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AJ Foyt Racing, Indy Legends: ‘We Have The Right Grittiness, We Are Going To Punch Above Our Weight,” JR Hildebrand Said

Knowing the triumphs and personalities of the players in any sport gives the entire experience of being a fan all that much more thrill and connectivity, and there is one race car driver whose epic falls and victories span five generations-AJ Foyt who was a thrilling driver, and now has a thrilling team.

And his influence is still alive in Indy Car bringing new legends to the sport of racing- so the new fan can join in and the old fan can look back with satisfaction.

JR Hildebrand was the guest on the #RacingFamily Twitter show, on Twitter Space on Friday.  Co-hosts, Marshall Pruett, and Christopher Wheeler. It is a fun and intimate program with casual talk combined with technical discussions, it is a great place for the new race fan to jump in and get a warm welcome.

The show’s discussion opened on Hildebrand being chosen on Friday to race ovals for legendary AJ Foyt- which is good news as the Month of May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) approaches the ” greatest spectacle in racing” for 2022.

Foyt’s Team member, JR Hildebrand is a veteran racer of good looking cars:

The AP reported on the exciting news about Hidledbrand, including that Foyt has the only female driver in Indy Car:

J.R. Hildebrand was named the oval driver for A.J. Foyt Racing on Friday and will make his season debut next week at Texas Motor Speedway.

Hildebrand will share the No. 11 Chevrolet with Tatiana Calderón, the Colombian hired to race the street and road courses this year. Calderón, the only woman in the IndyCar field, has no oval experience.

Hildebrand has 66 career IndyCar starts, including 11 straight starts in the Indianapolis 500. He nearly won the race as a rookie in 2011 but crashed as the leader entering the final turn and was passed by Dan Wheldon for the win. Hildebrand finished second.

“I’m excited to have this opportunity to get back in the car, do a little more racing, and work with the A.J. Foyt Racing squad again,” Hildebrand said. “Although the results may not have looked special on paper, I was really impressed by what we accomplished last year at the 500 and look forward to attacking these other ovals on the IndyCar schedule.”

Foyt’s Team Has The Only Woman In Indy Car:

And

IMS jumped on to send a warm welcome to Hildebrand and Team Foyt:

No doubt the team is headed to Indy.

“There is a grittiness to our team approach of racing with these Foyt Team members,” Hildebrand told Pruett.  “We have a different level of resources than a Ganassi or a Pence, but we have the right attitude as a team and have found a sweet spot, so this squad is going to punch above their weight this year,” Hildebrand said.

AMERICAN GRIT

The team is in the long shadow of a legend.

I know about Foyt’s legendary grittiness, from growing up around the Indy 500 and listening to people talk about Foyt.  Everyone wanted to know what Foyt was going to pull out of his hat that year.  The man is a legend for his grit, determination and independent personality.

I got to ask Pruett And Wheeler what they thought was Foyt’s most notable sign of grit that contributed to racing.  Pruett told me a brilliant story about Foyt’s comeback in 1990. Wheeler told me about Foyt’s loyalty.

Start listening at 1:03. The recorded program is here.

HE IS THE COMEBACK KID

@MarshallPurett

I would say of all the gritty things that AJ has done it, it is his comeback from the horrific crash at rd America, so if you know rd America you know that you come out of the final corner, go up a forever long straight away and you are doing back then with the Cart Indy Car and those turbocharged, beautiful V8s.  You are doing a Zillion miles per hour- then you need to shed a lot of speed and hang a right, and i don’t recall whether it was a struct step throttle or brake failure I think.. long story – short- AJ is shot like a missile of at the top of that hill at almost 200 Miles her hour.  And there is nothing to slow him down, other than a dirt embankment.  And I don’t mean tires and safer barriers, to beautifully dissipate energy.  I am talking about a missile straight into earth and this is also back in the day before chassis design change, where the driver’s feet at that point were forward of the front axle, pretty far forward in the chassis, instead of way back like they are now.  So the front of the car just accordioned, straight into the Earth and it took them forever to get him out of the car, because his feet and ankles were just ripped to shreds, beaten to a pulp, pulverized, and at his age- he was 50 or 51, a lot of folks thought- this is it, he has been too much now. He was a four-time winner, an amazing champ- but no he fought like mad, like truly the resolve in him to get back into the car, was something that was amazing. He had to get back into the car.

“I always look at that and when you see him walk two day and it looks like he’s dancing. And I’m not saying that to be funny or in any demeaning way. He does not walk in a straight line, his legs and everything are not the same lengths. Like truly walking is still a big pain for him, but the fact that he could not stand to be out of a car for any longer than necessary while in his 50’s is that kind of grit.”

Fact Check: Yep. He was in the earth.

