ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Two of the biggest names in the history of Indianapolis Motor Speedway will sit on the same pit box during the 105th Indianapolis 500.
NASCAR team owner, two-time Brickyard 400 winner and five-time Indianapolis 500 starter Tony Stewart will be the special guest on top of the pit box for the famed A.J. Foyt, a four-time winner of the Indianapolis 500.
“I’d be honored,” Stewart said when he accepted Foyt’s invitation to attend the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where Foyt will celebrate the 60th anniversary of his 1961 triumph, the first of his four Indianapolis 500 victories.
It also helps Stewart celebrate his 50th birthday on May 20. The Indianapolis 500 is on May 30.
“A.J. is my hero, and a great friend whom I’ve known for a long time,” said Stewart, the three-time NASCAR Cup Series champion, 1997 IndyCar Series champion and four-time USAC champion. “It didn’t matter what it was, but if it had four wheels and went fast, A.J. would drive it. NASCAR stock cars, USAC stock cars, sprints and midgets, Indy cars, 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.
“A.J. called me after I won my first Cup championship in 2002 and I remember how much it meant to have him call that night and congratulate me. He has given a lot back to racing and has been one of the sport’s biggest supporters. Without guys like him, guys like myself wouldn’t have had a chance to succeed. Being with A.J. on the pit box this year at Indy is an honor and something I’ll cherish forever.”
Stewart and Foyt share a common bond in their racing style and temperament. Both can have a heart of gold, but catch them at a bad moment and their temper can become legendary.
They both represent the peak of success in their respective races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Foyt became the first four-time winner of the Indianapolis 500 in 1977. Although Jeff Gordon (five Brickyard wins), Jimmie Johnson (four) and Kevin Harvick (three) have more wins in the Brickyard 400, Stewart remains the most popular driver in that race because of his Hoosier heritage and USAC and Indy Racing League background.
“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, who first shared the stage with the then 24-year-old Hoosier back in 1995 when the Indy legend presented Stewart with his championship rings for winning the USAC Triple Crown. Stewart was the first driver to win the USAC midget, sprint car and Silver Crown titles in a single season. The only other driver to do so was J.J. Yeley in 2003.
“I’m hoping having Tony at the 500 might change our luck,” Foyt continued. “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.”
In addition to watching the race from the pit box, Stewart is hoping to observe the action during a practice day prior to the Indianapolis 500 depending on his schedule.
Despite retiring as a NASCAR driver, Stewart is far from retired. He still races his sprint car regularly at tracks across the country and has even sampled a Top Fuel dragster, all while being the co-owner of the championship-winning NASCAR team, Stewart-Haas Racing, and the outright owner of Tony Stewart Racing, winner of 26 owner championships – 14 in USAC, nine in the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series and three in the All Star Circuit of Champions TQ Midgets.
Stewart has long said that Foyt became his hero after watching him in the 1982 Indianapolis 500, when Foyt got out of his car and started working on it in the pits during the race. Foyt’s never-give-up attitude registered with the 11-year-old youngster who went on to become a successful driver in open wheel and stock car competition, much like his hero.
In fact, when Stewart debuted Stewart-Haas Racing in 2009, he asked Foyt for his blessing to run his famed No. 14. Foyt was honored by the gesture and accepted Stewart’s invitation to attend the Daytona 500, which was Stewart’s debut as a NASCAR driver/owner. Less than three years later, Stewart went on to claim the 2011 NASCAR Cup Series championship, his third in NASCAR’s premier division.
Stewart-Haas Racing honored Foyt this past Sunday at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway, with Chase Briscoe’s No. 14 machine carrying a throwback paint scheme to Foyt’s No. 14 Copenhagen stock car from 1986. Briscoe finished 11th to equal his best finish during his rookie season.
Foyt has entered four cars in this year’s Indianapolis 500, the first time since 1987 and the only other year he’s had that many entries competing in the 500. This year the drivers of Foyt’s Chevrolet-powered cars are J.R. Hildebrand (No. 1 ABC Supply), Dalton Kellett (No. 4 K-Line Insulators USA), Charlie Kimball (No. 11 Tresiba) and Sebastien Bourdais (No. 14 ROKiT).
The 105th running of the Indianapolis 500 will be broadcast live on NBC on Sunday, May 30 starting at 11 a.m. ET. Qualifying takes place the weekend before and will be broadcast on Saturday, May 22 on NBC from 2 – 3 p.m. ET and NBCSN from 3 – 6 p.m. ET. The final grid will be set on Sunday, May 23 and will be broadcast on NBCSN from 1 – 2:30 p.m. ET and NBC from 2:30 – 4:30 p.m. ET.