A.J. – The Life of America’s Greatest Race Car Driver
By A.J. Foyt with William Neely; Publish Date: 1983; Publisher: Times Books, Hardcover, 234 pages
It’s Memorial Day Sunday 2020, and for as long as I can remember I’ve planned my weekend, and this day in particular around the Indy 500. It’s something my lovely wife has accepted and put up with over the years. But this year feels a bit hollow and empty knowing that the greatest race in the world has been postponed…not for a day or two because of rain, but because of the Covid-19 Pandemic. It’s crazy and uncertain times we live in for sure.
That being said I felt that the fifth book in my review series should honor the Memorial Day classic, so I’ve chosen A.J. – The Life of America’s Greatest Race Car Driver, by A.J. Foyt with William Neely. The name A.J. Foyt is synonymous with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indy 500. He was the first of the 4-time winners of the race. Drivers Al Unser Sr. and Rick Mears later joined that exclusive club. A.J. Foyt also holds the distinction of being the last person to win the race in a front-engine roadster, and is the only driver to win the Indy 500 in both styles of car (Front engine roadster: 1961 and 1964, rear-engine: 1967, 1977).
This is a unique autobiography, in that it does not chronicle in detail his numerous race wins and championships, but instead focuses mainly on what it took to achieve these successes. A.J. Foyt tells us about his family, the relationship with his father, his determination to win and his undying competitiveness. The reader is swept through the book with his numerous and often humorous anecdotal stories, describing what life was like on the climb to the top. What is abundantly clear is that A.J. Foyt was relentless in his pursuit of wins, championships and the ultimate prize, the Indianapolis 500.
I was fortunate to see four Indy 500 races in the 80’s (1980-1983). Though A.J. Foyt did not win any of those, he received by far the loudest and most lasting applause during the pre-race introductions. He sat on the outside of the front row in 1981 and 1982. It was a thrill to be able to see him race at the famed speedway.
I highly recommend A.J. – The Life of America’s Greatest Race Car Driver. It’s a clear and candid portrait of a racer driven to achieve greatness. I’m so glad I found this book at my local used book warehouse. I knew my collection wouldn’t be complete unless it included a book about the one and only A.J. Foyt.