LONG BEACH, California – A.J. Foyt has been honored with many awards for the accomplishments from his legendary racing career. He received another Thursday night.
The four-time Indianapolis 500 winner and current Verizon IndyCar Series team owner was presented with the Spirit of Ford Award in a ceremony at the Road Racing Drivers Club dinner held in conjunction with the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
The Spirit of Ford Award is Ford Motor Company's highest honor in auto racing, recognizing lifetime achievement and contribution to the industry both on and off the racetrack. Foyt becomes the 26th recipient, joining an international list of honorees from all forms of racing and racing media.
“It’s a great honor and Ford has always been good to me,” said Foyt, who was on hand for the dinner along with Dan Gurney as part of an event commemorating the 50th anniversary of the duo’s victory at the 1967 24 Hours of Le Mans, the first and only victory at Le Mans by an all-American team featuring all-American drivers.
“After 50 years, who would have thought that Gurney and I would be around to be honored?” said Foyt, 82. “It means an awful lot. It’s a big honor for Ford to do this for us.”
Foyt, the only driver in history to win the Indianapolis 500, Daytona 500, 24 Hours of Le Mans and 24 Hours of Daytona, was presented the award during the RRDC dinner by Edsel B. Ford II, great-grandson of company founder Henry Ford and a member of the company's board of directors. He and Gurney were also given a lifetime membership into The ACO’s Club de Pilotes for legends of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
"A.J. was one of my heroes in racing when I first followed the sport,” said Ford. “When looking back at his magnificent career, the question isn’t what did A.J. drive, but more what didn’t he drive and win in? His passion for driving and his commitment to the sport since his retirement have made him more than worthy for all the halls of fames he is part of.
“Many of his most significant victories – including the ’67 Le Mans win – came with Ford power and it’s truly my honor to be able to present him with our Spirit of Ford Award."
Emerson Fittipaldi was the featured honoree at the RRDC event that drew luminaries from around the racing world. Among the attendees were Indy car legends Mario Andretti, Parnelli Jones, Danny Sullivan, Arie Luyendyk and Dario Franchitti. Current Verizon IndyCar Series drivers Sebastien Bourdais, JR Hildebrand, Charlie Kimball and Josef Newgarden also attended.
As Gurney said, all the notables “were here to see Emmo.” The Brazilian legend told stories about how his love of racing was evident throughout his career. He included stories of his 1989 Indy 500 win, his Indy car debut in a pink car and racing suit and stories from his championship-winning career as an F1 driver.
Fittipaldi won the 1972 F1 season championship and 1989 Indy car title. His 22 career Indy car wins include two at the Indianapolis 500 (1989, ’93) and tie him for 20th on the all-time list with Tony Bettenhausen.