Foyt and his Parnelli at Indy in 1979. (LAT photo)
On this day in 1979, A.J. Foyt scored the 66th and penultimate Indy car win of his legendary career at Texas World Speedway. The fact it came in his home state was appropriate, as was the fact that it wrapped his seventh national championship title – tainted though the latter inevitably was by the split between USAC and CART that produced two champions that year.
Foyt had originally sided with his fellow team owners in their decision the previous winter to split away from USAC and form their own series, after a long and acrimonious fight with the Indy car sanctioning body over prize money, promotion, rules and other issues. However, he changed his mind before the season(s) began and returned to USAC, which had managed to put together a six-race schedule on four tracks in addition to the Indy 500. Foyt, who had parked his venerable Coyote-Foyt/Ford to join forces with Parnelli Jones and run a Parnelli-Cosworth late in 1978, fielded a revised version of the Parnelli in the USAC series in '79 and proved an utterly dominant force. Foyt had even pulled the Coyote (ABOVE) out of mothballs for the second round of the USAC series at Texas, and still won!
The only race he hadn't won, heading to TWS' summer race, was Indy, where the CART and USAC teams had gone head to head – albeit only after CART had successfully challenged in court the Speedway's bid to prohibit them from competing, because they were "not in good standing" with USAC. But Foyt hadn't missed by much there, either, finishing second to Team Penske's Rick Mears despite being slowed to a crawl at the finish by a failing engine.
At Texas on July 29, Foyt officially went over the top by dominating again on home ground, this time in the Parnelli. Foyt led most of the way on the 2.0-mile speedway until being forced to make an unscheduled pit stop to replace a punctured tire. No problem, as he easily ran down Tom Bigelow's Lola-Cosworth for his sixth win of the year.
Foyt's bid for a clean sweep of the USAC-only races was spoiled at the season finale in Milwaukee, where he retired with an engine failure. After running just a handful of races in 1980, prompting talk that he was on the verge of retirement, Foyt scored a 67th and final win at Pocono in 1981.