Sep 26, 2013
WALLER, Texas – Motorists on state highway 290 are teased by the road sign for the intersecting AJ Foyt Parkway, and a few hundred yards to the south striking red letters identify the racing legend's headquarters.
The curious exit, winding their way past the stone "Welcome to Waller" sign and turn left at the Jack in the Box onto Stokes Road to snap a photo. The bold approach the front door and, despite the “Not Open to the Public” sign, inquire if Super Tex is about the property or request to peruse the memorabilia collection they’ve spied through the large windows.
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It’s on the bucket list for some travelers, according to office manager Nancy Foyt (A.J.’s daughter-in-law), many of whom have been informed of the location and contents of the warehouse-like structure with a showroom by family, friends and social media.
This working facility, home to the IZOD IndyCar Series team for almost 20 years, isn’t all that much different from the Johnson Space Center in nearby Houston -- the area’s top tourist attraction – with artifacts chronicling more than 60 years of Foyt family history surrounding the bays where crew members are assembling the No. 14 ABC Supply car for the Oct. 5-6 races on the Reliant Park street circuit and in A.J.'s office.
Foyt, the grand marshal for the Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston, is the only driver to win the Indianapolis 500 (four times), the Daytona 500, the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. He amassed 67 career Indy car victories, which won’t be surpassed in his lifetime, and 172 major wins overall, 14 major driving championships, and has been inducted into every major international motorsports hall of fame to list a few accomplishments and honors.
“It is quite a collection from a long and successful career,” says demure general manager Jack Starne, who brushes off that he’s part of that history as a member of the Foyt team/family since 1967.
Front and center in the showroom is the Copenhagen car that was driven by Foyt when he retired on Pole Day at Indianapolis in 1993. A few steps away is the Chevrolet Camaro Pace Car that he drove in the 100th anniversary Indianapolis 500 in 2011. To the left is Kenny Brack’s 1999 Indianapolis 500-winning car, and down the row is the orange truck that Foyt drove at age 61 in the inaugural NASCAR truck race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in ’96.
“We put another engine in it and could take it to lunch if we wanted,” Starne adds.
A red Ford GT40 Mk IV production car, similar to the one Foyt and Dan Gurney drove to victory at Le Mans in ’67, bears Foyt’s autograph on the roof. The winning car, which remains the only car designed and built in the United States to win at Le Mans, occupied a spot in the former shop in Houston in the ‘90s.
“I rode with A.J. in that car to an agency once and as we were coming up to an S turn I thought, ‘Oh, he’s going to give me a ride through here,’ ’’ Starne relates. “Right at that time a Houston Police car was coming the other way. Then we got onto the freeway and he opened it up to 178 mph. We were passing telephone poles like they were a picket fence. It was loud and rattling, but once we got up to 130 (mph) it was a quiet as could be.”
The 2002 Indy Lights championship-winning car, a go-kart and dragster driven by grandson A.J. Foyt IV adds to the mix, which also includes an encased Indianapolis 500 Mile Race champion’s wreath, several 3-foot-tall trophies and artwork depicting classic moments through A.J.’s career.
The workshop and storage space contains a lineup of 1990s chassis, Midget and Sprint cars, along with vintage posters and banners on the walls featuring Foyt in various cars and even on a Wheaties box.
Super Tex enters the back room oblivious to the time capsule.
“There sure is a lot of stuff here, isn’t there?” he concedes, noting the treasure trove of personal effects in his office that would be ripe for the guys from "American Pickers."