Monday, May 19, 2003

Foyt defends grandson for crashes

The Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS - A.J. Foyt passionately defended his grandson Sunday against suggestions the Indy Racing League rookie is too inexperienced to drive in the Indianapolis 500.

A.J. Foyt IV is the youngest-known qualifier in the race's history and won't turn 19 until May 25 - the day of the race. But he has already crashed twice in practice, most recently on Friday. He barely avoided hitting the wall on a warmup lap during his first qualifying attempt May 11 after spinning in turn two.The car rolled to a stop in the middle of the back straightaway - facing backward.

"I'm tired of people picking on him," said the elder Foyt, who criticized his grandson after Friday's crash but has since apologized. "Let's look at your top winners hitting the wall. Why don't you say something about that? Don't just pick on an 18-year-old rookie because his name's Foyt."

Foyt IV also crashed April 22 in private testing, hitting the wall between turns one and two.

The elder Foyt - a four-time winner of the Indy 500 - offered explanations Sunday for all the accidents, saying one was caused by a push, another by a cut tire and a third by having the wrong setup. He said the near-crash in qualifying was the result of wind.

Foyt IV began his racing career in 1994, driving junior dragsters, then competed in karts from 1995 to 2001.

Last year, as a rookie on the Indy Racing League's developmental series, Foyt IV won the series' points title. He moved up to the IRL this year and has finished 17th, 18th and 18th in the series' first three races.

He crashed in the IRL's last race at Japan on April 13.

But the elder Foyt believes his grandson is dealing with the same problems any rookie does.

"The boy passed his test with flying colors," Foyt said. "He's run over 228 mph with no trouble. He hasn't done nothing that Indy winners haven't done. What's he done wrong?"

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