Foyt clan puts up weekend worth gushing over

ON MOTOR SPORTS

July 14, 2002|By Sandra McKee

Jackpot!

And then some.

Guess who was holding the winning cards.

A. J. Foyt, that's who.

Well, he was due, wasn't he? Hadn't had a car in Victory Lane since the 1999 Indy 500. So last weekend in Kansas, his grandson, A. J. Foyt IV, all of 18 and driving on his first big speedway in the first race of the Indy Racing League-Infiniti Pro Series, started from the pole and won the race.

And then Foyt's veteran driver in the IRL Series, Airton Dare, winless in three years and beginning to wonder when he would see a checkered flag, won, too - with A. J. IV working as his front-right tire changer.

"It was especially good for Grandpa to get back in victory lane," said A. J. IV.

A. J. the elder said he didn't expect his grandson to win.

"I just wanted him to keep his nose clean and not get in anyone's way," Foyt said during a conference call.

Just like Foyt. Wouldn't want to gush.

Wouldn't want to, but heck, this is special.

"They've both got good heads on their shoulders," Foyt said. "And they did a [great] job. The way I looked at it, I had my great days. I had my glory, and it makes me so happy to see the new boys. When you look at Larry [one of his four sons] and you look at Anthony [son A. J. III], the average age of my drivers is 22 years old, so that's kind of spooky."

It's also a little spooky that Foyt got his first "big" open-wheel victory in Kansas, too. That was in 1957.

"It was some years back," Foyt said. "It's hard to remember. I've been fortunate enough and won so many damn races, how can you keep up?

"I know how happy I was then. I know how happy Anthony [A. J. Foyt IV] was, and I know how happy Airton was."

Foyt said he likes young drivers "because they have open minds" and are willing to learn.

But he denied that his teams have been in a down cycle. He wondered how anyone could even suggest it, pointing out that Dare nearly won three times earlier this season and that over the past five years his teams have won Indy (1999, driver Kenny Brack), two IRL championships (1996, Scott Sharp; 1998, Brack) and been IRL runner-up twice.

Still, he couldn't deny that seeing his grandson win and his young, talented veteran win on the same weekend wasn't special.

"Drove like a real champion," he said of his grandson, who looks and sounds a lot like his grandpa did in his heyday. "But I think I was thrilled with both of them. I'd say I was equally happy for Airton, because he's been close to winning, and I know how much it means to get your first one."

And now what?

Nashville, Tenn., for the Firestone Indy 200 on Saturday, Foyt said, adding: "I just want to get out of there with no one hurt. But, if everything falls our way, there's a chance for another doubleheader."

On the brink

If Championship Auto Racing Teams driver Cristiano da Matta isn't careful, he's going to become mistaken for Formula One driver Michael Schumacher.

Schumacher has won seven of the first 10 races in the Formula One series to build a nearly insurmountable lead of 54 points over second-place Rubens Barrichello. His dominance is enough to make the rest of the competitors want to huddle down in their beds on race morning.

On the CART circuit, da Matta is wreaking the same havoc. He tied a series record last weekend with his fourth straight victory - which was also his fifth of the season and seventh in the past 10 races. Sounds familiar, doesn't it?

Today, da Matta, driving his Newman--Haas Toyota, will go for the record in the Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland.

"We are pretty confident right now, especially on the road and street courses," da Matta said.

And Schumacher? After taking his 60th career victory at the British Grand Prix last weekend, he said: "This is a very special win for me. It is also an ideal situation for the championship."

To which we might say, no kidding.

Put up or ...

So says NBC analyst Benny Parsons, as the Winston Cup Series moves to NBC (11 Winston Cup races, including seven of the season's final eight races) and TNT (eight Winston Cup races). NBC's coverage starts today with the Tropicana 400 Winston Cup race at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill.

"The next four weeks at Chicagoland, Loudon [N.H.], Pocono and Indy will tell us a lot about this championship," Parsons said. "These are all big racetracks that you have to run well on to win the championship. Serious contenders are going to show up this next month. If you don't show up in the next month, you're nothing but a pretender."

The NASCAR on NBC and TNT broadcast team, which returns for its second season together, is led by announcer Allen Bestwick, with analysts Parsons and Wally Dallenbach.

Nuts and bolts

Another new NASCAR program hits cable TV today. NASCAR Edition SpeedNews debuts at 7 p.m. on SPEED Channel. The show will offer a half-hour program about the week's NASCAR action. Former NASCAR crew chiefs Larry McReynolds and Jeff Hammond, members of the Fox on-air team, will alternate weeks as race analysts.

The IRL 2003 schedule is out. Next season, the series will have 16 events. Here is the schedule for early planners:

March 2, Homestead-Miami Speedway (ABC) March 23, Phoenix International Raceway (ABC) April 13, Twin Ring Motegi, Japan (ABC) May 25, Indianapolis Motor Speedway (ABC) *June 7, Texas Motor Speedway (ESPN) June 15, Pikes Peak International Raceway (ABC) *June 28, Richmond International Raceway (ESPN) July 6, Kansas Speedway (ABC) *July 19, Nashville Superspeedway (ESPN) July 27, Michigan International Speedway (ABC) Aug. 10, Gateway International Raceway (ABC) Aug. 17, Kentucky Speedway (ABC) Aug. 24, Nazareth Speedway(ESPN) Sept. 7, Chicagoland Speedway (ABC) Sept. 21, California Speedway (ABC) Oct. 12, Texas Motor Speedway (ESPN) *-Night race.

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