The unparalleled success that Mario Andretti and A. J. Foyt, Jr. had in their respective racing careers is well documented in the sheer numbers of their successes, but perhaps the greatest legacy the duo has left the motorsports world is the scope of the different styles of vehicles in which they won.
And they didn’t just win races, they won championships, too In the mid-’60’s, thru the early 70’s, Foyt and Andretti battled wheel-to-wheel in Indy cars, each winning championships during that time before Andretti answered the siren call of Formula One in 1975.
Along the way, they both won the Indianapolis 500, the Daytona 500, multiple Indycar championships and an IROC title each. Andretti won the world championship in Formula One, and won at Sebring; Foyt won both the 24 hours of LeMans and the 24 Hours of Daytona. Each has earned recognition as Driver of the Year.
Andretti was born in Montona, Italy in 1940, then came to the United State at the age of 15. He, along with his twin brother Aldo, worked in their uncle’s garage, and began racing modifieds in 1959. Mario won 20 times in his first two seasons.
Andretti raced his first Indy Car in 1964. The next year, he was Rookie of the Year at the Indy 500, won his first Indy Car race, and captured his first Indy Car championship. He would win the title again in 1966, 1969 and 1984.
In the late 1960’s, he successfully raced Indy Cars, Formula One and Formula 5000, winning in each. From 1975 thru 1981, Andretti competed in F- 1, winning 16 races and 12 poles. His signature season was 1978 when he won six times en route to the title.
Returning to Indy Cars, he raced them until 1994, with his last win coming at Phoenix in 1993. He is second in all-time wins with 52, and he ranks first in both poles (67) and laps led (7587).
While open wheel cars were his first love, Andretti also enjoyed driving virtually anything, and he posted 109 career wins on major racing circuits. He was chosen Driver of the Year three times, and in 1992 was named Driver of the Quarter Century.
A. J. Foyt was born in Houston in 1935, and grew up around his dad’s racecars. Foyt decided at an early age that he wanted to drive a racecar, and by the time he was 18, he was winning on Midwestern racing circuits.
He went from there to sprint cars, then on to Indy Cars, quickly becoming a winner. He won the Indy 500 for the first time in 1961 at the age of 26. He won again in 1964 and 1967, and became Indy’s first four-time winner in 1977. For his career, Foyt won a record 67 Indy Car races, and captured seven Indy Car championships, also a record.
While he was dominating Indy Car races, Foyt took time to compete successfully in other venues, winning not only the Daytona 500, but also six other NASCAR races and 41 USAC stock car events. He also won 50 USAC sprint, midget and dirt races.
Foyt retired after the 1993 Indianapolis 500, but came out of retirement the following year to race in the inaugural Brickyard 400. He now owns two Indy Racing League (IRL) teams, and is fielding a team in NASCAR Winston Cup for the first time in 2000.