Mellowed A.J. Thanks Everybody, Displays A True Champions Smile
By Rick Johnson-Indianapolis Star, May 31, 1964
(Frank Fisse Photo)
In the past, they called A.J. Foyt “Terrible Tex, The Kid,” and many have called him Cassius, but not to his face, because all of the catcallers know there is one thing Foyt will do and that is fight, whether it be on the race track or anywhere.
But his critics saw a different man yesterday, a gentleman who expressed sincere thanks to his crew and his mechanics and his car owners, Shirley Murphy and William Ansted, both of Indianapolis.
His critics also saw a man who fears the Almighty.
Foyt has mellowed and wisened considerably since his last victory here in 1961 and since he won the first of his three national driving championships starting with 1960.
Yesterday, when Foyt wheeled the Sheraton-Thompson Special into victory lane, he was acting like a champion.
He kissed his wife, Lucy, enthusiastically, shook hands with his crewmen, who were beside themselves with happiness, and then he gulped milk.
He turned his head left and right as photographers yelled, “Hey A.J., over here…over here, A.J….Now one more.”
The smile never ceased. And periodically he would reach for his wife and give her a squeeze. Then the photographers yelled for Foyt to give the “500” Festival Queen Donna McKinley a kiss, and he did…twice. But then he kissed Lucy again.
The small group sat smiling in the midst of the pop of flash bulbs and the yells of, “Over here, A.J.”
And then the expression on Foyt’s face changed to a frown. It wasn’t an angry frown. It was sorrow showing. Someone handed Foyt a newspaper on which the blaring headline proclaimed, “Foyt Wins 500…Sachs, MacDonald Killed.”
A.J. turned to Lucy, “Are they dead?”
Lucy, a stunning blond, looked directly into her husband’s eyes and said nothing. Then she squeezed her husband’s arms for a moment and stepped back.
Foyt swallowed deeply and hung his head for an instant as he read the headlines again and then once again posed for a few pictures.
But this was a chore he did not like, and after a few shots he hopped out of his car and led Lucy to the pace car for a triumphant tour around the track he had just conquered for the second time.
As he drove off someone yelled, “Hey A.J., how about those funny cars” (meaning the rear-engine cars)?
A.J. grinned sincerely again and shouted, “They might be alright, but I’ll take Old Betsy and show them the fast way around.”
(Rick Johnson Photo)
A short time later Foyt and his crew stopped for an interview at the starting line.
His crew consisted of Frank Catania, refueling; Foyt’s father, Tony, who was to change the right rear tire; Leroy Neumeyer, right front, and Bud Moyer, in charge of the left rear.
But the only man in the pit crew who really worked yesterday was Catania, who handled the fuel on Foyt’s two speedy pit stops.
“We didn’t need to change a tire,” Foyt said. “And that is just the way we planned it. We didn’t even put on the air jacks.”
William McCrary, sales manager of the Firestone Racing Division, said, “The tire wear was phenomenal…Foyt could go another 500 miles on those tires.”
With his crew perched on the back of the pace car and his wife by his side, Foyt said that the accident had really shaken him up.
“I hate to see anyone hurt on the race track…it takes the thrill out of it…but it can happen to anyone, even while driving down the highway,” he said.
“But I hate to lose two buddies like Eddie Sachs and Dave MacDonald…I knew them both…Eddie was probably one of the most colorful drivers in the world and Dave was a fine guy.”
(Rick Johnson Photo)
“I always pray,” Foyt added, “before every race that the Good Lord will take care of us all. I really regret that two of them had to lose their lives.”
The announcer then asked Foyt if he thought the Meyer-Drake engine was finished.
Foyt said, “A lot of guys made fun of me for driving an antique car with an antique engine…Well, all I’ve got to say is these antiques have made me an awful lot of money around here.”
When Foyt was asked about his future plans, he said, “Well, first I’m going to pay Uncle Sam some money and after that I don’t know what I’ll do.”
Foyt, winning the race at an average speed of 147.350 miles an hour piled up $21,900 in lap prize money and will get the biggest share of a purse that is believed will top $500,000 at the victory banquet tonight at the Murat Temple.