In a crowd he seems like a quiet man, not saying much and going about his business. But make no mistake about it; Galen Fox has lived large, large, large.
The pit area of the Indiana State Fairgrounds mile was crowded with people, on hand for the last running of the Hoosier Hundred. The special occasion brought out new fans and old fans, new cars and old cars. There were tribute cars with throwback paint schemes and there were even a few vintage cars on hand.
Parked near the front of the pit area was a familiar blue No. 56, a car that USAC Silver Crown fans have been cheering for across several decades. It was good that it was here, because it wouldn’t be a proper Hoosier Hundred without a Galen Fox car in the lineup.
Fox has been an important player in Indiana open-wheel racing for…well, 60-plus years. A native of Bloomington, he got his start owning a coupe – and later driving with some success, once he reached the mandatory minimum age – and eventually turned to supermodifieds and sprint cars.
Galen’s story is one of a down-home Indiana boy who ultimately lived his dream. He tended to championship-winning cars at many levels, and turned wrenches at the Indianapolis 500. He then established Foxco, a longtime engine building shop that continues on today.
More important than the titles and race wins is the fact that Galen has been an enormous influence on a great number of people. Through the ups and downs and wins and losses he has learned much about life and people, and he shares that knowledge with anyone who asks.
He is a unique man who realized early on that an important part of a crew chief’s duties involve being a psychologist. Through the years he has coached and mentored a great number of Hall of Fame racers, including Bob Kinser, Sheldon Kinser, Kenny Jacobs, Danny Smith, Dave Darland, and more.
While others rant and rave and carry on, Galen has seen much but says little. His insights – on racing or mechanical elements or life in general – are typically both wise and succinct, delivered with a calm tone and a southern Indiana drawl.
Foxco is still going strong, although the shop was moved in recent years from Avon to near Bloomington. Galen is still leading the charge, but his sons Steve Fox and Brad Fox shoulder much of the daily workload as well.
Despite his low-key demeanor, as the years progressed Galen has become something of a celebrity in the pit area. Maybe it’s his longevity, or his Hall of Fame stature, or maybe it’s just the fact that people simply love the guy. His expression lights up when he sees an old friend, and in most pit areas he can find lots of old friends.
When you get to know Galen you discover a man who always has a good word. You become comfortable enough that you might sometimes overlook his enormous success and impact. Look around today, and it’s unlikely you’ll find anybody in a crowded pit area with a more accomplished pedigree than Galen. He has been there and won that.
Tonight he’s here to win again. Despite the beautiful evening, there is a somber tone. The last Hoosier Hundred at the Indiana State Fairgrounds…it’s a hollow feeling. However, it would be a fitting conclusion if a Galen Fox car got that last Hoosier Hundred win.
But that’s not how the story played out on this night. Kevin Thomas Jr., aboard the Foxco No. 56, led much of the way and looked to be the man to beat. But a late restart allowed Tyler Courtney to sweep into the lead, and Galen was forced to watch his car finish second.
Galen took the disappointment in stride. As the night drew to a close he began heading back toward his pit, flashing that knowing smile with a familiar twinkle in his eyes.
“Almost,” was all he said, and he shrugged. He’s seen hundreds of races come and go, and time has taught him that – no matter how big or important it was – there’s another one coming up very soon.
Galen. He’s a national treasure.