Coming full circle with A.J. Foyt

The week before I was scheduled to meet and interview A.J.Foyt for the first time, in May 1977, I had nightmares about him. I dreamed he ran over me on Indianapolis Motor Speedway's race track -- that's how much, I was sure, he didn't want to talk to a rookie auto racing writer, who initially didn't even know he was A.J. Foyt Jr., not Sr. I got through that interview, and he won the Indianapolis 500 for the fourth time that weekend. Over the past 35 years, I've learned a lot more about auto racing and written many more stories about A.J. But there had been a gap in our meetings over the past number of years, as The Sun stopped covering Indy car racing. Our relationship was rekindled in August, when I had the opportunity to sit down with him at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for nearly two hours for a Q&A that ran, Aug. 31, leading into the Grand Prix of Baltimore. It was a wonderful visit that at times reminded me of that long ago first interview when he stuck his chest out and told me if he'd been born in the days of the Wild West, he would have been a gunfighter. He was at his peak then, bold and tough and confident. A true Indy car action hero. This most recent meeting was just as far-ranging, and Foyt was as bold, confident and blunt as ever. But there was a much more human side, too. This time when he stuck out his chest, he wanted to compare his open heart surgery scar with mine. "I noticed it as soon as you walked in," he said and then began to tell me all about his most recent illnesses. It was one of my favorite interviews of the year. A.J. Foyt, Jr. and I had crossed time, fought our own battles and survived to be sitting in a team hauler in the middle of an Ohio field talking about everyday things, smiling and laughing. Not a bad dream in sight. -- Sandra McKee
Baltimore Sun photo by Gene Sweeney Jr.
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