Chase Austin to race for A.J. Foyt at Indy – this should be fun!
Chase Austin is going to race in the 2013 Indianapolis 500 for A.J. Foyt Enterprises and this is good news for everyone involved: the Foyt family, Austin (of course), Chris Miles of Starting Grid, American Honda and the IZOD IndyCar Series.
Miles has been an active proponent for diversity in racing for a number of years; I remember when I first saw him trying to advance the idea that people of color could race competitively in the upper reaches of the sport. He’s made this his life’s work and the small steps keep getting bigger. Miles’ Starting Grid company helped Austin race in four Firestone Indy Lights races, including two at Indy; Austin has raced in NASCAR’ Camping World Truck series, in Nationwide and in ARCA stock cars. He’s also raced in sprint cars, no doubt a factor that enticed Foyt to place him in the team.
Austin hasn’t had the best equipment – although he was part of the Hendrick diversity program in NASCAR and that’s kind of limited his forward motion. This affiliation with Foyt’s team – which came from Austin’s American Honda’s Motorsports Diversity Initiative backing through Starting Grid – could help the rookie the opportunity for more INDYCAR starts later in the year – depending on how he performs at Indy.
“My son Larry and I have watched Chase drive and we wanted to give him a chance,”A.J. Foyt said. “What I like about him is that he has driven all types of race cars with different horsepower in his career. I believe that’s important when evaluating talent. He’s done a real good job in the Lights seris and I believe he can qualify for the Indy 500 with Honda on board.”
Foyt later joked that the reason they announced the deal so early is because his crew always wants more time to put together their second entry for Indy, claiming there’s never enough time, even though it’s been held on the same date for years – and the 2013 edition will be the 97th.
Larry Foyt acknowledged the team had been discussing this program with Chris Miles since February. “Chris approached me about fielding a car for Chase and I talked it over with Dad. We agreed that it could turn into something pretty cool,” he said. “Chris has put together a marketing program which will reach a new generation of fans and I think this opportunity will not only be good for Chase and our team but also for INDYCAR.”
If he’s able to make the field of 33 for next year’s race, Chase Austin would become only the third African-American driver to race in the Indianapolis 500, following Willy T. Ribbs and George Mack. “It’s incredibly gratifying for me to have Starting Grid associated with such an American racing icon,” Miles said of Foyt and his operation. “I am extremely proud for Chase to receive this tremendous opportunity. Chase has performed admirably with his limited experience in open wheel cars and I am completely confident in his ability to settle into the big cars with no problem.”
In his four career Firestone Indy Lights starts, Chase Austin scored four top-10 results with a career-best eighth place finish at Iowa Speedway in June. After being the youngest driver to sign a driver development contract in NASCAR at age 14, Austin understands the difficulties he faces and recognizes the opportunity he’s been given.
“For me to say that I am anything other than excited about this opportunity to compete in the Indianapolis 500 with AJ Foyt Racing and Honda next year, would pretty much be an understatement. However, at the end of the day, I will have a job to do and that is what Chris [Miles] and A.J. will be expecting out of me,” he said. I really don’t know what to expect come May, but you can bet we will have a lot of fun.”
Fun he might have, for sure, but Austin should be careful around the old man – A.J. Foyt’s temper is as legendary as his lengthy and fully successful career. No matter what, this relationship will certainly be an adventure for the young driver.