(AUGUST 3, 2007) - A.J. Foyt remains hard to kill. But the 72-year-old Texan, one of the greatest drivers ever, had another close call on Thursday in Waller, Texas.
“I came awful close this time,” he said. “It scared me.”
Foyt, working dirt on a bank, plunged sideways into a lake on a 35,000-pound bulldozer when the earth collapsed.
“It was such a helpless feeling when that dirt broke away and I was going down and down,” said Foyt, who estimated the bulldozer dropped upside down into the lake about 15 feet.
“The dozer had a steel cage on it which probably saved my life,” said Foyt, “because without it, the dozer would have crushed me. But the cage also made it hard to escape. I had to crawl through the front of it and it was hard to do under water with all my clothes on and with my bum legs and all. I’ll be honest, I was panicked a little bit.
“If I hadn’t made it to the top of the dozer, they would never have found me because it was completely under water. I didn’t want to swim to the bank ‘cause it was covered in vines and steep and I was already out of breath from getting out of the dozer. I knew I’d get too tired trying to haul my big butt outta there. But as I was calling for help, I saw a water moccasin [snake] swim by. I started splashing like hell then. After about 15 minutes someone heard me and stopped to help.”
Foyt refused medical treatment and spent the next four hours trying to extracate the bulldozer, according to a team release. Three wreckers were needed to pull it out.
“There’s never a dull moment in my life,” said Foyt in the understatement of the century.
Some of Foyt’s other brushes with the great beyond:
January, 1950 – Foyt nearly drowned when his boat capsized outside of Galveston; he clung to a buoy for nearly eight hours before being rescued. Foyt had put a lifejacket on earlier because he’d been cold. His buddy didn’t and drowned on his 16th birthday.
January, 1965 – He flipped down an embankment in turn nine at Riverside (CA) Raceway when the brakes failed on the Nascar stock car he was driving. The track doctor pronounced him dead at the scene but fellow driver Parnelli Jones noticed movement and scooped the dirt from Foyt’s mouth that had been suffocating him. He sustained a bruised aorta and broken back among other injuries.
June, 1966 – He became trapped in his burning rear-engine Lotus Indy car when it hit the wall at Milwaukee in practice. Suffered second and third degree burns.
Circa 1968 – He was attacked by a lion in the infield at the fairground speedway in DuQuoin, Ill. The lion, on display while race cars qualified, broke away from its stake in the ground and lunged at onlooker Foyt, taking him down. Foyt was bruised and badly scratched. Foyt raced later that day but had to change into a different uniform after the lion inflicted multiple lacerations.
May, 1972 – He was run over by his own race car when he jumped out of it during a refueling stop at DuQuoin Fairgrounds because the car caught fire. He sustained burns, plus a broken leg and ankle.
July, 1981 – He nearly lost his right arm to the Armco guardrail in an Indy car crash at Michigan Speedway. He spent the autumn painting miles of fencing on his ranch as his therapy for the badly broken arm.
July, 1983 – He crashed his stock car in practice at Daytona but won the Paul Revere 250 sports car race later that night. Woke up the next morning and could barely move—he’d broken two vertebra in his crash the day before.
September, 1990 – He sailed off the mile-long straightaway at Elkhart Lake, WI’s Road America when his brakes failed. His car crashed into a dirt embankment, missing a huge rock boulder by about two feet. He sustained severe injuries to his lower legs and feet from which he still suffers.
August, 2005 – He was attacked by a swarm of Africanized Killer Bees while clearing land in Hempstead, TX. Sustained over 200 stingers in his head and went into systemic shock but refused to go to the hospital.
From August 3, 2007 Lug Nuts blog item, St. Petersburg Times