INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A.J. Foyt has always enjoyed a good show.
He once famously took a hammer and pounded on his car during a race. He has thrown computers, helmets and sometimes punches, never worrying about beating up on his rivals. The crowd roars for him no matter what he does, loving every move made by their no-holds-barred, no-apologies tough guy from Texas.
Being the first four-time winner of the Indianapolis 500 brings that kind of respect. So does doing it his way.
At 81, Foyt knows he is slowing down, which is never really a comfortable thing for a race car driver. After everything he’s survived, the truth is that Foyt is fortunate to be here for the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday — and he knows it.
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“Most people thought I wouldn’t live past 22,” Foyt said recently with a laugh.
A serious crash in 1965 in Riverside, California, left Foyt with a broken back, a crushed sternum and a bad concussion. It might have been much worse if Parnelli Jones hadn’t helped pull Foyt out of the car after one doctor thought Foyt was already dead.
He burned his face, neck and hands in Milwaukee in 1966, broke his leg and ankle at a dirt car race in Illinois in 1972, fractured his arm at the 1981 Michigan 500, broke two bones in his back while practicing for the 1983 Firecracker 400 and was nearly forced out of the sport when his brakes failed at Road America in 1990. Foyt fractured his left foot and heel, dislocated his left knee and right ankle and a broken toe on his right foot in that crash.
Had he quit sooner, racing fans never would have seen Foyt trading barbs with Mario Andretti in perhaps the most famous rivalry in the history of the sport. Or publicly scolding Kevin Cogan for a crash at the start of the 1982 Indy 500, or becoming the first real superstar of American racing.
Foyt’s biggest battle was still to come. In November 2014,…