Frustrating year has Foyt unsure of future
by David Poole, Charlotte Observer
13 November 2003
HOMESTEAD, Fla. - The 2003 Winston Cup season ends Sunday at the reconfigured Homestead Miami Speedway, but Larry Foyt has got to get there first.
After getting his first look at the track's new variable banking in a test day for Winston Cup teams Wednesday, Foyt's team will be back at the track for qualifying Friday. Until the No. 14 Dodge clears that hurdle, Foyt can't concern himself about what the track might be like in race conditions.
He has made the starting field for only 19 of the first 35 races in his rookie Winston Cup season. His team skipped one, at Martinsville in the spring, because it didn't have a car it felt was ready. Foyt also missed a few with an injury, but 12 times he simply hasn't made the cut.
"This certainly has been the hardest year of my racing career," Foyt said. "I've learned a ton this year, there's no doubt that, and I think I am a thousand percent better as a driver than I was when the year started. But I will be glad when this season is over and I can be more prepared for next year."
If there is a next year for Foyt. He knows two 28th-place finishes as his best results have put a cloud over his career.
"This year could ruin my career," he said. "There's a very good possibility I could never get another ride. But I don't feel like this year I've gotten a fair shake.
"What's kind of tough is that I knew it would be like that going in. People said at the beginning of the year that I didn't want to go to Cup or I wasn't ready. It wasn't really that, but I knew the way we were going to Cup and I knew it was going to be a struggle."
Foyt's team is owned by his father, racing legend A.J. Foyt, and his sponsorship deal isn't for big money. The team hasn't had a downforce-track car in the wind tunnel all year. It's one thing for a driver with limited experience to cut it with a top-flight team, but it's still hard to do it under the circumstances Foyt has faced.
"You don't want to make excuses and a lot of times people say drivers won't ever accept responsibility," Foyt said. "When I mess up, I will say so.
"Early on in the season, I was thinking this couldn't be the way it was supposed to be. At Atlanta I was so loose, I was thinking if these guys can drive these cars this way, this isn't for me."
When the team decided to skip Martinsville in the spring, Foyt went to Kentucky Speedway to test in a Ray Evernham-owned Dodge. It was an awakening.
"I got to see what we're racing against," he said. "It was like `There's no wonder we can't compete.' I don't want to sound like I am knocking the guys on this team because they have stuck behind me all year. Being a small team, we've become a really close team. They have really tried and given 100 percent. It's just things on which our hands are tied."
Foyt doesn't know what he'll be doing next season.
"I've let my dad know I can't go racing again next year the way we've done it this year," he said. "There are a lot of things up in the air right now. ... I feel like if I am able to get into something that's very competitive, I think I will be OK. If I have to go back to the Busch Series or do whatever it takes to get in something I have a chance in, I'll do it.
"At the beginning of the year, it was the first time in my life that I wasn't enjoying racing. I didn't want to go to the track. I dreaded waking up on Friday morning and having to go out there. It's not like you're just failing at a job. You're failing in front of lots of people and it's embarrassing."