INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, Aug. 2, 2001 - The next A.J. Foyt - literally - is rushing into the future of open-wheel auto racing. A.J. Foyt IV, grandson of the legendary four-time Indianapolis 500 champion of the same name, already is involved in the Indy Racing Northern Light Series. He will change the left-front tire on Donnie Beechler's A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone car during the Belterra Casino Indy 300 on Aug. 12 at Kentucky Speedway. It will be the sixth straight race that he has handled those duties.
In the cockpit, young Foyt won his Formula 2000 regional championship with nine poles and eight victories. Just a week ago, he won the karting Nationals in Iowa.
And on Aug. 18, according A.J. Foyt team manager Craig Baranouski, A.J. Foyt IV will make his USAC Silver Bullet Series debut on the dirt at Springfield, Ill. Forty-four years ago on Aug. 17, 1957, A.J. Foyt Jr., then 22, made his first USAC champ car start on the same Illinois State Fairgrounds track, taking the green from 16th place, finishing ninth and earning a whopping $607.
"He's definitely the next generation of Foyt racing," Baranouski said.
Foyt IV is the son of Nancy and Tony Foyt. A.J. began bragging about his grandson when the youngster was driving junior dragsters as a 9-year-old. The youngest A.J. already has driven at Indy, competing on the Indianapolis Raceway Park quarter-mile strip in a dragster. A.J. IV became a part of the Indy Racing League when his grandfather decided to continue running Beechler - after adding to him to his stable along with primary driver Eliseo Salazar for the Indianapolis 500 - at the next race at Texas. The elder Foyt still is campaigning the two drivers and cars although he funds Beechler's operation.
"At Texas we had a deal where on yellows we would use the "B" team (including Foyt IV) on pit stops and on green stops use the "A" team," Baranouski said.
"As it turned out, every stop was under yellow with the "B" team. He's gotten really good. He practices with the guys in the shop all the time."
Foyt IV already has felt the wrath of beaten competitors. He won the pole and his first F2000 race at Texas Motor Speedway, then five more in a row.
"Some guys thought that we were cheating," Foyt IV said on the Foyt Racing Web site. "One guy was sure we were, so he protested my engine."
This caused him to miss the race as tech officials inspected his engine. It was legal.
Foyt IV returned to win two more, but then the protestor crashed into him on the first lap of the next race.
"That would be my last race because of schedule conflicts with my grandfather's Indy car team," he said. "I had been drafted to work on the pit crew."
Though missing three races, young Foyt still accumulated enough points to win the title.
Before going to Kentucky Speedway next week, A.J. Foyt Jr. will be at Indy this weekend to watch son Larry drive in the Busch race at IRP on Aug. 4 and Ron Hornaday compete in the Winston Cup Brickyard 400 on Aug. 5.
*** Veteran mechanic switches teams: Veteran mechanic Tim Bumps has jumped right into his new job as program manager for Walker Racing as he tested with the team at Kentucky Speedway, Gateway International Raceway and Chicagoland Speedway this week.
Bumps, who had been team manager for Kelley Racing in the Indy Racing Northern Light Series, worked with Sarah Fisher at Kentucky, Casey Mears and Fisher at Gateway and Fisher at Chicagoland. Team owner Derrick Walker has hired Bumps, an Indianapolis native, for a second time. He originally hired him to work with Team Penske. Bumps was Rick Mears' crew chief when Mears won the Indianapolis 500 for the fourth time in 1991. Bumps started with Patrick Racing in 1981 working for engine guru Sonny Meyer. At 18, Bumps was part of Gordon Johncock's 1982 Indy victory. Bumps also experienced Indy victories with Al Unser in 1987, Mears in 1988 and Emerson Fittipaldi in 1993.
In May 2000, Bumps helped his longtime south-side Indianapolis buddy Andy Hillenburg achieve his dream of qualifying for the Indianapolis 500.
"We struggled over the last few races to understand the Dallara (chassis)," Walker said. "And we feel we've made some gains at Kentucky to rectify that.
"We took some steps as a team in the right direction today as well, with Tim Bumps joining Walker Racing as program manager. He has a strong background and has worked for a number of good teams over the years."
Kelley Racing has not replaced Bumps. Team manager Jim Freudenberg was assigned the additional job of overseeing the operation on the two cars assigned to drivers Scott Sharp and Mark Dismore. Fisher returns to Kentucky Speedway where she made her first Indy Racing breakthrough by finishing third last August. Since then, she has added a second-place finish at Homestead-Miami Speedway this season. *** Cody Unser gives speech: Cody Unser, daughter of two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Jr., addressed the Prudential's annual Masters Conference on Aug. 2 in Vancouver, British Columbia. Cody, 14, who is paralyzed from the chest down after being stricken with transverse myelitis in early 1999, was selected as a 2001 national Spirit of Community honoree, an award citing American youth for volunteerism. The 104 state and district winners were selected from 23,000 entrants by Prudential and the Association of Secondary School Principals. The high-school-freshman-to-be was chosen for establishing the Cody Unser First Step Foundation. She has become a national figure in TM awareness, paralysis and related issues such as stem cell therapy. In May, Cody was among the 104 honorees invited to Washington, D.C., for special presentation ceremonies and four days of visits around the nation's capital. She was one of two honorees chosen to address the Masters Conference. Cody returned to her Albuquerque, N.M., hometown to prepare for the Foundation's Cody Unser Santa Ana Celebrity Golf Fiesta on Aug. 6-7. Anyone interested in further information should contact the Foundation at (505) 890-0086 or by signing on www.CodysFirstStep.org and clicking on the golf ball. *** Hot laps: Indy Racing Northern Light Series points leader Sam Hornish Jr. and Kelley Racing teammates Scott Sharp and Mark Dismore tested Aug. 1 at Gateway International Raceway near St. Louis, site of the Gateway Indy 250 on Aug. 26. Hornish's best lap was 26.35 seconds, 170.77 mph in the No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone. Dismore led the Kelley team at 26.5 seconds in the No. 28 Delphi Automotive Systems/Bryant Heating & Cooling Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone, with Sharp at 26.79 in the No. 8 Delphi Automotive Systems Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone ... From the Atlanta race in 1998 through the opening race of 2000, Buzz Calkins was running at the finish of 13 consecutive Indy Racing League races. 1996 Indy Racing co-champion Calkins has another streak going heading into the Belterra Casino Indy 300 on Aug. 12 at Kentucky Speedway with 11 in a row. The winner of the first Indy Racing League race in January 1996, Calkins has been running at the finish of 38 of 49 races. Accidents have removed him from only two races ... Driver Jeret Schroeder returns to the cockpit of the Tri Star Motorsports Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone at Kentucky after missing the Nashville race. Immediately after the Aug. 12 race at Kentucky, he will fly to Chicago to sign autographs in the Purity Products booth during the National Hardware Show at McCormick Place Convention Center. He will be at Booth 37412 from noon-4 p.m. (CDT) Aug. 13 and 10 a.m.-2 p.m. on Aug. 14.