IT’s HIS DETERMINATION!
@thechriswheeler said:
One of my favorite AJ Foyt isms that’s allowed to be told in the space, if you look back in time, do you think Nike is? I consider Nike? I think Michael Jordan. I think STP. I think Richard Petty when I think Goodyear.
I think AJ Foyt.  I love the fact that it was up until-Marshall, you might know them better detail-, but up until I would say the last 15 years. Goodyear still made tires for AJ. He would have four cars – race cars with GoodYears on him in a series of Goodyear no longer competed in and he would take the car around pit, area on his Good Years- and I think finally the fines and the pressure finally got to be too much.  But if you look at the Coyote Logo the Coyote Racing logo. That just summarizes who AJ is as a person that he sticks with his people. He sticks with his beliefs and if you’re not on board with it then he doesn’t really give a hell.
Fact Check: Yep. Goodyears are on the logo:

 

It is that grittiness of AJ Foyt that made the four-time Indy 500 winner- so legendary, so that won’t be something long-time race fans overlook. For those new to the sport of racing- investigating that grittiness will give them a great foundation into the spirit of AJ Foyt Racing.

Check it out:

The 1990 Crash

Foyt beats everyone with a dirt car!

Best of AJ Foyt.

So Hildebrand gets AJ Foyt’s racing spirit.

“All Ovals are different.  Nowhere is there an oval that is just flat driving.  There is a lot of development and that is exciting to roll into these weekends outside of Indianpoils so if we can just get straighted out we will have a shot at it,” Hildebrand told the show hosts.

So he is going to get some practice out on the tracks so when qualifying time comes- he is going to be ready to race – really fast.

From the AP:

“We had a great experience working with J.R. last year, and there is no doubt he is very competitive at Indianapolis,” team president Larry Foyt said. “He is still very motivated to drive Indy cars and is a setup-savvy, technical driver who will be a strong addition to our oval races this year.”

WHAT IS SHARING A CAR?

About sharing the car- that is the thing about not having the resources of someone like a team Penske. Hildebrand reminded listeners on the Pruett podcast that he had shared a car before- “which was a little strange because we were both sort of auditioning for road course and ovals.. so it is was a funny dynamic- but now it is more straight forward about what we are both trying to do.  Driving ovals is a little different more disciple than other courses, it’s a different vipe.  It is awesome that I get to do some more races not just the 500.”

That is real racers do… they do whatever they can do- so they can race.

Foyt is the quintessential American boy with dreams of racing in his spirit- he has never been the guy with the most valuable resources- he has always been the guy with the biggest passion.

And the most grit. Watch for his team to show that in their team approach.

Team member Kyle Kirkwood is a firebrand

According to a press release from Foyt Racing about the promising racer:

“Kirkwood, 23, is the only driver to win championships in all three divisions of the Road to Indy (RTI) presented by Cooper Tires ladder system, and he did it in consecutive seasons: USF2000 in 2018, Indy Pro 2000 in 2019 and Indy Lights this year (the 2020 Indy Lights season was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic).”

KyleKirkwood.com reported on developments by the Foyt Racing team:

A.J. Foyt Racing’s Kyle Kirkwood led the six drivers in attendance for IndyCar’s rookie certification test at Texas Motor Speedway on Wednesday.

The dauntingly fast 1.5-mile oval played host to five teams, with the 2021 Indy Lights champion, Juncos Hollinger Racing’s Callum Ilott, and Dale Coyne Racing with HMD Motorsports’ David Malukas springing to the top of the chart towards the end of a day that had previously been mostly led by Andretti Autosport’s Romain Grosjean.

Andretti teammate Devlin DeFrancesco and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Christian Lundgaard completed the running order. Grosjean, who did his first oval race last year at World Wide Technology Raceway, had the fastest individual lap without the benefit of an aerodynamic tow (218.21mph).

In the case of Lundgaard and Ilott, the two Europeans turned their very first laps on an oval after focusing exclusively on road racing prior to the TMS visit.

The running was set for the morning and afternoon to mirror when the cars will be on track in a few weeks when practice, qualifying and the race will be held in the daytime.

(All speeds unofficial)

1. Kyle Kirkwood, No. 14 A.J. Foyt Racing Chevy, 219.79mph
2. Callum Ilott, No. 77 Juncos Hollinger Racing Chevy, 219.11mph
3. Romain Grosjean, No. 28 Andretti Autosport Honda, 218.69mph
4. David Malukas, No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing with HMD Motorsports Honda, 217.99mph
5. Devlin DeFrancesco, No. 29 Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport Honda, 217.69mph
6. Christian Lundgaard, No. 30 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, 216.91mph

LEGENDS

“Look at what we are doing, it may not be headline news, but on Ovals and Road Courses we are doing some good things,” Hildebrand the veteran of the squad told Pruett.  “I am excited to see the progress of other drivers,” he said.

And if history is any indicator- that Foyt name will be attached to a brilliant racing spirit that makes racing exciting and even a noble pursuit.

Hildebrand will run at Texas next Sunday, Indianapolis in May, the July doubleheader at Iowa and finally at Gateway in August.

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