Racings Most Eligible Bachelor
by Toni Heffelfinger
16 October 2003
Larry Foyt has had his ups and downs in his rookie year in NASCAR’s Winston Cup Series but he was pleasantly surprised recently when Cosmopolitan magazine selected him as North Carolina’s most eligible bachelor. The magazine, which hit newsstands on October 14th, did a story featuring what they considered the country’s hottest bachelors, selecting one from each of the 50 states.
The selection meant that Foyt got to take his first trip to New York City for a photo shoot done in the Hamptons where he got to meet the other bachelors. The magazine also had a big party for the release of the story but unfortunately Foyt was unable to make the return trip to New York because he is still recovering from injuries suffered in a crash at Talladega recently.
Being selected means that Foyt beat out not only all of the other bachelors in the state of North Carolina but also many of his fellow NASCAR drivers, most notably fellow driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. who is frequently followed around by mobs of adoring female fans. At first, Foyt was so surprised by his selection he didn’t think they were serious.
“I referred them to my PR guy because I though it was a joke,” Foyt said. “I though they were kidding, but they were serious.”
Once he got used to the idea, Foyt decided it was “very cool” and a great honor to be picked. But he doesn’t necessarily expect that it will change his status in the garage area. Rather than large mobs of female fans following him around he is more worried about the flak he is likely to receive from the other drivers.
That doesn’t mean that Foyt isn’t looking forward to the response the story might generate. Cosmopolitan will be including special e-mail addresses for each bachelor to allow their readers to send them messages and he’s very interested to see what sort of response he gets. Pay attention ladies because according to Larry Foyt he is very single and very available but he’d love to change that in the near future. Foyt says having a job that requires so much travel and often long hours makes it difficult to meet new people which is the main reason he is still single.
But the appearance in Cosmo also lets Foyt show that NASCAR drivers grew up just like everyone else and in spite of finding fame on the racetrack, they remain just like everyone else. What is the one thing he most looks forward to now that this issue of Cosmo is on the newsstand? He can’t wait for all the girls who turned him down in high school to see it. “It’s sort of the ’How Do You Like Me Now’ thing,” he says.
In spite of being the son of racing legend A J Foyt, Larry Foyt says he had a normal childhood just like everyone else. In high school he participated in the normal sports like basketball, soccer, and baseball. He knew his father was a race car driver and was gone a lot but he didn’t accompany him to the track.
Although he didn’t grow up at the race track like many other second generation drivers, there was one notable exception. The family made the trip to Indianapolis every year and it was this yearly trip to the Indy 500 that inspired him and made him decide at a young age that he wanted to be a race car driver. He dreamed of one day racing at Indy himself.
At first, his father tried to talk him out of it, but Larry was determined. He saved up his money and with a little help from his mother he bought his first go-kart when he was in the 8th grade. His father still had one more rule however. He couldn’t stop him from racing if that’s what he really wanted to do but he wasn’t going to give him any help until he finished college first. Larry followed his father’s wishes and went to college but still continued racing part time. He had won a championship in karting and moved up to F2000 but was only getting the opportunity to run about five or six races a year with his college schedule.
F2000 was the first step on a road that should have led to the Indy Racing League and open wheel cars but that’s not how the story turned out. Foyt had a bad accident during an F2000 race at Atlanta where he flipped the car and he thinks that might have scared his father. It may have been part of the reason that A J advised his son to pursue stock cars and head to NASCAR instead. Foyt was testing an IRL car at Las Vegas when his father said he should give serious consideration to NASCAR. His father had recently started a team in the Winston Cup Series and felt it was the place for a young driver to go these days.
Although at first disappointed because it meant that he wouldn’t get to fulfill his dream of racing in the Indy 500, Larry Foyt followed his father’s advice and looking back on it today, he thinks it was the right thing to do. A J Foyt has always been there to lend his son advice and guidance and as far as Larry is concerned, his father understands the racing world and has never led him the wrong way.
