Tony Stewart idolized A.J. Foyt during his career and on the 60th anniversary of Foyt’s first Indy 500 win, the two former drivers will watch the race side-by-side at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, May 30, 2021 (11 a.m. ET, NBC). “I’d be honored,” Stewart replied when he accepted Foyt’s invitation.
Stewart and Foyt were cut from the same cloth. Both rose through ranks driving anything they could get their hands on. And both have won in almost every type of car raced in the United States.
“A.J. is my hero, and a great friend whom I’ve known for a long time,” said Stewart. “It didn’t matter what it was, but if it had four wheels and went fast, AJ would drive it. NASCAR stock cars, USAC stock cars, sprints and midgets, IndyCars, IMSA sports cars – A.J. won in all of them.
“We both kind of came up through the racing ranks in the same way. He just did it in a different era.”
For all his success, Stewart never won the Indy 500. He led the field to green in his first start in the iconic race in 1996 and scored a career-best fifth in his second outing the following year.
Foyt, 86, went on to win the Indy 500 three more times in 1964, 1967 and 1977.
“Tony and I have been good friends for a long time, and I’m glad he’s able to come out for this 500,” said Foyt. “I’m hoping having Tony at the 500 might change our luck!
“Normally, we run pretty good at Texas but the luck was pretty bad in the doubleheader. We got crashed in the first race and at the start of the second race, both cars got crashed—they never made it to the start-finish line.”
A six-car crash on the first lap of the Xpel 375 at Texas Motor Speedway sidelined Sebastien Bourdais and Dalton Kellett. Bourdais also exited the Genesys 300 early with a Lap 55 accident leaving him in a deep hole, 61 points behind championship leader Scott Dixon.
Stewart claims that Foyt became his hero in 1982.
That year, he watched Foyt climb from his car in the middle of the Indy 500 to perform some of the work himself. Foyt finished 19th after starting on the outside of the front row in third. Stewart was 11-years-old at the time and the image imprinted heavily on the pre-teen.
When Stewart became co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing, he asked for Foyt’s blessing to run the No. 14 that “Super Tex” made famous. Last week in the Goodyear 400, Chase Briscoe paid homage to Foyt with a throwback scheme on that same No. 14.
Foyt four cars entered in this year’s Indy 500 for the first time since 1987. They will be piloted by JR Hildebrand in the No. 1, Kellett in the No. 4, Charlie Kimball in the No. 11 and Bourdais in the No. 14.
“Without guys like (Foyt), guys like myself wouldn’t have had a chance to succeed,” Stewart said. “Being with AJ on the pit box this year at Indy is an honor and something I’ll cherish forever.”