#IndyCarLegends gathering elicits great memories, one-liners

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The #IndyCarLegends presentation at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles on April 13 was a night loaded with racing, remembering and revelry.

The special gathering included four of the top five race winners in Indy car history: Mario Andretti (52 wins), Michael Andretti (42), Al Unser (39) and Scott Dixon (39). The all-time leading winner, A.J. Foyt (67 wins), was unable to attend due to illness, but was still part of the program via a videotaped interview.

For a replay of the live stream of the event, click here.

Among the highlights of the Foyt interview:

On attending the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil on May 29: “I never thought I’d live this long to see it, I hope I make it,” Foyt said. “The way my life has been last two or three years, it’s been kinda shaky. I came down with the flu 2-3 days ago. … I’m getting better every day and stronger.”

On winning the Indianapolis 500 four times: “That’s what made A.J. Foyt, the wins at Indy. Indy’s like the Kentucky Derby: You may not have the best horse, but if you win, it stands out.”

On his versatility as a race car driver: “A lot of people ask me how I jumped from Indy cars to stock cars to sports cars. I think that’s a talent you have to be born with.”

Does he consider himself a legend? “There’s a lot of great champions and drivers. I always say I’m glad to be named amongst them. Not that I was any better, but glad to be mentioned along with the greats.”

What defines a champion? “You have to work hard at it and be first. Some races you’re going to win and some you’re not. The biggest thing is to be consistent.

Michael Andretti paid tribute to Foyt, starting with a smile and tongue-in-cheek comment in reference to his father’s longtime on-track rivalry with Foyt: “He was the enemy. Growing up, I wasn’t allowed to say anything good about A.J. But as I got older, I got to know A.J. and I really liked him. I have a ton of respect for him. He just loves the sport and has been a part of it for a long time. … He’s a unique guy.”

Andretti, Unser see bright Indy car future

The elder Andretti and Unser both gave suggestions when they were asked how Indy car racing can enhance its reach to attract new fans, particularly millenials.

“I think series is going in the right direction,” Mario said. “There have been some missteps in recent years that took us down and we were overtaken by NASCAR and they’ve taken advantage of that situation.

“But I think the biggest thing that made the biggest value we have is the product and it’s to be able to showcase and brag about what we have. It’s not just Indianapolis, it’s the series itself. … I think we have a lot to brag about and it’s time to start screaming about it.”

Added Unser, “The younger generation today asks a lot of questions about racing. In (the Unser) museum in Albuquerque, we have 10,000 to 15,000 kids that come through every year and they ask how do they get involved in racing. Education of kids is very important in the automotive world.”

Quips, one-liners and observations

Many comments from the honored drivers brought laughs and smiles, as well as some poignant observations.

Notes: Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman & Co., the parent of INDYCAR and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, presented trophies commemorating the evening and their accomplishments to the four drivers on the dais. … Coinciding with its milestone 100th running, Miles announced that the Indianapolis 500 should be sold out for the first time since 1995. … The four drivers in attendance, along with a number of others in the audience, visited legendary driver Dan Gurney earlier in the day to help celebrate his 85th birthday.

From the fans