Rookie has Foyt's car now all he wants is fame to go with it AUTO RACING


INDIANAPOLIS -- The pictures of A. J. Foyt flash clearly through the mind:

* Foyt lifting the Indianapolis 500 winner's trophy four times.

* Foyt screaming at his crew, cursing his fellow drivers, slamming the garage door in the face of the media.

* Foyt pulling his race car into the pits, climbing out, grabbing a hammer and taking whack after frustrated whack at the rear fender.

Yesterday, rookie driver Robby Gordon tried to expand the image.

"A. J. has taught me a lot," said Gordon, driver for Foyt's racing team. "The most important thing he has taught me is patience."


Gordon did not laugh, but Foyt did.

"Patience?" Foyt said, nearly choking. "Did he really say patience? Maybe my threatening him is finally having some impact.

"The only thing Robby knows is that he wants to run fast and be very, very recognized."

Gordon is one of two drivers who will be in the Indianapolis 500 field Sunday driving for Foyt, who retired as a driver 12 days ago.

John Andretti, Foyt's godson, is the other.

Foyt has made it clear he believes Andretti has a very good chance to win Sunday. He has made it equally clear that Gordon could do well or wind up in a wall, depending on how he listens.

There is lot of Foyt in Gordon. Both are hard-headed. Both want to run things. Both want to go fast. And Gordon wants what Foyt has, recognition.

When Foyt was a teen-ager, going to races with his daddy in Texas, his father got so mad at him for not listening to directions, he took his son's race car away.

After Gordon put his Copenhagen Lola Ford in the wall for ththird time on the first day of qualifying, Foyt benched him.

When Foyt announced he was retiring shortly after Gordon'accident to concentrate on running his race teams, Gordon asked for Foyt's car.

"He begged me to give him the car," Foyt recalled. "He said: 'Leme go qualify. I can get the pole.' I told him he no doubt could get the pole, but it would be the flag pole. I told him that letting him run for the pole would be the worst thing I could do.

"I could have let him qualify at the front. The car had the speeand Robbie is brave. But I don't want my car up there on guts."

Gordon was benched. Foyt went home to Texas for three days tadjust to his retirement with strict orders to his crew not to let Gordon on the track until the following Wednesday -- and then not to let him run over 212 mph.

"The moment they let him out there, he snuck up to 219," Foysaid. "The problem is, I want him ahead of the car, not the car ahead of him."

When Gordon finally was given the green light to qualify for thirace, he ran 220.085 mph. He will start on the inside of the ninth row. Andretti, in Foyt's other car, qualified at 221.746, to be on the outside of Row 8.

When asked why Foyt chose him for his driver this season, Gordon, 24, is quick on the trigger.

"I'm good," he said, then adds, "You're not going to use that, aryou?"

He doesn't particularly want Foyt to hear it.

Foyt already knows Gordon believes he is good.

Gordon was branded a Wunderkind before he had a driver'license. He has raced dirt bikes, motorcycles and off-road vehicles. He has victories in the Nevada 500 and the Baja 1000.

He has won the IMSA GTO 24 Hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring. In his 1991 NASCAR debut, he raced to a top five finish in the Daytona 500.

"He is talented," Foyt said. "But he has also been very lucky. He has hit the wall here three times and not even broken a fingernail. I've tried to tell him just how lucky he is, because I don't give a damn who you are, staying healthy in a crash here is not skill."

Because Foyt, whose record number of consecutive Indy 500 starts stands at 35, knows all these things, there are many lectures for Gordon. Foyt said he'll sit him down again today before the team's final practice session and again Sunday before the 500, to impress on him the need to listen.

Foyt will oversee both his teams in the pits Sunday. He has told both of them that the race doesn't really start until 400 miles.

"That's what we have to shoot for," Foyt said.

"I've got one I can hold [Andretti] and one [Gordon] I don't know how long I can hold. I might have to hobble him a little bit."

The secret to doing well at Indy, Foyt said, is to be smooth and not out-drive your ability.

"We'll see Sunday if I've got through to him," Foyt said. "I'm not saying all these things to embarrass Robby. I simply don't want anyone to get hurt in my cars. I'm not saying he will get hurt. But some of the stuff he's pulling, if it keeps on, you will get hurt. We've been very, very lucky."

* The Chicago-based Marmon Group of companies, named for the original Marmon Wasp driven to victory by Ray Harroun in the inaugural 500 in 1911, said yesterday that it will sponsor John Andretti's car.

The entry is now the A.J. Foyt Copenhagen Racing/Marmon Wasp II, a 1992 Lola /Ford Cosworth XB.


When: Sunday

Where:Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Time: 11 a.m.

TV: Channels 13, 7

Pole sitter: Arie Luyendyk, 223.967 mph

Defending champ: Al Unser Jr.

Cars in field: 33

Indy 500 winners in field: 6 (Arie Luyendyk, Mario Andretti, Al Unser Jr., Emerson Fittipaldi, Danny Sullivan, Al Unser Sr.

Average speed of field: 219.692 mph (record: 223.479 in 1992)

Today: Carburetion Day, noon-2 p.m., a traditional final two-hour test session. Indy cars no longer have carburetors, but the traditional name still is used.

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