The relationship between four-time Indy 500 winner A.J Foyt and veteran IndyCar reporter Robin Miller is unlike anything the sport has seen. The bullish racing legend has never cared for the media, and drove home that dislike in the early 1980s when he smacked Miller after reading a story that questioned whether Super Tex was cheating at the Indy 500, and from there, the two went on to form a close bond.
They prod each other on a regular basis—the cantankerousness flows in both directions—and although they refuse to admit it, the racer and writer are good friends.
It made Foyt’s latest flirtation with death in March, when a second killer bee attack sidelined the icon, the perfect inspiration for Miller and artist Roger Warrick to commemorate the 83-year-old’s ongoing battle with mortality.
“He gets attacked by bees, again, then I start trying to add up how many times he’s cheated death, so I emailed our friend Roger Warrick to draw something up and he sends back A.J with the Grim Reaper in a headlock,” Miller told . “It’s just Roger’s genius; it only took him 25 minutes.”
A batch of t-shirts were made in time for the IndyCar race at Phoenix where Foyt and many of the A.J. Foyt Racing team members were presented with the keepsakes.
“Foyt loves it,” Miller continued. “He thinks it’s great: ‘Goddam. That’s pretty funny!’ Because if you look up all the lives he’s had. There’s at least seven or eight times he almost killed himself in racing. He’s survived the most dangerous era of all time in racing in the Fifties and Sixties driving his own Coyote Indy cars and roadsters made by some of the great chief mechanics. Nobody thought you’d make it to 30 or 40 back then.
“And since he’s retired, he’s had two bee attacks, fell off his bulldozer in the pond and almost drowned, was attacked by a water moccasin, had heart surgery I don’t know how many times, been in the hospital with infections, been on a respirator, and he can’t be beaten. It’s like the shirt says: Foyt: 83. Grim Reaper: 0.”
As if Warrick’s shirt wasn’t enough, Miller presented Foyt with one more gift during last weekend’s Long Beach IndyCar event.
“I gave him a beekeeper’s helmet,” he said with a laugh. “And we put a Coyote racing sticker on there for good measure. He actually smiled.”