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IndyCar is one of America’s favorite motorsports. Races like the Indy 500 are legendary, with even non-fans of the sport being familiar with the names and how important they are. With the sport now going back so many decades, it’s interesting to take a look back and see who has been the most successful driver of all time.
AJ Foyt is considered the greatest IndyCar driver because of his unparalleled success in the sport. He is a four-time Indianapolis 500 winner, the first driver to win the Indy 500, the Daytona 500, and the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and has won a record 67 IndyCar races. He also holds the record for most consecutive starts in the Indianapolis 500 (35). His longevity and consistency throughout his career solidified his status as one of the greatest drivers in the history of the sport.
When it comes to IndyCar, there are a few names worth mentioning, such as A. J. Foyt, Mario Andretti, and Al Unser, but even among these three names, one stands as arguably the single most successful, and that’s A. J. Foyt. Let’s take a closer look at what makes Foyt the greatest name of all time in the IndyCar Series.
A. J. Foyt – The Greatest IndyCar Driver Ever
Foyt shares some of his achievements with other drivers like Unser, but his overall career best of 7 National Championship wins, and a grand total of 67 race wins, and 4 wins at the Indianapolis 500 make him the unquestioned “GOAT” (greatest of all time, for the uninitiated) when it comes to IndyCar.
His Indy 500 win record of 4 titles places him on equal footing with Al Unser, Rick Mears, and Helio Castroneves, who also hold the same number of record wins. Just 4 people controlling 16 wins over a century-long race is still pretty impressive, though.
Foyt’s best season was arguably in 1964 when he managed an incredible 10 wins out of 13 races in total. It’s hard to even say that he was truly “beaten” in the other 3 races of that season, either, because these were all “Did Not Finish” (DNF) results.
Two of these were the result of technical problems with the car — not his fault — and the remaining one for spinning out, perhaps partially his fault. Regardless, it was a pretty unassailable season, overall. In 1964, Foyt completed some 1,295 laps, and led in 861 of them.
Foyt’s Competition: Al Unser and Mario Andretti
Let’s take a moment to look briefly at the records of his two (arguably) closest competitors, namely Al Unser and Mario Andretti.
The year 1970 was Unser’s big year, where he achieved 10 victories from 18 starts, including the Indy 500. He added to this a total of 16 top-5 finishes, and an even greater dominance than Super Tex (Foyt) managed in 1964, with leads in 1,527 laps out of 2,199 — that’s 69 percent to Foyt’s 66 percent previously. Over his wider career, Unser managed a total of 39 wins in all, which include his chart-topping 4 wins at the Indy 500.
Andretti actually bested Unser’s record in overall number of wins, achieving 52 in all, just behind Super Tex himself. The Italian-born Andretti was instrumental in proving that IndyCar and other American motorsports weren’t just for those born under the red, white and blue! He was actually Italian born, though now it is Croatia.
Around the same time as Foyt, Andretti was bringing in multiple wins each season, including 8 wins in 1966, 8 wins in 1967, and 10 wins in 1969, and finished in the top 5 racers 57 times between 1966 and 1969. He even went on to win the Formula 1 Championship later in 1978.
He only managed one win on the Indy 500, though, in 1969, which sets him a little behind both Foyt and Unser to some degree. In this sport, the prestigious Indy 500 matters a great deal.
A. J. Foyt – A Lifetime in Racing
A. J. Foyt was born Anthony Joseph Foyt Jr in 1935 in Houston, Texas. This is a big part of why he has the nickname “Super Tex.” Foyt is still with us today, currently aged 88, and is the owner of A. J. Foyt Enterprises, which has cars in several motorsports, including the IndyCar and NASCAR series.
Foyt’s path into the motorsports world wasn’t as direct as some of the younger drivers today, but he had a solid foundation since his father was an auto mechanic who also owned and raced midget race cars in his spare time.
Foyt himself began his career in midget cars in 1953, aged just 18, moving up to the USAC in midget cars by 1956, winning his first event in Kansas City — just 10 laps! In the same year, he moved to spring car racing, with victories in 1956 and 1957 gaining the attention of national team owners. His first championship race was the 1958 Indy 500, where he unfortunately spun out.
1961 Indy 500
Foyt’s first Indy 500 win came in 1961 where he had an unforgettable late-stage race with rival Eddie Sachs. An error while adding fuel during a pit stop meant that Foyt didn’t actually have enough in the tank to finish the race, but the lack of fuel still made his car lighter and faster.
Lucky for him, Sachs never made the connection, instead pushing his own vehicle harder to keep up with Foyt.
This increased effort was enough to force Sachs to pit stop while in the lead, giving Foyt a golden opportunity to grab the fuel he needed to finish. Foyt’s team topped off just enough to keep him light and fast enough to finish, which he did so after a nail-biting final few laps. He only won by 8.28 seconds in what was the second-closest finish in history back then.
He gained his second Indy 500 win during his golden 1964 season where he won 10 races. The Indy 500 was particularly memorable in that year, not just because of all the drama with Foyt’s big rivals like Parnelli Jones dropping out after a fuel tank explosion, but also the lethal crash in the second lap of the race that killed both Dave MacDonald and above-mentioned rival Eddie Sachs.
His career in American motorsports continued until 1992 where he took part in his 35th consecutive start at the Indy 500, but this time only finished 9th. He didn’t limit his career entirely to American motorsports, though. He is also known for winning the globally renowned 24 Hours of Le Mans on his first and only try, driving a Ford GT40 Mk IV.
A.J. Foyts Other Racing Achievements
We had planed to write these as a list, but there we so many we decided to narrow them down and put the truly huge ones in the table below.
Table 1: A.J.Hoyts Racing Accomplishments
|Race and Series||Year||Details|
|DayTona 500||1972||Victory in this year and top five places in 6 races.|
|Endurance racing||Various||He is one of only 12 drivers to have completed the Triple Crown of endurance racing (victories in the 12 Hours of Sebring, 24 Hours of Daytona and 24 Hours of Le Mans).|
|24 Hours of Le Mans||1967||With Dan Gurney in a Ford Mk IV|
|Indy 500||1961, 1964, 1967, 1977||First to achieve four wins in the Indy 500, but on top of that there were also 8 top fives, and 17 top ten finishes. Raced in this race for 35 consecutive years!|
|24 hours of Daytona||1983, 1985||With Bob Wollek|
|12 hours of Sebring||1985||With Bob Wollek again|
Our Opinion: Most Notable Achievement:
He has won the Indianapolis 500, the Daytona 500 which is an achievement in itself as both take incredible skill and endurance, but in addition wining the three big endurances races – 24 hours of Le Mans, 24 Hours of Daytona and 12 Hours of Sebring. A feat not yet matched.
As we mentioned at the top of this article A.J. Foyt has won the Indy 500 4 times, the Daytona 500, The LE Mans 24 hours race and a record 67 indy car races.
Not only is he the greatest of all IndyCar drivers, he has a pretty good shout at winning the greatest racecar driver of all time although that’s a debate we will save for another day. ( to not get jumped on by Richard Petty, Lewis Hamilton, Mario Andretti, Prost, Senna, Gordon or Schumacher fans – It is quite a list and deserves its own page. )
However, although it can change, A.J. Foyt is certainly a name that should be included in anyone’s list of greatest ever motor racers, and certainly tops the pile in IndyCar.