The Other Side Of Foyt
In the short time that I have been posting articles here, I think I’ve made it pretty clear that AJ Foyt is my favorite driver of all time. One thing that I’ve always admired about AJ is the heart of gold inside of him that he doesn’t really want anyone to know about. That was on display again Wednesday when he volunteered his personal plane to fly Ryan Hunter-Reay’s ailing mother home to Florida from Houston.
Hunter-Reay’s mother was diagnosed last summer with colon cancer, just before Hunter-Reay’s win at Watkins Glen. She had been at the M.D. Anderson Research Center in Houston for treatment, but doctors have apparently done all they can do. She was deemed too weak to be allowed on a commercial flight. This is where AJ Foyt stepped in. He arranged for her to be transported back home to Florida on his private plane. Hunter-Reay couldn’t believe what Foyt had done.
It’s been a strange odyssey for the last eight months for Hunter-Reay. Not only was his mother’s health never far from his thoughts, but his ride at Rahal-Letterman Racing went away in January. At the last minute, he was placed in a second car at Vision Racing. After the Texas race, he was shipped over to AJ Foyt Racing to sub for the injured Vitor Meira.
Other than the most recent race at Mid-Ohio, things have not gone well for Hunter-Reay at Foyt’s team for a variety of reasons. It was almost as if Hunter-Reay looked at driving for the tough talking Texan as a rite of passage, something that almost every driver has to endure at some point in their career. Then Foyt goes and does something like this, and Hunter-Reay was shocked. Well…he shouldn’t be.
I have had people tell me that I should do an article on AJ Foyt for quite a while. This one isn’t it. I don’t even think I would know where to begin. It would be too long and take way too much time. Maybe that will be a project for the winter months in the off-season and can be spread out all week. But for today, we’re just going to focus on the softer side of AJ. This side of Foyt is nothing new; he just isn’t real thrilled for it to become common knowledge.
Foyt is now mostly known for the comical temper-tantrums we see on television: the foul-mouth tirades, his tossing of a laptop in the 1998 Indianapolis 500, his 1997 slapping of Arie Luyendyk at Texas, his beating his engine with a hammer in the pits or his questioning the driving talents of Kevin “Koo-gin”.
But then there is the side of AJ that doesn’t generate many headlines. It isn’t funny or doesn’t spark outrage, so it rarely gets reported. Fortunately, Curt Cavin took the time to report this latest random act of kindness by Foyt. Maybe others will take the time to notice.
If I ever do a full-length article on AJ Foyt, one angle would explain why his teams are sometimes so shabby. It’s because AJ Foyt is so loyal – sometimes to a fault. He is loyal to team members who have been loyal to him. Sometimes, his big heart doesn’t always make the shrewdest of decisions.
After Foyt had already achieved success as an Indy 500 champion and was in the prime of his career, he would go make appearances to race at the smallest of dirt tracks out west. It was because the track owners and promoters had helped him along the way when he was sleeping in the back of trucks. This was done out of pure loyalty. It was his way of giving back.
Throughout the years, there are multiple reports of down on their luck drivers of sprint cars and midgets, who would be injured while racing and had no health insurance and no way to pay their medical expenses. Yet, when it was time to check out – they were told that everything had been taken care of by AJ Foyt. Foyt has always been one to help those who are caught in a bind through no fault of their own. He relates to those going through tough times. He came up that way himself.
So don’t be surprised by this latest act of Foyt’s. He was extremely close to his parents and lost them both while he was still racing. He understands what Hunter-Reay is going through. Instead of offering the usual “let me know if there’s anything I can do”, he didn’t wait to be asked — he just acted. That’s vintage Foyt. And don’t be surprised if you see AJ dog-cussing Hunter-Reay over the headset this weekend at Sonoma. That’s also vintage Foyt.