Driver Larry Foyt off to bumpy Winston Cup start
by MIKE BRUDENELL, Detroit Free Press
7 March 2003
DETROIT – If you missed Larry Foyt's last two finishes in NASCAR Winston Cup races, join the crowd.
Foyt, who drives the No. 14 Harrah's Dodge, was 35th last weekend at Las Vegas, the home of his sponsor. The previous week at Rockingham, N.C., he finished 36th.
The season-opening Daytona 500 was even tougher. Foyt, a Cup rookie, failed to qualify.
Yet Foyt isn't about to panic – not just yet. He expected this would be a difficult learning year.
"This season is going to be a challenge, for sure," said Foyt, who drives for A.J. Foyt Racing. "We are going to struggle at times, but I trust A.J.'s insight, and I'm happy that he has the confidence in my ability to take the next step."
Foyt was referring to his biological grandfather, legendary four-time Indianapolis 500 champion A.J. Foyt, who adopted him as his son when Larry was 2 years old.
Larry Foyt was an owner and driver in the NASCAR Busch Grand National series the past two years.
"Initially, I wanted to remain in the Busch series for another year," he said. "But after a couple of tests in the new car, I got really excited about Winston Cup."
It's not surprising that the younger Foyt is only now emerging from the giant shadow cast by the elder Foyt. In fact, he's lucky to be driving for a living at all.
"A.J. always thought racing was too dangerous for me," Foyt said. "He much preferred that I get a college education."
Foyt graduated from Texas Christian University in 2000 with a degree in communications, but he didn't forget about racing.
After an impressive karting career, Foyt moved up to the USAC Formula 2000 series in 1997, then switched from open-wheel racing to the American Speed Association series three years ago.
He recorded four top-10 finishes and a pole in the ASA.
"It wasn't easy proving to A.J. that I was a racer," Foyt said. "But now, I think he's really excited about my career."
Foyt, who would like to drive in the Indy 500 one day, knows A.J. Foyt can be hard on young drivers, but he isn't intimidated by his father's demands.
"People see film of A.J. yelling, and they think he's rough and mean," Foyt said. "Yes, he's intense and he's a perfectionist. He works hard to get things right. But underneath it all, he's just a big teddy bear, with a heart of gold."
Foyt will attempt to qualify today for Sunday's Bass Pro Shops MBNA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
While he is carving out a name for himself, there's another wrinkle to the story. His cousin, A.J. Foyt IV, also is driving for the family.
Foyt IV, 18, is in his first IRL season with A.J. Foyt Racing. He finished 17th in a Dallara/Toyota at Homestead-Miami Speedway last Sunday.
Does Larry Foyt sense a rivalry between the two?
"No, we grew up like brothers," he said. "I'm happy for A.J. IV. He's a great young driver. I'd love to see him win an Indy 500."
Missing the Daytona 500 and finishing poorly at Rockingham and Las Vegas have only made Foyt more determined to turn things around in the next few weeks.
"I've just got to go out there and show I've got the skill and toughness to run at this level," he said. "I smile a lot, but I can also be hard when I have to be."