From there Larry Foyt moved to the ASA series in 2000 where he competed for one year before moving to NASCAR and the Busch Grand National Series. He spent two seasons in the Busch Series driving for his family run team and serving as both the driver and the general manager before moving up to the Winston Cup Series this season.
The move to the Winston Cup Series has not always gone smoothly but Foyt still feels in many ways it was the right thing to do. He admits as a driver he was probably not ready to make the move if only because he had much less experience in closed body cars than most of his competitors but also acknowledges his father’s idea that he could learn more in Winston Cup. In Winston Cup, you are racing the best of the best every week and you need to learn to run with them if you plan to succeed.
There was also some business sense involved in the change to Winston Cup. The team has sponsorship from Harrah’s on the hood and TV panels but still has other space available on the car and needs the additional funding. It’s often easier to find sponsor support in the Winston Cup Series than the Busch Series. But the team finds itself in a catch-22 situation where the sponsorship is concerned. In order to attract those sponsors you need to have the performance to back up your value. But without the additional funding it’s difficult to get the wind tunnel time and testing that a team needs to stay competitive.
Foyt is one of several drivers currently in NASCAR bearing the last name of a famous father but feels that the advantages of that outweigh the disadvantages. While there is occasionally pressure to feel the need to live up to the name and times when he is watched more closely because of who he is, mostly it provides opportunity. There are many young drivers trying to break into the sport and sometimes name recognition can open a few doors. It’s also a help when trying to negotiate with new sponsors. Many want a known product and having a last name like Foyt makes you instantly recognizable.
Foyt feels the biggest difference between the Busch Series and Winston Cup is the level of competition and the tightness of the field. In the Busch Series, often the top half of the field is well funded and competitive while the back half many times is filled with more struggling teams. This often makes it easier to get into the Busch Series races. Things are different in the Winston Cup Series.
“If you’re not on our game right off the truck you’re in trouble,” says Foyt. He’s found out that mere hundredths of a second in the Winston Cup Series can often be the difference between making the race and going home. That can present a problem for a driver who is trying to learn the ropes because not making the race means you lose that chance to learn.
Twice this season the team has put other drivers in the car and still failed to make the race including using a road course specialist in Sonoma so Foyt understands it is not all his lack of experience that accounts for the team’s difficulties. They have moved some personnel around trying to get things working to their best advantage within the team. Larry Foy has reassumed his duties as general manager as well. Mark Green, who was in the car at Lowe’s Motor Speedway, will again drive the car at Martinsville and did test with the team at the track so they are optimistic going into this weekend.
Green is in the car while Foyt is taking some time to let injuries sustained in a crash at Talladega heal. When the team missed the race in Kansas recently by 4/100ths of a second, Foyt, who had been experiencing discomfort from a broken wrist and some internal bleeding from a bruised kidney, felt that he could have gotten the needed speed out of his car if he had been at 100%. Since he is not contending in the points standings, he opted to sit out a few races and get healthy so he could give his team his best effort.
The crash at Talladega was not completely unexpected but the hardness of it was. Foyt started in the back but had a really good car in the draft and had made his way to about midfield when he opted to settle in and ride behind Jeremy Mayfield. He saw Mayfield’s car start to turn and attempted to get to the high side hoping to get clear. Mayfield was headed toward the wall when he impacted with Foyt’s car and Foyt says he was shocked by the severity of the hit. He credit’s the safety features on his car with the fact that his injuries weren’t more severe.
Foyt says all of the headrests and restraints worked perfectly but he was hit so hard it actually broke his seat. Foyt uses seats made by Randy Lajoie who told him in all the years he has been making seats he has never seen one do that before. The broken seat was the cause of the bruised kidney but he feels the seat did it’s job in helping to protect him from worse injury.
In the meantime while he is taking a break from his driving duties maybe Larry Foyt will have some time to check out some of those responses to his appearance in Cosmopolitan. A young, good looking, well educated bachelor with an exciting job like Larry Foyt is bound to generate some interest.