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A. J. Foyt - No Pain, No Gain

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While Foyt racked up impressive records and statistics in his long racing career, he also racked up several injuries, some of which were life-threatening. In a sport as dangerous as auto racing, injuries are common. What is uncommon is the fact that Foyt repeatedly bounced back from injuries that might convince other racers to pack it in. His first serious injury came in 1965 during a NASCAR race in Riverside, California. His brakes failed, and he tried to avoid crashing into Junior Johnson and Marvin Panch, two racers who were in front of him. In the process of avoiding this crash, Foyt flipped his car down an embankment, breaking his back and fracturing his heel in the process. By the time the medics, a fellow racer, and a team owner descended the 25-foot embankment and reached Foyt's car, Foyt was not breathing, his skin was blue, and they assumed he was dead. However after noticing some slight movement, and scooping the mud out of Foyt's mouth, he was able to breathe again and they took him to the hospital.

Foyt has been severely burned on several occasions, as in 1972, during a dirt-car race in DuQuoin, Illinois, when he was set on fire. During a pit stop, the fuel hose broke lose and sprayed two gallons of alcohol-nitro mixture onto Foyt's head. Assuming that it would evaporate, Foyt started to drive out of the pits. Unfortunately, one of his car's side-mounted exhaust pipes backfired, setting Foyt's head ablaze. In his panic, he jumped out of the car, intending to jump into a lake in the infield. However, the car was still moving, and the left rear tire rolled over his leg, breaking his leg and ankle. Still on fire, Foyt attempted to hobble to the infield, while his father chased after him, eventually catching up to him and spraying him with a fire extinguisher.

Awards and Accomplishments

Foyt won a career record seven Indy car national championships (1960-61, 1963-64, 1967, 1975, and 1979).
Foyt won a career record sixty-seven Indy car races.
Foyt won a career record nine 500-mile races (the Indianapolis 500 in 1961, 1964, 1967, and 1977; the Pocono 500 in 1973, 1975, 1979, and 1981; and the California 500 in 1975).
Foyt is the only driver who has won the Indianapolis 500, the Daytona 500, and the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Foyt is the only driver who has won the Indianapolis 500 in both a front-engine and a rear-engine race car.
Foyt's USAC career record for total victories is 158. He is the only driver who has won twenty or more victories in USAC's four major categories: Indy cars, stock cars, sprint cars, and midget cars.
1960-61, 1963-64, 1967, 1975, 1979 National Indy car championship
1961 Wins Indianapolis 500 race at an average speed of 139.130 mph, a new race record
1961 Wins record twenty USAC (United States Auto Club) races in one year
1964 Wins Indianapolis 500 at an average speed of 147.350, a new race record
1964 Wins a record ten Indy car season victories (out of thirteen starts)
1965 Wins a record ten pole positions in Indy cars this season, including the Indianapolis 500
1967 Wins Indianapolis 500 at an average speed of 151.207 mph, a new race record
1967 Foyt and teammate, Dan Gurney, become the first Americans to win France's 24 Hours of Le Mans race
1968, 1978 USAC stock car championship
1972 Daytona 500
1972 USAC dirt car championship
1977 Wins record fourth Indianapolis 500
1979 Becomes first driver to win USAC's national Indy car and stock car championships in the same season
1981 Wins record ninth victory in 500-mile Indy car races at the Pocono 500
1983, 1985 24 Hours of Daytona
1985 12 Hours of Sebring
1989 Inaugural inductee into the Motorsports Hall of Fame
1991 USAC and Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) reserve the number fourteen for the exclusive use of Foyt as either a driver or team owner, to be retired upon Foyt's retirement from the sport; this is the first time either of the two organizations have retired a racing number
1992 Qualifies for record thirty-five consecutive Indianapolis 500 races
1993 Wins the American Sportscasters Association Sports Legend Award
1999 Foyt named Driver of the Century by the Associated Press (along with Mario Andretti)

Foyt experienced his most painful injury during an Indy car race in 1990, at the Road America course in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. Once again, as in the 1965 NASCAR race, Foyt's brakes failed. Since he was going 190 mph and was coming up on a 90-degree turn, Foyt did the only thing he could to avoid a fatal roll—he plowed straight through the wooden wall, sending his car airborne into a dirt embankment. In the process, Foyt broke his left knee, dislocated his left tibia (which shot up his leg, through his knee, and into his thigh muscle), crushed his left heel, dislocated his right heel, and suffered compartment syndrome in both feet. Foyt remained awake as the rescuers tried to unearth him, and he pleaded with them to hit him in the head with a hammer and knock him out so he would not have to feel the excruciating pain. Following these massive injuries, Foyt's peers assumed that he would announce his retirement. However, Foyt surprised everybody by undergoing a grueling physical therapy regimen with the Houston Oilers's strength-and-rehabilitation coach, Steve Watterson, in an attempt to come back and win a fifth Indianapolis 500 race. Although he did not win the Indianapolis 500 in 1991, he did compete in it that year and in 1992, the latter at the seasoned age of fifty-seven.

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