Some Common Sense Needs to Prevail

I don’t normally like jumping into controversial topics, especially when I think I am in the vast minority. I also try to avoid politics. That’s a dangerous minefield to wander into.

Friday afternoon, an announcement was made in the IndyCar world that rubbed me the wrong way. Friends and family urged me to leave the topic alone, but the more I stewed about it over the weekend – the more it irritated me.

Most of you know by now that AJ Foyt Racing announced on Friday that they were changing the number for Benjamin Pedersen’s Sexton Properties car for the upcoming NTT IndyCar Series season.


First of all, let me set the record straight. In no way do I condone racism or any type of association with any hate groups. That is unconditional. There are no exceptions to my rule on this.

I’m sure when most of you saw this statement, you did like I did and Googled 14-88, the two Foyt team car numbers in question. I was taken to a couple of sites explaining the obscure message behind the so-called symbolism. Some nut-job named David Eden Lane was a white-supremacist, a neo-Nazi and a domestic terrorist. He died in a federal prison in 2007, where he belonged. Lane is credited with coining the Fourteen Words, which make up two slogans that his demented followers have adopted as part of their many credos.

Well, that explained why No. 14 is evil, but what about No. 88? It turns out, the Heil Hitler greeting used by the Nazis in World War II is shortened to “HH”. The letter H is the eighth letter in the alphabet. Therefore the No. 88 is somehow a link to Heil Hitler. Talk about a stretch…

Apparently, the two numbers used separately are OK. But when you combine them together, you are sending out blatantly obvious signals that you are a racist and a Nazi. That was deep sarcasm, by the way – for those that take every word literally.

Mob hysteria quickly gets out of control. Proctor & Gamble (P&G) had slight variations of its logo for almost 150 years. Since 1851, the P&G logo featured the man in the moon overlooking thirteen stars, which were meant to represent the thirteen original American colonies. It was an iconic symbol as recognizable as the golden arches of McDonald’s or the Nike Swoosh.


Then a group of whack-jobs determined that the P&G logo was a veiled reference to Satan and his worshipers. The rumors persisted for years, but enough gullible people began to swallow the foolishness that P&G feared it could affect their business. They were finally coerced into unveiling a new contemporary logo in 1991, which still featured a resemblance to the moon.

New P-G

The comments on social media this weekend were all over the place. While those on the right complained about Foyt deferring to the “woke” crowd, those on the left claimed that anyone who had a problem with the change was obviously a racist. Neither is true.

AJ Foyt Racing has no connection or association with any hate group. This is just an unlucky set of circumstances. I don’t fault Larry Foyt for his decision to change the number, although I would’ve loved to have been a fly on the wall when he had that discussion with AJ. Once whoever connected the dots and then brought this to the team’s attention – he really had no choice…I don’t think. There is a part of me that thinks this is such an obscure stretch, that it is completely absurd to think that this could actually get enough legs to become a thing.

What I do fault the Foyt team for, is going public with their decision. They could have quietly made the decision to change the number. They probably didn’t even need a reason, but any reason could have been given besides the actual one. It’s as if they were trying to draw attention to themselves for doing something noble.

Instead, it has given attention to these fringe movements that deserve none.

I’m curious, if you are being honest – how many of you were actually aware that there was any white supremacist connection with the combination of the numbers 14-88? I know I didn’t. Granted, I don’t follow any of these sub-cults, and I’m sort of out of the loop of such things. I still don’t even know how the number 420 became synonymous with marijuana.

My point is, I’ll bet some fringe group can find fault with any car number on the grid, if they trace back far enough. I’ll bet some loons can find fault with the aforementioned McDonald’s arches – and how they somehow symbolize the gateway to hell. Are we so afraid of something getting out of hand, that we resort to complete blandness when choosing logos, sponsors, car-colors or car-numbers?

I’ll be willing to bet that there were a lot more fans offended when the Foyt cars were sponsored by a tobacco product (Copenhagen) or a gambling casino (Harrah’s), than they would’ve been had some zealot not brought this to the team’s attention. But once they did and the decision was made to change the number, they should have done it in silence.

Personally, I thought the reason given for running No. 88 was a stupid one. It was to recognize the fact that AJ Foyt turned 88 a couple of weeks ago. If you follow that logic, why did they not run No. 87 last year? Are they planning on running No. 89 next season? If they were going to run a car number in the 80s, why not the Nos. 82, 83 or 84; which have all been run in the Foyt stable from time to time?

