A.J. Foyt undergoes successful triple bypass surgery

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A.J. Foyt has undergone successful triple bypass surgery in Houston. Release is below from A.J. Foyt Enterprises:

Four-time Indianapolis 500 winner A.J. Foyt underwent successful coronary bypass surgery today in Houston after being diagnosed with blockages on Monday.

Foyt, 79, had been admitted to the Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center on Friday with intermittent chest pains but initial testing results were inconclusive. However, a cardiac catheterization procedure performed Monday revealed blockages in arteries where Foyt had several stents from past procedures, most recently in March, 2010.

The triple bypass surgery was performed by renowned cardiothoracic surgeons O.H. “Bud” Frazier, MD, Director of Cardiovascular Surgery Research at Texas Heart Institute (THI) and Chief of Transplant Service, St. Luke’s Medical Center and William Cohn, MD, Director of Minimally Invasive Surgical Technology at THI. Both men trained under artificial heart pioneer Dr. Michael DeBakey while Dr. Frazier also worked with Dr. Denton Cooley, a former partner of DeBakey’s and founder of the Texas Heart Institute.

Foyt is expected to remain in the hospital through Monday.

Foyt and his son Larry recently announced the expansion of their IndyCar team from one car to two for the 2015-2016 seasons. Jack Hawksworth was named as driver of the No. 41 ABC Supply Honda; Takuma Sato will pilot the No. 14 ABC Supply Honda for the third straight year. In October, Foyt purchased a building in Speedway, Ind. which will be used by his race team as a Midwest base during the summer.

Foyt has had a number of stays in various Houston hospitals in recent years, most of which were related to injuries stemming from his 1990 Indy car accident at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis. Last year he underwent back surgery and had his left hip and right knee replaced in separate surgeries, and in 2012, he battled back from a life-threatening staph infection after surgery to remove bone spurs in his artificial left knee, which had been replaced in 2006.

Foyt, who was deemed to be one of the toughest race drivers ever during a career that spanned five decades, has proven to be just as tough in his non-driving ‘golden’ years.

Don’t know the Rolex 24? You should. Here’s why.

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Hello, America. It’s time to go racing again.

Yes, Supercross is now three weeks into its season, and the Chili Bowl Nationals is now effectively the Christopher Bell Invitational after the young NASCAR star won his 3rd consecutive Golden Driller last weekend.

But the Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway is the first marquee event on the American racing calendar – an event that just happens to have international prestige.

It’s also the start of Daytona Speedweeks, which culminates with NASCAR’s Daytona 500 on Feb. 17. But this is no mere opening act just warming up the crowd for the headliner.

In case you’re new to this event, here are a few reasons why it stands out:

Twice around the clock: Are you the kind of person that appreciates a challenge? Well, challenges don’t get much bigger in motorsports than a 24-hour endurance race where drivers, crews, machines, and strategies must work together flawlessly. For those behind the wheel in the Rolex 24, the obstacles are numerous: Punishing G-forces, extreme mental focus, lack of sleep, and staying on top of hydration and nutrition.

Star power: Speaking of those behind the wheel, the Rolex 24 traditionally draws top drivers from other disciplines such as IndyCar, Formula 1 and NASCAR to join sports car regulars from North America and around the world. As a result, the winners’ list is a Who’s Who of Motorsports.

This year’s field includes a clutch of NTT IndyCar Series drivers, highlighted by 5-time series champion and past Rolex 24 winner Scott Dixon. But pre-race buzz has centered on two particular interlopers: Alex Zanardi, the former CART champion making his first North American start since losing his legs in a 2001 crash, and Fernando Alonso, the two-time F1 champion looking to add another endurance triumph alongside his win with Toyota in last year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Cool cars: If you’re a gearhead, the Rolex 24 is a 200-mile-per-hour candy store. Across the four separate classes of competition, 13 of the world’s premier car manufacturers are represented.

The majority of those manufacturers are found in the Grand Touring classes that feature vehicles based on road-going production models. Chevy and Ford’s eternal rivalry rages on in the factory-backed GT Le Mans, but the class also boasts efforts from BMW, Porsche, and Ferrari. It’s even more diverse in the pro-am GT Daytona, where Porsche is joined by Audi, Lamborghini, Lexus and Mercedes.

As for the exotic, purpose-built Daytona Prototypes, they are powered by engines from Cadillac, Acura, Mazda and Nissan.

Nifty fifty: This year’s Rolex 24 begins the 50th anniversary season for IMSA, the sanctioning body for North American sports car racing. A select group of teams will mark the occasion at the Rolex 24 by running historic IMSA paint schemes on their machines. You may not be familiar with these looks, but it’s worth discovering the history behind them.

Here’s an example. The Starworks Motorsports team (GT Daytona) will carry a scheme based on Audi of America’s 90 Quattro from the 1989 IMSA GTO season. Boasting sports car legends Hurley Haywood and Hans-Joachim Stuck in the driver lineup, the 90 Quattro captured 7 GTO wins that season.

Audi’s performance led one competitor to create a “no passing” sticker with Stuck’s face on it. Stuck’s response: A doll fixed to his car’s rear window that dropped its pants to moon anyone Stuck put behind him.

Status symbol: Last but not least, the Rolex 24 has a unique prize – a trophy you can wear.

Winners get a standard cup, but what they’re really after are the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona watches, which include a special engraving to commemorate their victory. A standard version of this watch retails for tens of thousands of dollars, but you can’t put a price on the ones awarded at the Rolex 24.

This year’s grand marshal, 5-time Rolex 24 winner Scott Pruett, sums it up as “the ultimate reward.”

“To be presented a watch engraved with the word ‘Winner’ after 24 hours of intense racing is a moment that lives with you forever,” he added. “Your Rolex is a constant reminder of the perseverance and hard work that goes into succeeding at the highest level.”