IndyCar: Texas prez grants A.J. Foyt official rights to ’97 IRL race trophy as birthday gift

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A.J. Foyt and his team celebrates Billy Boat’s apparent win at Texas Motor Speedway in 1997. One day later, Arie Luyendyk won his protest of the results and was granted the victory. Foyt never gave back the trophy. Credit: Texas Motor Speedway

In a career full of memorable moments both in and out of the cockpit, A.J. Foyt’s post-race incident at Texas Motor Speedway in 1997 stands out.

Foyt’s driver, Billy Boat, had appeared to win the first Indy Racing League event on the 1.5-mile oval. But Arie Luyendyk charged into the Foyt team’s celebration in Victory Lane to protest the outcome.

To put it mildly, Foyt took exception.

One day later, after USAC admitted to a malfunction of its timing and scoring equipment, Luyendyk was awarded the True Value 500k win.

The Dutchman never got the original trophy, though. He was given a replica instead, because the original remained in Foyt’s possession. And since then, TMS president and general manager Eddie Gossage has sought to retrieve it.

But with the four-time Indianapolis 500 champion celebrating his 80th birthday this afternoon, Gossage says he’s decided to grant the trophy’s “official rights” to Foyt as a gift.

“Ever since 1997, I’ve been trying to get back the True Value 500k winner’s trophy from A.J. since Arie Luyendyk was named the rightful winner of that controversial Indy Racing League race,” Gossage said in a statement released today.

“What better gift than acknowledge that it is his to keep now and forever and I will no longer badger him about giving it back.

“All I ask is that he puts a bow on it and changes the nameplate to ‘Happy 80th A.J. – Keep Up The Good Fight!'”

Gossage, who also wished Foyt a speedy recovery from his recent triple bypass heart surgery, went on to add that every time he saw Foyt, he would remind him that he wanted the trophy back – to which Foyt would “grumble at me and tell me to come down there and take it from him.”

We’re not surprised about that in the slightest.

How IndyCar rookie Sting Ray Robb got that name (and some more of his backstory)

IndyCar Sting Ray Robb
Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment
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PALM SPRINGS, Calif. – Every NTT IndyCar Series season brings a new round of getting to know the rookies, and it’s fairly obvious where the story starts with Sting Ray Robb.

Just for clarification, “Robb” is the last name. His given name indeed is “String Ray” on the birth certificate.

Why, yes, he does come from performance-car parentage.

And yes, the IndyCar rookie named “Sting Ray” will be driving the No. 51 Dallara-Honda for Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware.

How did that go over with a mom and dad who clearly prefer American automotive brands?

“That’s a tricky question,” Robb said with a laugh Tuesday during the IndyCar Preseason Content Days. “Yeah, my parents are big Corvette fans, and I think that they ruled out criticizing me too badly because they know the dream is IndyCar.”

“I’ll be in a Honda car and I’m assuming it’ll go pretty quick, so I’m OK with all of that.”

“They’re not going to rename you ‘NSX’ or something?” asked Motorsport.com’s David Malsher-Lopez (whose bitingly sardonic wit is regularly heard in IndyCar media centers).

“No. I hope not,” Robb said. “My name is my name. I don’t need a rename, thank you.”

Robb, 21, has been making a name for himself lately, finishing second in last year’s Indy NXT standings with 11 top-five finishes, eight podiums and two pole positions.

But the Payette, Idaho, native also has an intriguing backstory beyond his successful four years in the Road to Indy ladder system (that also included the 2020 Indy Pro title).

He hails from the same small town (northwest of Boise on the Oregon border) that produced Minnesota Twins slugger and Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew.

Robb, whose graduating class was less than 100, recently found that Wikipedia listed him and Killebrew as the “notable alumni” from Payette High School.

“It’s nice to be see and appreciate all the things that I’ve learned and been through,” said Robb, who also played some baseball in his day, adding that “I’m more of a consistent singles hitter, slap hitter if you want to call it. No home runs, just doubles or triples here and there.”

Some other facts on the newest memorable name of IndyCar:

–He’s managed by Pieter Rossi (father of Alexander Rossi, the 2016 Indy 500 winner), but he also gets a lot of help from his mother, Kimmie.

“We call her my ‘momager’ because she’s my mom and my manager,” Robb said. “She has been a huge role in my career because she does things that I’m unable to do as a driver.

“She’s able to play hardball with the contracts, etc., and have my best interest in mind when it comes to negotiating, along with Pieter. He may be someone that has a lot of experience in the series with Alexander, but he may not know what’s best for me. It’s good to have them both on my side, and I can learn a lot from them.”

–His family have been lifelong supporters since go-karting. “It was my mom, my dad, my grandparents on the road every weekend,” he said. “My dad has missed one race in my entire life, and it was because he was in the hospital. So we let him have a pass, and he was still on the phone every 30 minutes making sure that tire pressure was right, engine temp was right, we had the right gear on the car, etc.”

–Robb graduated high school a year early to focus on racing after being home-schooled as a child. “I went to someone’s house actually, and she taught me from the time I was in pre-K through sixth grade,” Robb said. “So in seventh grade I started going to public school, and I hate to say it, but I feel like I stopped learning after that point. But it was OK. I got some social skills, lucky for you guys.”

–He also has a wild story about how he landed his current ride during a random encounter in a trip to the gym (which you can read about here).