Foyt Tops Inductees Entering Sebring Hall Of Fame

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A.J. Foyt in 1961 (IMS Archives Photo)

SEBRING, Fla. – A night of fond memories and legendary efforts highlighted the Sebring Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony and Grand Marshal Dinner Friday night at the Chateau Elan hotel located alongside Sebring Int’l Raceway’s famous hairpin turn.

A.J. Foyt, the late Paul Newman, drivers Rinaldo “Dino” Capello, the Joest Racing team and the local Sebring Firemen civic organization were bestowed Hall of Fame honors in a packed dining hall that included other racing greats from Roger Penske to Bobby Rahal, from Hurley Haywood to Derek Bell along with dignitaries including IMSA President Scott Atherton.

Foyt was unable to attend the ceremony on the eve of Saturday’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts, instead recovering from bee stings suffered Wednesday at his Texas ranch. But his historic accomplishments in the storied Sebring race were duly noted and celebrated even in his absence.

Foyt’s former sports car crew chief, Kevin Jeannette wore a cowboy hat in honor of “Super Tex” – as Foyt is affectionately called – and spoke to the dinner attendees about the legendary driver, who he swore had “a fourth or fifth sense” when it came to race cars.

A four-time Indianapolis 500 winner, Foyt also won the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring and Rolex 24 At Daytona in 1985. In fact, his victory in the March, 1985 Sebring race is his last major win.

He won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in his only start in the race and the Indy 500 both in 1967 and he is the only driver in history to have won Sebring, Le Mans, the Rolex 24, the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500 – considered to be the full lineup of major auto races.

The late Paul Newman – so well regarded for his acting career – was honored Friday for his auto racing contributions – as a driver. It’s something his friends and fellow competitors say would have made him proud.

At the age of 70, he won in class at the Rolex 24 – the oldest competitor to do so. He also celebrated four national SCCA driving titles and was a runner-up finisher in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1979.

His good friend and frequent co-driver Michael Brockman spoke in Newman’s honor reminding the room of his good friend’s deep love of the sport.

“Paul truly loved driving but he also enjoyed the people,’’ Brockman said. “I know Paul would be honored [tonight].’’

Five-time Sebring overall winner Capello spoke eloquently about his Sebring experience as well. The Italian proud to have his “career so linked to Sebring” shared that for him the venue is “so very special.’’

Team owner Reinhold Joest accepted the Hall of Fame honor on behalf of his team, which returns to competition in Sebring for the first time in five years. There is great history between the track and team however, as Joest has four Sebring overall victories.