AJ Foyt has been hospitalised in Houston after picking up an infection as a complication following knee surgery, and will miss attending this weekend's Rolex 24 at Daytona endurance event.
The 77-year-old sporting legend had been due to be the grand marshall for the 50th anniversary of the event. Foyt is a two-time winner at the Daytona 24h (in 1983 and 1985) and is the only driver to win the Indianapolis 500, the Daytona 500 and the 24 Hours of Le Mans as well as the 24 Hours of Daytona.
Foyt had knee surgery two weeks ago and had been up and walking after the procedure, but has since picked up an infection that forced doctors to admit him to hospital on Wednesday. A spokesperson for Foyt said that he was likely to stay in hospital through the weekend, but he is expected to make a full recovery.
“I am really sorry that I can't be there this weekend for the Rolex 24," said Foyt in a written statement. "I was really looking forward to it because I thought it was a great honor to be asked to be the Grand Marshal of the 50th Anniversary of that race and considered it to be one of the great highlights of my career.
"I was also looking forward to seeing some of my old friends and the race cars that I drove in that race. It was going to be a really fun weekend for me but I guess I'll be watching the race from my hospital room," he continued, admitting that the doctors has "pulled rank" on him.
"I hate to admit, but I think they're right - this time. I'd like to wish everyone a safe race and I'll be with you in spirit," he said. "I feel so bad that I let everyone down."
“We wish A.J. a speedy recovery and hope he's back on his feet soon," commented Joie Chitwood III, the president of Daytona International Speedway.
Foyt had a major health scare early last year
, when he missed the IndyCar season opener at St Petersburg in March after undergoing an emergency heart procedure. An angiogram revealed a major blockage in one of his arteries, which fortunately was treatable through angioplasty, avoiding major open-heart surgery.
Foyt recovered quickly, and was well enough to take over as the driver of the Indianapolis 500 pace car
for the centennial running of the event at the end of May.
Foyt continues to be a team owner in the IZOD IndyCar Series, although he leaves much of the running of the organisation to his son Larry. AJ Foyt Racing will be fielding British driver Mike Conway in the #14 ABC Supply Car for the upcoming season, starting at St Petersburg on March 25.
Everyone in motorsports will be wishing AJ a full and fast recovery so that he can be there to give Conway some tips ahead of the green flag.