(This story originally appeared as exclusive content on the Verizon INDYCAR Mobile app.)
When the Houston Astros defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 7 of the World Series on Wednesday night, four-time Indianapolis 500 winner A.J. Foyt celebrated.
With doubly good reason. Foyt is a Houston native and still lives in the area. The driver with the most race wins in Indy car history (67) is also a former part owner of the baseball team.
For years, Foyt was Houston’s lone champion in a major sport. He won the Indianapolis 500 in 1961, ’64, ’67 and ’77, and collected and seven Indy car season championships. Foyt’s first Indy 500 win came the year before the Houston franchise was added as a Major League Baseball expansion team known then as the Colt .45s.
Fifty-five years later, Foyt watched on TV as the Astros won Game 7 in Los Angeles to claim their first World Series crown.
“I’m just glad it really happened,” Foyt told the Verizon INDYCAR Mobile App. “I know all the boys really played hard and the team worked hard. It’s great to have a World Series championship here in Houston.”
The Astros join Foyt and the Houston Rockets – who won NBA titles in 1994 and ’95 – as major sports champions from the fourth-largest city in the United States.
Foyt, however, was the first and is known as the pride of Houston and one of the greatest drivers in American racing history. He is the first to win four Indianapolis 500s and no other driver has won more than four Indy car season championships.
“They had a parade for me downtown Houston after the first Indianapolis 500 victory,” Foyt recalled of 1961. “The city has always been really good to me. That’s one reason why I’ve stayed in Houston. I was born and raised here.”
Foyt’s Verizon IndyCar Series race team still maintains its home base in suburban Waller, Texas, along with a satellite shop in Speedway, Indiana.
Foyt was also a minority owner of the Houston Astros in the late 1970s and early ‘80s when Judge Roy Hofheinz owned the team.
“Hofheinz was the owner of it and I was part of a group that was put together and got a part of it and I had an ownership stake in it,” Foyt said. “I would be up there in the owner’s box with the other owners and I felt lost because I didn’t know that much about baseball as the others did.
“That’s back when we got (Hall of Fame pitcher) Nolan Ryan. I asked one of the guys about Nolan Ryan when we got him from the California Angels and he said, ‘A.J., on his off day he throws faster than guys do in a game on purpose.’
“I’ve gotten to know Nolan Ryan pretty well. Larry (Foyt, A.J.’s son) went to college with one of his daughters and got to be good friends and they have come to some of our races in the past.”
Foyt played baseball in junior high and high school and was a star second baseman, but he enjoyed football more.
“It was a rougher sport and that is what probably made me a halfway decent race driver,” Foyt said of his football days.
The Astros’ run to the World Series championship provided an emotional lift to the Houston area after it was devastated from Hurricane Harvey in August. AJ Foyt Racing and INDYCAR helped raise money for those who lost homes and property from the massive flooding.
“I think what the Astros did is a big lift to the whole city,” Foyt said. “They say ‘Houston Stands Strong’ and so many people were backing them. The city went crazy with the Astros.
“The Astros have done miracles for the city and lifted them up. The Astros have more fans here now than the football team. It’s great to have a World Series champion here in Houston.”