A man of many numbers

Published On January 12, 2015 » 10301 Views» By David Craske »

When I started becoming a fan of Indy Car racing in the early-80’s. A.J. Foyt was already driving his synonymous #14. At the time, I didn’t know what Gilmore was, nor did I really care – I was seven. He was driving the #14, and he was the favorite to win the Indianapolis 500.

As my interest in the ‘500’ grew, so did my curiosity about legends of the sport, including A.J.. I knew he had driven #1 for two of his ‘500’ wins (1961 & 1964) from the photos, but I never got the chance to see him drive the #1, or any other number for that matter. In my mind, he is and always will be #14. But it got me thinking … what other numbers had A.J. driven in the Indianapolis 500? A deeper dive into the photo and statistical archives was warranted, and this off-season, I finally got to do some digging.

Foyt’s rookie year at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was in 1958, driving a Dean Van Lines Special #29. Twenty-nine? Really? Sure enough … #29.

A.J. Foyt in 1958 - Dean Van Lines #29

A.J. Foyt in 1958 – Dean Van Lines #29

The next year, he wasn’t in the #29, but rather the #10. As you can see, even in 1959, he was a student in the craft of engineering a faster car.

A.J. Foyt in 1959 - Dean Van Lines #10

A.J. Foyt in 1959 – Dean Van Lines #10

1960 … and he was in the #5.

A.J. Foyt styling in 1960 - Dean Van Lines #5

A.J. Foyt styling in 1960 – Dean Van Lines #5

1961 was the first year he was in the #1, as he won the USAC National Championship in 1960. If you know your A.J. Foyt trivia, we all know what happened in that race.

A.J. Foyt in 1961 - First time in the #1 at Indy

A.J. Foyt in 1961 – First time in the #1 at Indy

A.J. would drive the #1 four times in that five-year span, corresponding with his four USAC National Championships, winning the ‘500’ again in 1964. The one time he didn’t drive the #1 in that span was in 1963, when he drove the #2. He finished 2nd in the championship to Rodger Ward in 1962.

A.J. Foyt in 1963 - The Sheraton-Thompson Special #2

A.J. Foyt in 1963 – The Sheraton-Thompson Special #2

He would drive the #1 one more time, in 1968. The prior year, 1967, saw his first race in another number – #14. Again, just as his first race with the #1, we all know what happened in that race.

A.J. Foyt in 1967 - First time in the #14 at Indy

A.J. Foyt in 1967 – First time in the #14 at Indy

According to Foyt’s website, he chose to drive the #14 because he said it had a good heritage having been campaigned in the past by the likes of Wilbur Shaw, Tony Bettenhausen and Bill Vukovich Sr. Foyt’s fondness for the number may have stemmed too from the first time he ran a #14 Indy car at Sacramento, California in October, 1962. Having switched rides with Bobby Marshman, Foyt won the event in the Thompson-Rotary 14, beginning a 10-year association with Sheraton-Thompson. I also think he was also being part-prophet … more on that in a bit.

He drove three other car numbers in consecutive years. In 1969, he drove Car #6 and started on pole. Car #7 in 1970 and started on the front row. Car #9 in 1971, finishing 3rd.

(Top to Bottom) A.J. Foyt in 1969, 1970, & 1971

(Top to Bottom) A.J. Foyt in 1969, 1970, & 1971

For the 1973 Indianapolis 500, he returned to the#14, and would retain that number for the rest of his driving career

A.J. Foyt returns to the #14 in 1973

A.J. Foyt returns to the #14 in 1973

I remember seeing his 1977 winning car, all decked out in the “Coyote Red”, not “Coyote Orange” as I originally thought, on one of my first times visiting the Speedway museum. I remember his transition years from all Coyote Red, to adding some black in the car, to the all-black #14 car in his final two years on track – 1992 his last race; 1993, turning over the keys (?) to the #14 to Robby Gordon after finding the Turn 1 wall in the sister #41 car.

A.J. Foyt - one final lap in 1993

A.J. Foyt – one final lap in 1993

So, where do I feel A.J. Foyt might have been part-prophet in his numerology?

My current duties with INDYCAR and the Verizon IndyCar Series include digitally entering the official entry lists into our statistics database, so I have to make doubly-sure I get the car number assigned to driver and team properly for our timing & scoring team can upload session statistics. Thus, when I enter “A.J. Foyt 14”, I have to smile. Why?

A.J. Foyt Enterprises …. #14

A.J. Foyt … Fourteen

A.J. Foyt … One – Four

A.J. Foyt … Won … Four

While he drove nine different car numbers in the Indianapolis 500 between 1958 and 1992, in my mind, there is no more perfect number for A.J. Foyt. He remains the definition of #14.

About The Author

David Craske

David is webmaster & digital content strategist for INDYCAR and the Verizon IndyCar Series. He grew up on the Illinois/Indiana border listening to the '500' while his father worked at the local radio station. While still a professional newbie in racing, his passion for the sport grows stronger each season. An avid golfer, caretaker to Camber (the golden retriever), and colorful personality on Twitter - if you dare (@djcraske). Follow along on Twitter (@INDYCAR) for more blog entries and news on the series.
1 comments
ChrisBlackwell
ChrisBlackwell

There's another reason Foyt took 14 as his number in 1967.  The previous year, he finished 13th in the USAC National Championship standings.  Car numbers in those days were assigned to drivers based on their finish in the prior year's points, however, #13 was avoided at all costs.  Therefore, 14 was the next number available to A.J.  As noted, he didn't make it his permanent number until 1973.