“I’d be honored,” said Tony Stewart when he accepted A.J. Foyt’s invitation to attend the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where “Super Tex” will celebrate the 60th Anniversary of his 1961 triumph, the first of his four Indy 500 victories.
Stewart, who turns 50 on May 20th, will be watching the race, not driving in it.
“A.J. is my hero, and a great friend whom I’ve known for a long time,” said Stewart, the three-time NASCAR Cup Series champion, 1997 INDYCAR Series champion and four-time USAC champion. “It didn’t matter what it was, but if it had four wheels and went fast, A.J. would drive it. NASCAR stock cars, USAC stock cars, sprints and midgets, Indy cars, IMSA sports cars – A.J. won in all of them. We both kind of came up through the racing ranks in the same way. He just did it in a different era.
“A.J. called me after I won my first Cup championship in 2002 and I remember how much it meant to have him call that night and congratulate me. He has given a lot back to racing and has been one of the sport’s biggest supporters. Without guys like him, guys like myself wouldn’t have had a chance to succeed. Being with A.J. on the pit box this year at Indy is an honor and something I’ll cherish forever.”
“Tony and I have been good friends for a long time, and I’m glad he’s able to come out for this 500,” said Foyt, who first shared the stage with the then 24-year-old Hoosier back in 1995 when the Indy legend presented Stewart with his championship rings for winning the USAC Triple Crown. Stewart was the first driver to win the USAC Midget, Sprint and Silver Crown titles in a single season. The only other driver to do so was J.J. Yeley in 2003.
“I’m hoping having Tony at the 500 might change our luck! Normally, we run pretty good at Texas but the luck was pretty bad in the doubleheader. We got crashed in the first race and at the start of the second race, both cars got crashed—they never made it to the start-finish line,” said Foyt, referring to the seven-car melee at the start of the May 2nd race at Texas Motor Speedway.
In addition to watching the race from the pit stand, Stewart is hoping to observe the action during a practice day prior to the 500 depending on his schedule.
Despite retiring as a NASCAR driver, Stewart is far from retired. He still races his sprint car regularly at tracks all across the country and has even sampled a Top Fuel dragster, all while being the co-owner of the championship-winning NASCAR team, Stewart-Haas Racing, and the outright owner of Tony Stewart Racing, winner of 26 owner championships – 14 in USAC, nine in the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series and three in the All Star Circuit of Champions TQ Midgets.
Stewart has long said that Foyt became his hero after watching him in the 1982 Indy 500 when Foyt got out of his car and started working on it in the pits during the race. Foyt’s never-give-up attitude registered with the 11-year-old youngster who went on to become a successful driver in open wheel and stock car competition, much like his hero.
In fact, when Stewart debuted Stewart-Haas Racing in 2009, he asked Foyt for his blessing to run his famed No. 14. Foyt was honored by the gesture and accepted Stewart’s invitation to attend the Daytona 500, which was Stewart’s debut as a NASCAR driver/owner. Less than three years later, Stewart went on to claim the 2011 NASCAR Cup Series championship, his third in NASCAR’s premier division.