Foyt was born in Houston, Texas. He joined USAC racing in 1957 and in 1961, he became the first driver to successfully defend his points championship and win the Indianapolis 500 race. His USAC wins tally is a record 138 (The late Rich Vogler is second with 132.)
Foyt drove in the Indianapolis 500 for 35 consecutive years, winning it four times (the first of only three to do so). Skilled and highly versatile as a driver, he is the only person to record victories in the Indianapolis 500, the Daytona 500 stock car race, the 24 hours of Daytona, and the 24 hours of Le Mans international sports car endurance race in Le Mans, France, as well as the 12 Hours of Sebring - the latter being his last major professional win, in 1985 with co-driver Bob Wollek.
After retiring as a driver, he continued his involvement in racing as a car owner in the CART series, then the Indy Racing League and NASCAR. The current driver for his IRL team, A.J. Foyt Enterprises, is his grandson, A.J. Foyt IV.
On June 7, 1997, Foyt (as an owner) was involved in an incident that helped shape the history of the Indy Racing League. One of his drivers, Billy Boat, had been declared the winner of the inaugural IRL race at Texas Motor Speedway that had been held that night, and his other driver, Davey Hamilton, had come in second. However, driver Arie Luyendyk disputed Boat's win, claiming that he was in the lead when a scoring error by USAC (who had scored all IRL races up until that time) gave Boat the checkered flag. When Luyendyk entered victory lane after the race to confront TMS general manager Eddie Gossage about the finish, an irate Foyt approached Luyendyk from behind and slapped and shoved him. It was, as they call it in Texas. a "sucker punch." Luyendyk never saw it coming and, to his credit, refrained from engaging in escaltion of the confrontation. He would get the last laugh and Foyt revealed a dark side of his character. Luyendyk then requested a review of the race; a few days later, USAC reversed its position and declared Luyendyk the winner. Following the controversy, the IRL relieved USAC of the scoring duties for its events.