INDYCAR SERIES legend AJ Foyt left Texas recently to attend the hybrid test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The 90-year-old took part in a team Q&A ahead of this weekend’s Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach where in 2013, Takuma Sato took victory.

What’s your outlook for the season?

AJ: “Well, I think we’ll have a good season. You know, Larry’s worked very hard the last three or four years so he’s finally getting it together pretty good. We got some pretty good people with us, so we’ll just have to wait and see.”

Were you happy with the way testing went?

AJ: “I’ve been very happy with testing. Testing tells you a lot but sometimes it doesn’t, but normally it does. I thought the Open Test went very well. We were up in the top five or six and they had the full field there so that kind of tells you where you stand a little bit. I know we had something left and I’m quite sure a lot of them had something left. We’ll just have to wait till they drop the green here.”

What do you think of your drivers this year?

AJ: “I think Sting Ray is gonna be real good and Santino has proven to be so much better this year on the road courses. We’re very happy with him. He ran good last year at Indy. I thought we were gonna win it but third is better than fourth.”

Returning to Indy for the 500, do you think that the car will be as strong as it was last year?

AJ: “I think we’ll be very strong based on the recent testing. I mean sometimes testing backs up on you. Even when I raced, sometimes I’d test and then I’d come back and have to change everything to get going good, but at least you’re in the ballpark.”

What do you think about how the Penske technical alliance is working out for you?

AJ: “Well, I think it’s real good. Roger and I’ve been friends for years and we’ve got a young engineer [James Schnabel] of his that’s working with us and I think it’s been very successful. We’re giving information back and forth. And Roger does a lot more tests than us right now so that’s good. I’m just glad that we’re operating together. We talked about it at the test and he seems real happy too.”

What would you consider a successful season for your team this year?

AJ: “Well, I would say it’d be a successful season if you can constantly run up in the top five all year. With everything being new like it is, I think it’d be very good. Of course, you always want to win and possibly we could win, but I would be very happy with top fives with all the changes in the cars. Everybody’s gonna have the same problem. And who figures it out first will be the ones that you have to beat. There’s a lot of unknowns there for everybody.”

Does that make it more of a level playing field because of all of the unknowns?

AJ: “Well, yes and no. That’s what makes it good with us working with Penske because he’s gonna do everything to stay up front and we’re gonna try and do everything to stay up front. Like I said, one of his young engineers is working with us so we’re sharing information back and forth. All we can do is wait and see and hope for the best.”

When you go to a racetrack, you always get stopped for autographs and pictures. Your thoughts on the fans?

AJ: “Well, I think that’s what made A.J. Foyt – it was the fans. I tried to be good to them. I think one thing they liked about me was I always called a spade a spade, where people right now won’t do that. They just kind of cover up and go on about their business and I always used to run my mouth and say it like it was. Sometimes it’s good and sometimes it’s bad, but I think the good offset the bad in the long run.”

You’ve talked about some of the things that the fans made for you over the years.

AJ: “Oh, I’ve got beautiful trophies, but the fans have sent me so much beautiful stuff, that I think they’re just as important to me as the trophies I’ve won. The fans made things that they didn’t just do overnight, it all took time. So, they put in a lot of effort and I’m talking about racecars to blankets and quilts. The fans have sent me so much wonderful stuff. I’m just as proud of them as the trophies I’ve won.”

So you never give that stuff away?

AJ: “No, nobody would ever buy it as long as I’m living. No, I don’t give it away. No. I’ve given away trophies sometimes when I’ve won them and given to people but stuff that people made for me will stay with me long as I live. After I’m gone, I can’t control it. But until I’m gone, I will control it.”

How do you think Larry’s doing as president of the race team?

AJ: “Well I think he’s learned a lot I’ve let him kind of hang himself and he’s come a long ways and I think he’s doing a very successful job this year. And he’s he’s learning every day and you know, you got to crawl for your walk. And that’s where I look at it. And it’s so much different now. Because you can’t even really start your own race cars anymore without the engineers of Honda or Chevrolet. And I don’t care for that. But that’s the rules. You’ve got to go by them.”

