AVONDALE, Ariz. (AP) – A.J. Foyt is feeling a little better after a long string of surgeries and health issues.
One of auto racing’s greatest drivers, he’s had a rough stretch health-wise over the past few years, including two knee-replacement surgeries, a hip replacement and back surgery that was followed by a staph infection that he said was worse than any of his broken bones or surgeries.
The 79-year-old had his right knee replaced in December, but said he was moving better before Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway.
“I’m feeling so much better every day,” Foyt said. “I’m kind of little nervous when I get up in the morning and try to take steps. That’s the reason you see me keep weight on it all the time because I’m not too damn sure what it’s going to do with all this fake stuff.”
Foyt is the only driver to sweep the Indianapolis 500, the Daytona 500 and 24 Hours of Le Mans in his career, and a seven-time IndyCar champion who won 67 races in the series.
With all those victories came some painful crashes that caused him to suffer a broken back, bruised aorta, burns to his face and hands, and two broken shoulders.
Perhaps his worst accident came in 1990 at Elkhart, Wis., where he suffered numerous broken bones and nearly had his leg amputated.
“I told them to send me back to Texas,” Foyt said. “I sure as hell didn’t want it (the leg) to end up in a garbage can in Wisconsin.”
Based on the way he was able to bounce back from his variety of injuries, Foyt didn’t expect Tony Stewart to have any trouble in his return to racing.
Stewart missed the final two months of the 2013 season with a broken right leg and returned last week at the Daytona 500.
“I don’t think it will affect him,” Foyt said. “Tony’s a racer. He might limp or be crippled, but look at me. It never affected me when I got burned or nothing. I don’t think it’s going to affect Tony at all. Once you’re a racer, a hard racer, Tony ain’t going to settle for second or third. Tony will race just as hard for a dollar as he will for a million dollars.”
Foyt also had no trouble with the way Stewart was injured: Racing on a dirt track in Iowa, which led to criticism.
“I think that’s where me and him have become friends,” Foyt said. “A lot of people bad-mouthed him for running a sprint car race for everything he had going for him, but like I said, life’s short and if you can’t do what you want to do in life, what’s the use of living? I respect him racing. Just because it was a little bullring track he was racing on, a lot of people have done that before. You’ve got to respect Tony for what he’s doing.”
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