DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – A.J. Foyt relayed his apologies last year, when a staph infection that developed following knee surgery prevented the two-time Rolex 24 At Daytona winner from serving as the grand marshal of the 50th anniversary race.

“I didn’t want to miss this year,” Foyt said a few hours before the start of the 51st edition. “Last year I was visiting the hospital like I did now and then in my racing career. I was a pretty sick little boy, so I feel a lot better now than I was at this time last year.”

AJ Foyt - Indy 500 or BustFoyt, who has the distinction of leading the first lap of the inaugural race in 1962 (then known as the Daytona Continental in a Pontiac Tempest), won the endurance race in 1983 and ’85. It was at his father’s prompting that he competed in ’83 race after a long layoff.

“I was sitting in a hospital with my father, who talked me into doing the race,” said Foyt, who teamed with Bob Wollek, Claude Ballot-Lena and entrant Preston Henn in a Porsche 935.

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Bringing in the four-time Indianapolis 500 champion was a measure of publicity, Henn readily acknowledged, for his Swap Shop flea market in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

“I wanted to win that race for my daddy,” said Foyt, whose father lost his battle with cancer a few months later. “He talked me into doing it, so I never really cared if I won another race.”

He did, including the ’85 Rolex 24 At Daytona, co-driving with Wollek.

Looking forward to Sato's season

Takuma Sato, who earlier this month was announced as the driver of the No. 14 ABC Supply car for the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series season, got to know team members and sponsor principals a little better last week on a cruise.

Sato's drive and determination reminds Foyt of himself during his racing career. Foyt, who's won the IZOD IndyCar Series championship and Indy 500 as a team owner, desperately wants to consistently challenge for race victories again.

"We chose to go with Takuma because he brings a lot of experience to our team but he has the hunger of a rookie," Foyt said of the former Formula One driver who enters his fourth season of IZOD IndyCar Series competition. "He’s certainly proven he has the desire to win, but before we made the deal I told him if we have a 10th-place car I want you to run 10th. If we have a fifth-place car, we'll try to run fifth. I think he understood that loud and clear."

He's all for running two

Foyt doesn't have any reservations about three doubleheader race weekends (Detroit, Toronto and Houston) in the upcoming season. He's done it a number of times -- on the same day.

"When I was running Indy cars, you had to win both to count as one race," he said. "Anything you can do to make the fans happy is better for racing."

Team sorting out Indy 500 plans for second car

Foyt said a second ABC Supply car would be entered in the Indianapolis 500 with a driver to be named.

"We're looking at three or four," said Foyt, who noted that Conor Daly, who tested in the No. 14 Honda-powered car in mid-December at Sebring, is not on the list this year.

"He's kind of tied up with some European stuff and I don't think it would be fair to bring him in cold turkey to run one race. He's going to be a great race driver; you're going to hear a lot from him."

Of note

Seven IZOD IndyCar Series drivers who competed in the Rolex 24 At Daytona gathered for a photo holding "Indy 500 or Bust" signs. ...IZOD IndyCar Series team co-owner Bryan Herta and driver/broadcaster Townsend Bell addressed participants in the Skip Barber INDYCAR Academy over the weekend at Sebring International. ... Starworks Motorsport owner Peter Baron, a former IZOD IndyCar Series team owner, was presented the 2012 Rolex Bob Snodgrass Award of Excellence. Sebastien Bourdais co-drove the No. 2 Starworks with Alex Popow Daytona Prototype.