Do you like working with Chevrolet?

AJ: “Oh, yeah, I’ve worked with Chevrolet almost all my life. So, and I also I worked for Ford. I worked with Honda a lil bit. Honda was very good to me. I even had Honda and Chevrolet dealerships, so I can’t say anything bad about either one. They’re both great companies with great people.”

Did you ever think you achieved the success that you did?

AJ: “I was hoping to and trying to, and that’s the reason I raced so much. But no, I never thought I’d have what I have now when I was renting a cot for ten dollars a week in Speedway.”

Have you mellowed since your younger days?

AJ: “Only reason why is I’m 90 years old, well almost 90. I have to a point but I just don’t get out and get in trouble like I used to. I still think I can, but I know better.”

Do you think you were gifted?

AJ: “I think I was. Why? I can’t answer that, nobody can answer that. But just like everybody how do you drive a midget to a sprint car to an Indy car? I know a lot of people tried it and they couldn’t. Why? I can’t answer that. But I was able to adapt myself to whatever I was in –stock cars, sports cars, it didn’t make a difference. I guess that’s where I was very lucky.”

Do you think being able to jump from car to car made you a better driver?

AJ: “I think it did. And I know people that worked hard trying to do it and they couldn’t. They were good race drivers in one particular type car. But when you had to jump in something else, they were a nobody. And that’s where I was very fortunate to be able to do, I guess convert myself. People asked you how’d you do it. I can’t answer that. I just do it. I think that’s something you’re gifted with.”

You’re known for your incredible determination–where does it come from?

AJ: “When I worked for my father in the garage business, I always listened to the Indianapolis race. I always hoped I could just make the race and be fortunate enough to win it. I know after I won it the first time, I was back up in my daddy’s shop and a lady said to him, ‘Well you won’t see your boy no more around here.’ He said, ‘Yep, he’s down there on that car.’ The lady walked down and saw me under hood working on a car and said, ‘Why are you doing this?’ I said, ‘My father needed help.’ And she couldn’t believe what she was seeing. And I’ll never forget that lady saying, ‘I can’t believe you’re doing this.'”

Do you think winning Indy four times changed you as a person?

AJ: “I don’t think it has. I’m still the same ol’ A.J. Some people like me, some people don’t. I don’t care. Ones that like me, I love; the ones that don’t, I don’t care what they think. No, I’ve had some great fans.”

Where do you get your determination from?

AJ: “Regardless of whatever I do, I want to try and be the best at.”

Where does that come from? You never seem to give up.

AJ: “People who give up aren’t very successful at nothing. And even though things didn’t go my way today, I still said tomorrow I’m gonna make it go my way. I mean, I had determination and I never give up on it. Sometimes it was hard but I still said I’m going to do it. And I made myself do it.”

Such as coming back from accidents?

AJ: “I think the hardest ones to come back from — even though I was broke up bad a lot — was burns. That’s where the boys are so lucky today where we cared 75 gallons of fuel with no fuel cells and nothing. When you hit ,it was like a bomb. With the cars today they carry 18 gallons and got fuel cells and you very seldom see anybody get burned. And I think that was the most painful part I had in my racing career when my hands were burned and my neck –like second and third degree burns. It was nasty. I know when they brought me home from the hospital, my hands and arms were all wrapped up and my face was all covered up except my eyes. My kids all ran and started crying cause they didn’t know who I was. I’ll never forget that.”

What do you think of Takuma Sato being inducted in the Long Beach Motorsports Walk of Fame Induction Ceremony for winning the GP in 2013 with your team?

AJ: “I’m proud of him. No one deserves it more than he does. No, I really liked him when he drove for us. He won the race out there at Long Beach for us. I know I was sick, for some reason I wasn’t out there. My wife and I were watching on TV. She said, ‘There aren’t but five laps to go.’ I said, ‘ Honey, Long Beach I’ve run and anything can happen at any lap so we sat there and both sweated so we brought him in too even though we weren’t there. We were happy for him and he did a good job for us. I can’t holler I think he’d have won Indy for me and he just got too eager, but he stands on the gas. That’s what I like about him. And he’s just a super guy.”


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