Happy 80th birthday to the grand champion, A.J. Foyt

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They don’t make ’em like Anthony Joseph Foyt, Jr. anymore. And speaking as a reporter who’s younger than most, that’s a shame.

Foyt – who’s gone through surgeries, bee attacks, and lived through one of racing’s most dangerous periods – turns 80 today. He talked about it earlier this week.

He’s gone through a particularly rough stretch over the last couple months in hospital, having only recently been released following a successful triple bypass.

If North American auto racing – hell, almost any form of racing – was to have a Mount Rushmore, rest assured Foyt and longtime rival Mario Andretti would be two of the faces cemented on there.

Foyt, of course, was the first of three four-time winners of the Indianapolis 500. He has a record 67 victories in North American open-wheel auto racing. He is the only driver to have won the Indianapolis 500, Daytona 500 and 24 Hours of Le Mans. He kicked ass on dirt, then on pavement.

In my years, I’ve really only known him as a team owner, after he retired following the 1992 Indianapolis 500 as a driver following 35 straight ‘500 appearances.

The “vintage AJ” moments I’ve grown up with were Foyt’s tirade at Jeff Andretti at Nazareth in 1991 (funny as “g–d— Jeff Andretti” wound up driving for Foyt in the 1992 ‘500), his retirement from driving emotional speech, his victory lane smack down of Arie Luyendyk in the first IRL race at Texas Motor Speedway in 1997, his laptop smash the following year on a fuel miscalculation at Indy, and his glorious return to victory lane in 1999 when Robby Gordon ran out of fuel and driver Kenny Brack captured that year’s ‘500.

When Takuma Sato brought the now Larry Foyt-led team back to victory lane at Long Beach in 2013, that was a proud moment for A.J. and a great moment for the sport – when a legend’s team still has it, and was able to recover after a decade of drought, it was a very popular win.

All that said, I’ll leave the birthday pieces to those who’ve covered him longer and better than I have – nicely compiled here by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway website and NBCSN contributor Robin Miller on RACER.com.

Here’s a tweet from Mario:

And here’s a brief and by no means comprehensive roundup of other birthday tweets wished to “Super Tex:”

Ken Roczen signs with HEP Progressive Ecstar Suzuki for 2023

Roczen Progressive Ecstar Suzuki
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ANAHEIM, California – Ken Roczen will make the move from HRC Honda to H.E.P. Motorsports with the Progressive Ecstar Suzuki team, ending a long and eventful offseason that saw his split from his longstanding team after he committed to running World Supercross (WSX).

“H.E.P. Motorsports is thrilled to announce that the team has signed Ken Roczen as its premier rider for the 2023 season,” the team announced on Instagram. “Former AMA Motocross champion Roczen will be aboard a Suzuki RM-Z450. Roczen, who won his most recent championship on a Suzuki, will be reunited with the brand and bring his exciting style, determination, and grit back to the RM Army.

“Ken Roczen will compete in the upcoming 2023 Supercross and Motocross Championship series which is set to start on January 7 at Anaheim Stadium in Southern California.”

For Roczen, it is a return to the bike of his youth and on which he had some of his greatest professional success.

“This thing has been going on for weeks and weeks and weeks in the making, but there was so much uncertainty,” Roczen told NBC Sports during Monster Energy Supercross Media Sessions. “It was a very unique situation. I just finally signed two nights ago, so it’s really only legit once the ink hits the paper. It’s been in the works for a long time, but there were just a lot of questions and a lot of input from a lot of other teams too.

“Good things take time, and I’m okay with that. I grew up riding Suzuki. Ot’s like a homecoming. It’s a special feeling”

Roczen won the 2016 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship on a Suzuki before making the move to Honda. That year he won nine of 12 Nationals and finished no worse than second as he easily outpaced Eli Tomac by 86 points. He finished third in his next Pro Motocross outing in 2018 after sitting out the outdoor season in 2017.

“I am beyond excited to reconnect with Suzuki for the 3rd time in my career. We’ve had a lot of success in the past and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can accomplish together in our future.” Roczen said in the Instagram post.