“Determination that just won’t quit – that’s what it takes” – A.J. Foyt
A.J. Foyt was born in 1935 in a poor area of Houston. His father, Anthony Joseph Sr., was an auto mechanic who loved racing. He built midget sprint cars and encouraged his son to race. As Foyt grew older, he became completely consumed by racing. He dropped out of high school in 1953, just months before graduation, so that he could start his professional racing career.
Foyt traveled around the southern United States, competing in races with little success. He would sleep in his car and wash himself at gas stations to save money. By 1957, Foyt was so broke that he needed his parents to wire him money to get home after racing in Florida. However, Foyt’s talents would not be overlooked. Later that year, he landed a position with a well-funded team and competed in his first IndyCar race. In 1958, Foyt’s childhood dream came true when he qualified for his first Indianapolis 500, finishing 16th after spinning out on the 148th lap due to a broken water hose. Foyt would win his first Indianapolis 500 three years later, and would become the first person to win the race four times after winning in 1961, ’64, ’67 and ’77. Foyt would also win the race as a team owner in 1999.
Though Foyt was a talented IndyCar driver, he also enjoyed success in multiple disciplines of racing. He partnered with legendary driver Dan Gurney behind the wheel of a Ford GT40 Mk. IV to win the 1967 24 Hours of Le Mans, becoming the first all-American team to win the grueling race. Foyt also competed in stock car racing for nearly 40 years. He won the 1972 Daytona 500, becoming the only driver to ever win the Indianapolis 500, the Daytona 500, and the 24 Hours of LeMans. An inductee into numerous Motorsport Halls of Fame, A.J. Foyt could rightly be called one of the greatest American drivers of all time.