IndyCar Firestone 550K Notebook
IZOD IndyCar fans have spoken and they believe four-time Indianapolis 500 winner A.J. Foyt should be recognized as the greatest Indy car oval driver.
|AJ Foyt at Texas Motor Speedway Saturday|
Fans selected Foyt as the honoree for the oval championship trophy with 43.6 percent of the vote through a poll on indycar.com, the official website of the IZOD IndyCar Series. Rick Mears was second with 30.1 percent of the vote. Other nominees were: Mario Andretti (18.8 percent), Bill Vukovich (6.4 percent) and Ted Horn (1.1 percent).
Foyt was one of the most successful Indy car drivers with 67 victories -- 64 of which were on ovals. Of those oval wins, 24 came on dirt -- the most at the Indiana State Fairgrounds (6). Foyt scored most of his paved oval victories at Ontario Motor Speedway (5).
He had nine 500-mile victories: Indianapolis Motor Speedway (4), Pocono Raceway (4) and Ontario (1). He won his first race on the 1-mile dirt track at Illinois State Fairgrounds in DuQuoin, Ill., on Sept. 5, 1960 (and went on to win four more races there). He won his last race at Pocono on June 21, 1981.
The IZOD IndyCar Series will announce the honoree for the Road/Street trophy at its next road course event at Watkins Glen International in July.
Mario Andretti would seem to be the odds-on favorite for that honor, but Foyt wouldn't commit to casting a vote for his longtime rival.
"Are you crazy?" he said. "I know who you're talking about."
Foyt has always been jealous of Andretti because the first year he came into IndyCar in 1965, as a rookie, he mopped Foyt up and won the championship. Foyt had dominated IndyCar until Andretti arrived. Then he did it again in 1966. He also won the Daytona 500 before Foyt did, the first non-NASCAR driver to do so. He later went on to win the world F1 driving title, something Foyt would never be good enough to do.
A.J. FOYT: "This is an honor that I really appreciate for a couple reasons," Foyt said. "I've always liked ovals more than road courses -- the Indy cars didn't run that many road courses when I won most of my races. Second, it was voted on by the fans so that makes it pretty special to me. I like the challenges of the ovals -- you have to have everything right: the driver, the car and the team. If you make a mistake on a road course, you can make it up in the next corner or two. Make a mistake on an oval and you end up in the wall. Ovals are a lot less forgiving. I think the Oval champion will be the driver and team that make the fewest mistakes. To have my name on that trophy is pretty cool any way you look at it."
Indy Racing League CEO Randy Bernard isn't usually a man of few words, but that one sufficed after exiting the Indy Racing Experience two-seater at Texas Motor Speedway. Johnny Rutherford was the driver for four laps on the 1.5-mile, high-banked oval a few hours before the Firestone 550K.
Top speed was about 175 mph - about 40 mph slower than Ryan Briscoe's four-lap pole average - and Bernard felt the G forces that pinned him to the right side of the stretched Dallara.
In 15 years as CEO of the Professional Bull Riders, Bernard hadn't once boarded a mechanical bull. Three months into the IZOD IndyCar Series gig and he's taken a wild ride.
"I've never had an experience like that in my life," Bernard says. "I can't even fathom going faster than we did. I was blown away with how fast we were going, and to know that Johnny can still go that fast was amazing."
Dreyer & Reinbold Racing's Justin Wilson raised $9,100 for charity through an auction of his "Wilson" helmet - an off-shoot of the volleyball in the Tom Hanks movie "Cast Away" -- he wore during his run to seventh place in the Indianapolis 500. The auction proceeds will be divided evenly between Racing for Kids and Operation Helmet.
Racing for Kids uses the popularity of motorsports to focus public attention and funding on the health care needs of children. Operation Helmet provides free helmet upgrade kits to servicemen deployed overseas.