Edsel B. Ford II presents A.J. Foyt with the Spirit of Ford Award. Photo: Ford Performance

A.J. Foyt receives Spirit of Ford Award at RRDC dinner in Long Beach

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LONG BEACH, Calif. – Both A.J. Foyt and Dan Gurney were honored during last night’s Road Racing Driver’s Club dinner, an evening with Emerson Fittipaldi.

More on that event later but here’s a quick bit on Foyt, who received the Spirit of Ford Award. He and Gurney co-drove the Ford GT40 Mk. IV to the 1967 24 Hours of Le Mans victory.

Here’s the release, below:

A.J. Foyt, one of the most legendary American drivers in history, was presented with the prestigious Spirit of Ford Award in a ceremony at the Road Racing Driver’s Club dinner last evening.

The Spirit of Ford Award is Ford Motor Company’s highest honor in auto racing, recognizing lifetime achievement and contribution to the industry both on and off the race track. Foyt becomes the 26th recipient, joining an international list of honorees from all forms of racing and racing media.

Foyt was presented the award during the RRDC dinner by Edsel B. Ford II, great-grandson of company founder Henry Ford and a member of the company’s board of directors.

Foyt was on hand for the dinner along with Dan Gurney, as part of an event helping commemorate the 50thanniversary of the duo’s victory at the 1967 Le Mans 24 Hours, the first and only victory at Le Mans by an All-American team featuring All-American drivers.

“A.J. was one of my heroes in racing when I first followed the sport,” said Ford.  “When looking back at his magnificent career, the question isn’t what did A.J. drive, but more what didn’t he drive and win in?   His passion for driving and his commitment to the sport since his retirement have made him more than worthy for all the halls of fames he is part of.   Many of his most significant victories – including the ’67 Le Mans win – came with Ford power, and it’s truly my honor to be able to present him with our Spirit of Ford Award.”

Foyt is best known as being the first driver to win the Indianapolis 500 four times, but his career spanned into many forms of racing.  He has a record 67 wins and seven championships in Indy Car racing.  He also was a seven-time winner in the NASCAR Cup series, and has a total of 172 victories and 14 championships during his career.

He is also the only driver in history to win the Indianapolis 500, the Daytona 500, 24 Hours of Le Mans and 24 Hours of Daytona.

He is currently still involved in the sport as the owner of the two-car A.J. Foyt Racing team that competes in the Verizon IndyCar Series.

Spirit of Ford Award. Photo: Ford Performance

Spirit of Ford Awards Winners

-Bill Stroppe, 1988
-Bob Glidden, 1989
-Chris Economaki, 1990
-Richard Petty, 1992
-Bob Bondurant, 1993
-Mario Andretti, 1994
-Jackie Stewart, 1994
-Bud Moore, 1995
-Parnelli Jones, 1996
-Jim Clark, 1997
-Phil Hill, 1998
-Stirling Moss, 1998
-Bill France, Sr., 1998
-Bill France Jr. 1998
-Junie Donlavey, Jr., 1999
-Glen Wood, 1999
-Leonard Wood, 1999
-Dan Gurney, 1999
-Denise McCluggage, 2000
-Bill Elliott, 2000
-Carroll Shelby, 2001
-Wally Parks, 2001
-Ned Jarrett, 2003
-Mose Nowland, 2005
-Jack Roush, 2006
-John Force, 2010
-Kevin Kennedy, 2011
-A.J. Foyt 2017

IndyCar’s revised schedule gives Tony Kanaan an extra race in 2020

INDYCAR Photo by Joe Skibinski
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Tony Kanaan got a bit of good news when the latest revised NTT IndyCar Series schedule was released Monday.

Kanaan’s “Ironman Streak” of 317 consecutive starts would have concluded with the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 15. That race was postponed, and the races that followed have been canceled or rescheduled later in the year. The season tentatively is scheduled to start June 6 at Texas Motor Speedway.

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is the reason for the tentative nature of this year’s 2020 NTT IndyCar Series schedule.

Kanaan, the 2004 IndyCar Series champion and 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner, started the season with a limited schedule for A.J. Foyt Racing in the No. 14 Chevrolet. That schedule included all five oval races, including the 104th Indianapolis 500.

A silver lining for Kanaan is that this year’s trip to Iowa Speedway will be a doubleheader, instead of a single oval contest. His schedule has grown from five to six races for 2020, should the season start on time with the June 6 contest at Texas Motor Speedway and the additional race at Iowa.

“I’m really happy that IndyCar has been very proactive about the schedule and keeping us posted with the plans,” Kanaan told NBCSports.com Tuesday afternoon from his home in Indianapolis. “I’m double happy that now with Iowa being a doubleheader, I’m doing six races instead of five.”

Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Kanaan’s “Last Lap” is something that many fans and competitors in IndyCar want to celebrate. He has been a fierce foe on the track but also a valued friend outside the car to many of his fellow racers.

He also has been quite popular with fans and likely is the most popular Indianapolis 500 driver of his generation.

Scott Dixon was Kanaan’s teammate at Chip Ganassi Racing from 2013-17. At one time, they were foes but eventually became friends.

“I hope it’s not T.K.’s last 500,” Dixon told NBCSports.com. “I was hoping T.K. would get a full season. That has changed. His first race of what was going to his regular season was going to be the 500. Hopefully, that plays out.

“You have to look at T.K. for who he is, what he has accomplished and what he has done for the sport. He has been massive for the Indianapolis 500, for the city of Indianapolis to the whole culture of the sport. He is a legend of the sport.

“We had our differences early in our career and had problems in 2002 and 2003 and 2004 when we were battling for championships. We fought for race wins and championships in the 2000s. I’ve been on both sides, where he was fighting against me in a championship or where he was fighting with me to go for a championship. He is a hell of a competitor; a fantastic person.

“I hope it’s not his last, but if it is, I hope it’s an extremely successful one for him this season.”

Even before Kanaan joined Chip Ganassi Racing, Dixon admitted he couldn’t help but be drawn to Kanaan’s personality.

“T.K. is a very likable person,” Dixon said. “You just have to go to dinner with the guy once, and you understand why that is. The ups and downs were a competitive scenario where he was helping you for a win or helping someone else for a win. There was never a dislike or distrust. We always got along very well.

“We are very tight right now and really close. He is a funny-ass dude. He has always been a really good friend for me, that’s for sure.”

Back in 2003 when both had come to the old Indy Racing League after beginning their careers in CART, the two drivers were racing hard for the lead at Twin Ring Motegi in Japan on April 13, 2003. They were involved in a hard crash in Turn 2 that left Kanaan broken up with injuries. IRL officials penalized Dixon for “aggressive driving.” Dixon had to sit out the first three days of practice for the next race – the 2003 Indianapolis 500.

Kanaan recovered in time and did not miss any racing. He started second and finished third in that year’s Indy 500.

“We were racing hard and going for the win,” Dixon recalled of the Motegi race. “It was a crucial part of the season. Everybody has to be aggressive. I respect Tony for that. He was not letting up. That is what I always saw with Tony, how hard the guy will push. He will go to the absolute limit, and that is why he was inspiring and why he was a successful driver.

“Those moments are blips. You might not talk to the guy for a week, but then you are back on track. T.K. is very close with our family and we are with his.”

This season, because of highly unusual circumstances, T.K.’s IndyCar career will last for one more race than previously scheduled.

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500