(This story originally appeared as exclusive content on the Verizon INDYCAR Mobile app. To download the app for smartphones, click here.)
AVONDALE, Ariz. – At 82, A.J. Foyt's body has literally been beaten beyond his years.
The first four-time winner of the Indianapolis 500 has experienced everything from a broken back at a 1964 NASCAR race in Riverside, California, to two badly broken feet and legs in a horrible crash at Road America in a 1991 Indy car race.
Foyt retired from racing on pole qualifying day at the 1993 Indianapolis 500, but retirement hasn't been much easier. He was stung more than 200 times from an attack of “killer bees” in 2005, trapped under an overturned bulldozer on his Texas ranch in 2007 and had knee replacements and a hip replacement. In November 2014, Foyt underwent triple-bypass heart surgery and remained in the hospital for weeks afterward because of complications.
Foyt has survived it all but not without a struggle. He now is looking for a “fountain of youth” and told the Verizon INDYCAR Mobile App that he will undergo stem cell therapy in Cancun, Mexico.
“They have to cut away some of the tissue from my stomach and it takes 8-10 weeks for it to grow back to produce the stem cells,” Foyt said in an exclusive interview. “I'll probably have it done soon so that we can begin the treatment within the next two to three months.”
Adult stem cells are able to grow and become a cell for a specific tissue or organ, according to the National Institutes of Health. They are different from embryonic stem cells, which come from fertilized eggs or aborted fetuses. Embryonic stem cells can turn into cells for nearly any tissue in the body.
The procedure is not performed in the United States, so Foyt has found a medical facility in Mexico that can do the treatment that regenerates newer and younger cells. He said he will have stem cells injected into each ankle and shoulder, as well as into his blood.
“It used to be you would have to go to Germany to get this procedure, but now it's available in Cancun and that is probably where I'll have it done,” Foyt said Saturday during the Verizon IndyCar Series open test at Phoenix Raceway. “I'm not in good health like I used to be and, if my son Larry hadn't taken over (running) the team four years ago, I would have had to shut it down. It's something he likes to do and I'm backing him 100 percent.”
Foyt said he feels good to be his age after “all the crap that I've been through.
“I feel better this year than I did last year,” Foyt continued. “If I get to feeling bad, I probably won't show up at the race. But I'm going to do that stem cell deal. My wife, Lucy, has been pretty sick lately. Dan Pastorini (the former NFL quarterback) did it and it helped him. Peyton Manning (the former Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos quarterback) did it for his neck and it really helped him. Tony Dorsett (the former Dallas Cowboys running back) did it, so I think we should try it.”