Robby Foley may be from New Jersey, but the IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda driver still considers Barber Motorsports Park his home track.
That’s because the driver of the No. 42 P1 Motorsports Ligier JS P3 attends nearby Auburn University, where he is pursuing a degree in mechanical engineering.
A driver with a passion for engineering may not be all that unique, but the circumstances that led the 21-year-old to the IMSA paddock and Auburn certainly is.
Growing up around racing, Foley had a passion for cars and began racing karts. It was when he entered high school, however, he decided to focus on stick and ball sports like football and baseball.
That all changed on Sept. 11, 2010, when as a freshman in high school he suffered a devastating and career-ending leg injury in a football game.
The damage included a torn LCL, ACL and PCL, a broken tibia, fibula and ankle, and a nerve injury that caused a complete foot drop.
“It kind of kickstarted the idea to go racing,” said Foley. “I was homeschooled for the better part of my freshman year [after the injury] so my dad said if I could get straight A’s he would send me to Skip Barber to drive a Mazda MX-5.
“Naturally with that motivation I did. The leg injury was a tough deal for sure, it took me out of doing anything for pretty much a year – I didn’t really move for seven months – but in the end I probably wouldn’t be here doing what I’m doing without that scenario.”
After success in Skip Barber and Mazda MX-5 Cup, and a handful of IMSA starts, Foley moves full-time to IPC in 2018 co-driving with Jim Garrett.
Entering this weekend’s race at Barber, the duo sits sixth in the LMP3 standings.
Foley now finds himself balancing his mechanical engineering degree pursuit at Auburn with a full-time IMSA schedule, which makes a “home” race at Barber not only special, but also convenient.
“Since coming down here I’ve kind of made Barber my new home,” he said. “I do a lot of coaching, a lot of work out here on the off weekends from racing. Every weekend there’s an event here, more or less, I’m here.”
He’s also hoping to put that education to work as he continues to try to move up the IMSA ladder to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
“The whole reason I pursued a mechanical engineering degree was to better understand race cars and automobiles in general,” he said. “For me there is a big connection in some of the classes I’m taking that I can apply to the car and driving the car.
“Understanding how to make the car go faster is just as important as making the car go fast as a driver. The engineering perspective a driver can provide to the engineers actually setting up the car is important.”