A.J. Foyt

IndyCar legend and team owner A.J. Foyt, shown at Daytona International Speedway in January, appeared Tuesday in Fontana before next month's IndyCar race there. (Chris Trotman / Getty Images)

His limp was noticeable but A.J. Foyt wore a broad smile as the legendary IndyCar driver and now team owner walked into the media center under his own power and shook hands with reporters and photographers.

The occasion was an IndyCar test session at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana on Tuesday, a mundane but necessary exercise in which the cars run practice laps in preparation of the IndyCar race there Oct. 19.

But for the 78-year-old Foyt, the day marked his first major trip from his home near Houston since having hip replacement surgery on his left hip in June.

Foyt flew in from Texas and his driver, Takuma Sato of Japan, flew in from Tokyo. It was the first time they had seen each other in three months.

"It was good to see A.J. back at the track after such a long time away," said Sato, who won the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach in April.

Foyt showed hints of his famous irascibility during his press conference. But overall the four-time winner of the Indianapolis 500 was cordial, polite, funny and philosophical as he talked about his team, how much he missed being around race cars, and life in general.

Foyt has suffered a variety of health problems in recent years. Before his hip surgery, he had back surgery in April to relieve sciatic nerve pain. His son Larry is the team's day-to-day manager.

"It's nice to be back, it's better than a hospital bed," A.J. Foyt said. "I think you've got to be pretty damn tough to get old, to be honest with you. My body is all false now -- false knee, false shoulder, false hip."

But Foyt said he wasn't complaining. "If you can't do in life what you want you want to do, what's the use of living? If I was reborn tomorrow, I wouldn't change my life because I've had a wonderful life and a lot of fun."

Then Foyt was asked how long he'll continue to be involved in the sport that made him an American icon.

"I guess until they lower that box and I'm looking up at the grass and not down at it," he replied. "As long as I can look down at it I'll probably be around."

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