In 2017, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum honored four-time Indy 500 winner A.J. Foyt with a special exhibit entitled “A.J. Foyt: A Legendary Exhibition.” In 2018, the modified display comes north, to the Gilmore Museum in Hickory Corners, Michigan, where it will honor both “Super Tex” and the Indy 500’s ties to Western Michigan.
Over a driving career that spanned 40-plus years, Foyt’s resume included championships in sprint car, Indy Car, and USAC stock car competition. He’s the first of three drivers to win the Indy 500 four times (the others being Al Unser, Sr. and Rick Mears), and Foyt is the only driver to ever score victories in the Indy 500, the Daytona 500, and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. In Indy Car competition, he’s amassed 67 wins, including his 1964 victory in the Indy 500 – the final win for a front-engine Indy roadster. At age 83, he remains active in the sport, running A.J. Foyt Racing, which currently fields a two-car team in the Verizon Indy Car Series.
Foyt with his 1964 race-winning Sheraton-Thompson Special Indy Roadster. Photo courtesy IMS.
Though Foyt has resided in Texas his entire life, he still has ties to Michigan. From 1973 through 1984, Foyt drove in open-wheel competition for Gilmore Racing, a team owned by Jim Gilmore, Jr. (nephew of Gilmore Museum founders Donald and Genevieve Gilmore) and based in Kalamazoo, Michigan. A successful businessman, Gilmore owned several television and radio stations, as well as numerous car dealerships, and once served as mayor of Kalamazoo. His first foray into Indy Car team sponsorship came in 1967, when driver Gordon Johncock (from Hastings, Michigan) started from the outside of the front row and finished in 12th place after a spin on lap 189.
In 1911, Ray Harroun won the very first 500-mile race at the Brickyard, and relatives of the driver (credited with the first use of a rearview mirror in competition) still reside in the Kalamazoo area. Louis Chevrolet, who co-founded the Detroit company that bears his name, first raced in the Indianapolis 500 in 1915, driving a car called the Cornelian, developed in Allegan, Michigan.
Louis Chevrolet driving the Cornelian at Indy in 1915. Photo courtesy Gilmore Museum.
Indy-raced vehicles on display at the Gilmore’s version of the exhibit will include the Cornelian, on loan from Speedway Motors’ American Museum of Speed in Lincoln, Nebraska; A.J. Foyt’s 1961 Bowes Seal-Fast Special; his 1964 Sheraton-Thompson Special (the last Indy 500-winning Roadster); his rear-engine 1967 Sheraton-Thompson Special; the 1968 Gilmore-sponsored Gerhardt-Offy driven by Johncock; and Foyt’s 1977 Gilmore-Foyt Coyotes.
An array of other Foyt-raced vehicles will also be included in the display, which opens to the public on April 14 and runs through September 2018. For additional details, visit GilmoreCarMuseum.org.