Is there a reason for No. 55? Some pointed out over the weekend that a case could be made that No. 55 looks too much like SS, in another nod to the Nazis. Should it be changed again?

Things have gotten ridiculous and some common sense needs to prevail at some point. Had the two car numbers been left alone, would it create some big controversy? Probably not. But once the decision was made to change it, I think it should’ve gone completely unnoticed and we would’ve been more focused on another Meyer Shank Racing overall win in the Rolex 24 this weekend, or this week’s IndyCar Open Test at the Thermal Club near Palm Springs. Instead, we’ve given a lot of unneeded publicity to some fringe hate groups that have now been drawn into our topic of conversation. By writing this, I’m guilty of doing the same.

George Phillips

20 Responses to “Some Common Sense Needs to Prevail”

  1. The Age of Irrationality continues. It’s just more of people looking for another reason to be offended. At the end of the day I think these things are just made up to cause division. If that was even real (and I have strong doubts), nobody ever heard of it and nobody cared. This is how 5 black cops can rough up and end up killing a black man and its suddenly the result of something they call “white supremacy.” The truth does not matter to these people. I could list other great examples and I’m sure you can as well. The lunatics are running the asylum. Indycar and other businesses caving in to these lunatics means the insanity won’t go away. The rest of us need to put on our big boy shoes and call this foolishness what it is. If you identify that way, of course.

  2. As someone who is, judging from the above commenter, one of “these people” and a “lunatic” for having different beliefs than someone else (I really don’t understand the US culture war), I was aware of the what the numbers meant, biker/prison gangs use it on tattoos and that.

    That said, would I have made the connection to the Foyt cars if it weren’t pointed out to me? I highly doubt it. I also don’t think the team would have been a cause célèbre or anything for any groups given its relative obscurity.

    I think you’re correct, George: they should have just changed the number and said it was a marketing issue.

  3. Bruce Waine Says:

    Just another example of …….. The squeeky wheel gets the attention (news coverage) ………….

    No squeek……… No attention…….

  4. Should have just stayed with car #4. There….crisis averted!!!

  5. Davis Brewer Says:

    I would slap the living snot out of somebody talking down to me and trying to tell me what the #14 & #88 means to racism in public to my face. I only read about these little elitist barking dogs on the internet. If I was at the Tavern few and a little dog is barking here are the choices (#1) leave. (#2) You can keep speaking if you buy a round of drinks for the house. (#3) Keep talking and barking and no purchase = The Whipping Post

    • You yourself sound like an elitist barking dog on the internet in your statement, ironically! Maybe if someone says something has offensive connotations to your family, you should just politely apologize. Signed, a Jewish man.

  6. Brandon Wright Says:

    Over the last couple of years those two numbers have become very prevalent in all the hate groups that have suddenly sprung up. Five years ago I didn’t know about them, but in the last year or two I’ve been made all two aware of them. Unfortunately it was probably the right call to change it and also to let people know they had been made aware of the issue and were taking steps to distance themselves from it. If they’d kept quiet it might have come across like they’d gotten caught and were trying to act like it never happened.

    • Agreed, all the way around, Brandon. These groups are out there, and it’s not a great idea to just plug your ears and pretend that they’re not. And it’s not like the Foyt team gave any group(s) a bunch of publicity or something. Here’s the entirety of the wording about the situation from the press release:

      “After the reveal of the No. 88 livery last week, it was brought to our attention that the combination of our two individually entered numbers carries certain ideologic and symbolic references. AJ Foyt Racing does not condone nor support any such ideologies or symbols, and to avoid any reprehensible associations, we have changed the entry number from 88 to 55.”

      Better to have this statement out there and in the public, in the event that somebody digs up a picture of the original paint scheme/number and says “look! Foyt/their sponsors/IndyCar is trying to support and/or court support from problematic groups!” This way, they can respond with a link to the announcement about the number change to #55 and say “nope, we definitely are not.” This was a pretty easy call, all the way around.

  7. billytheskink Says:

    In this day and age, Foyt was right to be judicious even if the connection is quite a stretch (or rather, should be a stretch, sadly). You don’t want to find your racing team’s name and sponsors criticized by those who think the number combination was intentional… or venerated by folks I’m sure Foyt would rather not associate with.

