Today in 1957, A.J. Foyt, Jr, a race car driver, won his first pro victory at the U.S. Automobile Club midget car race in Kansas City, Missouri. Foyt, originally from Texas, would go on to become one of the most famous race car drivers in history.
Foyt originally raced the aforementioned midget cars, named due to their small size. He also raced stock cars, before entering the Indianapolis 500 in 1958. Three years later, Foyt won his first Indy 500. Eddie Sachs, his main competition, had to change a tire during the final laps, allowing Foyt to gain the lead. His average speed for that race was 139.13 mph, at that time a record.
In 1964, Foyt had an unprecedented winning percentage of .769, winning ten out of thirteen races. That year, he won the Indy 500 again, with an average speed of 147.45 mph.
In 1965, Foyt almost died during a stock car race. He was severely injured, emerging from the crash with a broken back, fractured ankle and badly damaged chest. It wasn’t enough to stop him.
In 1967, Foyt came back to win his third Indy 500 victory, in a car that he and his father designed. Two weeks after that win, he won the 24 Hours of LeMans competition in France, with his teammate Don Gurney.
When Foyt won the Daytona 500 in 1972, he became the first driver to ever win all three major motor sports races: the Indy 500, the 24 Hours of LeMans and the Daytona 500.
He’s still a record holder. He has the most total victories, at 67. He also boasts the most national championships, seven, and most victories in one season, ten. He also still holds the title for most consecutive Indy 500 starts – he participated in the race every year for 35 years in a row. He won it yet again in 1977, when Foyt, then 42 years old, set an average speed of 161.331 mph. Only two other men have ever lived up to his record of four Indy 500 wins.
Foyt was the first person ever inducted into the Motor Sports Hall of Fame in Novi, Michigan, in 1989. Four years later, he retired after the first day of qualifying races for the Indy 500.
After racing, Foyt ran a some car dealerships, as well as funeral homes. He also invested in oil and bred racehorses. He is currently 82.