans who had paid $6 each to have dinner with the pole-position winner. (One of the ironies of the banquet was that it was Sneva who accepted the award on behalf of the absent Foyt.)
Still, Dr. Mattioli had nothing but unctuous words for his difficult star. To the suggestion that A.J. owed Mattioli an apology for snubbing the track announcer, which couldn't have helped ticket sales, Mattioli said, " Mr. Foyt is a very intensive individual. This is his job. He's doing his business. I'm completely on his side. Everybody who knows A. J. Foyt knows he's that kind of an individual, and I don't blame him."
But Fred Stecher clearly did. Friday afternoon he said he was seriously considering canceling Citicorp's $400,000 sponsorship of the series as a result of Foyt's prima donna behavior. Said Stecher, "I don't think that it is in the best interest of Citicorp to be identified as a sponsor with a professional sports series where the conduct of the participants and the tolerance of that conduct isn't governed by rules within the sanctioning organization. I'm in no position to dictate to USAC, but on the other hand I don't have to sit down at a riot and pay the bills, either."
And thus ended another stormy USAC weekend. Some time before the race, Foyt had stuck the Citicorp patch back on his driving suit and pasted two of the decals on his race car. He also approached Stecher for a quiet word at trackside. It is not known what was said. But after the race, Foyt parked his Coyote in front of his garage. Before he got out of the car, he ripped the patch off his chest. Then he went inside and closed the door.