    I cannot blame Foyt for choosing to use 88 in the first place, either. It is very easy to believe that they were completely unaware of the connection between these numbers, I certainly was and I expect most of people in this country remain unaware. In any event, once the engines fire, this will all be a complete non-event.

  8. Hasn’t Hitler been dead for nearly 80 years? There are very few people still alive that would even remember him. I agree we should not be giving free publicity to his “followers”. I wonder if Foyt dropped #4 to free it up for McLaren? They should have recorded AJ’s reaction to all this. I bet it was priceless.

  9. I can’t help but feel the steam rising off of AJ’s forehead. In bygone times, Mr. Foyt would have had a rather simple reply having to do with bovine excrement.

  10. It’s tough but we should probably be angry with those who make that number combination a problem, not those who point it out. It is interesting though how these things work, like society let Kyle Larson off the hook and he’s a Cup champion now for what he said 3 years ago, he got promoted for his actions! But in this case, gotta do better, no one is blaming Foyt it seems at least, just an unfortunate situation.

    Hopefully the silver lining in this is we don’t have to see that dog awful ugly Dale Jr. type font that I think DRR ran a few years ago!

    • billytheskink Says:

      Judging by amount of “Hendrick” in the logos on Larson’s cars these days, he’s not been entirely let off the hook… though you are correct that forgiveness has been fairly widespread for him. He was punished by NASCAR at least quite a bit more severely than Jeremy Clements, who sat out just 2 Xfinity races for using the same slur in an off-record conversation with a reporter in 2013.

      • To Larson’s credit: It’s because of his efforts.

        He didn’t demand forgiveness or for the incident to be forgotten, like some fans thought should have happened.

        He networked with black racers, he reached out to affected groups, he showed obvious effort to work and improve himself, and did it with humility and without complaint.

  11. You’re not alone. Literally no one thought of “white supremacy” when the #88 was announced, except for that small percentage of people who want to look for things to be offended by. A number is a number. And yes, I thought of the SS connotation, but only because of the reason stated for the change! Stay tuned for another number change next week?

    The Foyt team would’ve been better off letting sleeping dogs lie; a fringe group of 8000 bedsheet-wearing inbreeds with no meaningful influence are not deserving of any attention. Also, #41 would’ve been a better choice historically.

    • Clearly you aren’t Jewish. I am and I also am not inbred but you show your true colors in your response. If this is how Indycar fans really are, count me out. I thought we were better than propping up this stuff, I thought that was a NASCAR thing.

      • billytheskink Says:

        While I cannot speak for Steve, I read his reference to “bedsheet-wearing inbreeds” as being about members of a particularly infamous racist and anti-Semitic organization, folks who would be among the most likely to proclaim a connection the two numbers.

        I think his argument that changing the number gives the connection and its proponents attention they otherwise would not have gotten does have merit. It also has risk, because Foyt and Indycar have to count on the connection being ignored and that is certainly no guarantee. I think we agree that Foyt made the right call.

  12. For a while, the one-off Indianapolis 500 car of Sam Schmidt’s team used to carry the #88. It also carried the #99 before that. Schmidt also had the #77. So it is a common number among IndyCar teams. When it was first announced that Foyt would run the number in 2023, I was thinking nothing of it, even though I was well aware that, here in Germany some right-wing radicals were using it as a code for the greeting that the country’s former dictator had at one time in the 1930s or 40s ordered everybody to use. That particular greeting phrase is forbidden in Germany and its use is punishable under federal law. And for a reason: this was all part of the Allied efforts to get the German people back to sanity after the end of World War II. I hope this comment adds the German perspective on how why these weird people actually use a code of sorts over here.

    I agree with you, George, that Foyt should have just quietly discontinued the number and replaced it without further notice, so as to not draw any attention toward the weird radicals and their issues.

  13. We live in the age of “performative rage”. Anything one side doesn’t like is “racist”. Anything the other side doesn’t agree with is “woke”. While I was well aware of the significance of 14/88, I never would have connected that messed up ideology with AJ Foyt racing or any other Indy Car team, most of which, unlike some of their NASCAR counterparts try to keep themselves completely separate from politics. When mob rule groupthink takes over we become “Lord of the Flies.”

  14. Dear God…the fact that anybody knows what those numbers “mean” is beyond pathetic. You would have to be on extremely high alert and constantly scouring the internet for something to offend you to be bothered by ANY FREAKING CAR NUMBERS. I’m with you Davis Brewer.

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