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Recovering A.J. Foyt feels sorry for Tony Stewart

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- A.J. Foyt has had a series of health issues the past four years, and he proved once again that he can battle ailments as well as he could drive a race car.

In August, the four-time Indianapolis 500 champion fought a staph infection that resulted in a right knee replacement in September.

Foyt, 81, will wave the green flag Saturday for the Rolex 24 At Daytona, the annual 24-hour sports-car race at Daytona International Speedway. Foyt, the 1972 winner of the Daytona 500, won the Rolex 24 co-driving a Porsche in 1983 and 1985.

"I'm feeling good," Foyt said Friday at the track. "I kind of stagger a little bit and I'm just now getting to where I can walk again and out of the wheelchair and the walker. And I made up my mind I wasn't going to walk with no cane.

"Every now and then after I've been sitting down, I kind of look like I'm drunk [getting up]. . . . I'm getting there. Every day is a better day for me."

Foyt has suffered two serious staph infections and undergone triple-bypass heart surgery, surgery for bed sores and bone spurs in his right knee, as well as two right knee replacements and one left hip replacement -- all in the past four years.

He hopes he can attend all of the Verizon IndyCar Series races this year and believes his team, with Jack Hawksworth and Takuma Sato, will be improved. The team plans to field a third car at Indianapolis.

"Time just passes on," Foyt told a handful of reporters. "Y'all have lost a lot of your friends and it's going to continue. Now how we're going to go, that's something nobody can figure out today."

Foyt survived his fair share of crashes while racing, and in talking about what advice he had for friend Tony Stewart as Stewart embarks on his final year of Sprint Cup racing, Foyt responded by saying that he hopes Stewart can have a good season. Foyt was involved in a crash where a driver died in 1956, and said Stewart's involvement in the accident that took the life of Kevin Ward Jr. in 2014 has affected him.

"I feel sorry for Tony," Foyt said. "I think people don't realize that wreck really hurt him more. I've been friends with Tony for a long time.

"He's really a soft-hearted person and something like that really bothers you. . . . If you don't have no feelings, it wouldn't bother you, but Tony's got a lot of feelings. And I just hope he goes out on top."

For Foyt, he will try to get the most out of every day.

"I can't holler about my life," Foyt said. "If I fell dead talking, I've had a wonderful life and a lot of fun. I've raced about everywhere I could. I won my share and lost my share."