Driver spotlight: Larry Foyt
by Jerry Bonkowski, ESPN.com
29 December 2003
The good: That Foyt survived his first full season in Winston Cup is probably an accomplishment in itself. His lack of high-level stock-car experience showed quite a bit, yet the son of racing legend A.J. Foyt has to be admired for the determination and unfailing spirit he showed throughout the 2003 campaign, never giving up even when things looked pretty bleak. Without question, the best part of 2003 for him was at the very end, when he recorded a season-high 16th-place finish in the final race of the year (Homestead-Miami), which had been preceded the previous two weeks with a pair of 28th-place finishes (which had tied his season-high up to that point).
The bad: Failing to qualify for or completely skipping nearly half (16) of the season's 36 races, followed by failing to finish nearly half (eight) of the 20 races he actually qualified for certainly put some significant dampers on his season. Many critics said Foyt should have spent more time in the Busch Series ranks before jumping to Winston Cup, but the team and situation -- A.J. Foyt Racing and main sponsor Harrah's was looking for a young driver to develop -- Larry just happened to be in the right place at the right time for a great opportunity that most drivers never have a chance at. Hopefully, Foyt has learned from his rookie mistakes and will have a stronger sophomore season in 2004. Also, A.J. Foyt just needs to give Larry a better car each week, plain and simple.
Key stat: 12 and 16 -- Foyt's best start and finish of the season, both in the 2003 finale at Homestead-Miami (Fla.).
What needs to be done: It would be ideal if Foyt could also run a full Busch Series season in addition to Nextel Cup, so he could gain as much experience as possible. However, with the significant improvement he showed in the final three races of his rookie season, it leaves a great deal of optimism and promise for the start of the 2004 campaign. He wasn't able to qualify for the Daytona 500 in 2003, but don't be surprised if Foyt qualifies respectably for the season opener next time around.
Key change: With a small team and small budget, change is inevitable. But if most of the same team from last year returns for the 2004 season, it will go a long way toward establishing even greater continuity and stability within the organization, which in turn will help give Foyt the driver (Larry) and Foyt the owner (A.J.) much more confidence and a brighter outlook for the coming season.
Guarantee: It's highly doubtful that Foyt will have as bad a season as he had in 2003. So, for him, everything is pretty much looking up in 2004. With his first season of Cup racing under his belt and the pressure of being a rookie finally gone, the future looks much brighter for him now. Plus, how can you expect a guy who comes from this legendary racing lineage to not become a racing success someday?
Prediction: Because the team is strapped in terms of resources, not to mention being only a one-car team, it's hard to think this is a team that will suddenly be a top-10 outfit in 2004. It would be a safe bet that Foyt should hopefully finish in the top-35 in 2004, perhaps even in the top-30. He'll be in a building mode for at least another one or two seasons, but with small steps comes continued progress, and that's what he and his team are all about -- progressing to the next level, achieving that goal and then going for the next level.
Did you know: Up until this past May, Foyt had attended every Indianapolis 500 since he was born.