Group President LARRY FOYT opines on spending summers on Lake Travis, the challenges dealing with his workforce this season and racing on the Circuit of the Americas (COTA). We asked him a couple of questions…
Q: The primary race at COTA—what are you wanting forward to?
LF: “It’s going to be great to drive to a race and not have to fly because it’s close to home. We have a lot of family and friends coming to the race, that’s always exciting. A lot of our team members’ families are coming so there’s a little bit of added pressure, not that there’s not enough of that already. It’ll be a lot of fun to be close to home; you always want to do well when you are close to home, but that type of track has been our Achilles heel the last couple of years. We were struggling with the new aero to find what the car wants at that type of track. The guys have been working really hard to find a new direction, so I think the cars are going to be starting a little differently as we try to narrow in on which way we need to go.”
Q: Is COTA just like different tracks on the IndyCar schedule?
LF: “COTA is pretty smooth…maybe the Indy GP track would be the most similar. At the open test we weren’t great but we were encouraged by some things. Matheus did a great job finding a direction he wanted to go and Tony was running through a lot of big ticket items—meaning changes that took more time, so he was really running through a test list. I’m not really sure what he’s going to have there but we left feeling like Matheus was heading in the right direction. The thing with IndyCar right now is that the field is so tight that if you find two or three tenths (of a second), it really moves you up the grid.”
Q: What’s the largest problem coming to a totally new monitor?
LF: “For us it’s still that type of circuit which has not been our strong suit. So our challenge is the same. It’s nice to come in on equal footing but everyone’s had the open test, everyone has data, everybody knows where their ride heights are, so it’s not too different from a normal race weekend. We’ll have to see how the track grips up, it looks like we could have some weather which will be very interesting. There are a lot of things that get thrown at you on an IndyCar weekend and the teams who adapt to it best are the ones who are up front at the end of the weekend.”
Q: Your mother and father have a home on Lake Travis, what are your reminiscences of it?
LF: “I grew up there in the summers on Lake Travis, it was wonderful. I really miss it. I saw the house and I haven’t been there in two or three years because we get so busy and it’s a shame because I certainly do miss the lake house. I have a lot of great memories. It’s amazing how much everything around there has grown up. When I was a kid, it felt like your own private lake during the week days but now there are houses everywhere. It’s a beautiful area and I do miss hanging out there—it’s a shame work gets in the way.”
Q: What was your favourite factor to do there?
LF: “I grew up on stand-up jet skis. I’ve got a picture of my brother Jerry towing me with my skis tied together. His friends would help me get up and then they’d drop off and I’d keep skiing, so they said they could go straight till they ran out of lake. Shoot, I remember A.J. on the jet skis out there. He could ski better than people knew and he’d get out there and surprise people. Nobody had any idea. My favorite was the stand-up jet ski—I just loved it. I was never a big sit-down jet skier. My rookie year at Indy I met David Ecker who has been a friend and a supporter of our team ever since and he used to give me a boat. Even when I was living in Charlotte, I could have a boat. He has David’s Boat Center in Oklahoma City. He always offers A.J. or I a boat to use but we’re always so busy.”
Q: What’s a ‘must see’ place for a first timer in Austin?
LF: “I don’t know because I used to just go to the lake, I didn’t even spend that much time in downtown Austin or down on Sixth Street. Ten years ago I’d probably be headed to Sixth Street but now I’ll be headed to bed.”
Q: What is the state of the group and your outlook for this yr?
LF: “I’d say the whole team is definitely stronger, we added a lot of key pieces that I think are going to show as the season goes on. As far as overall pace, we’re still lacking. We’re just missing something that the engineers are really working hard to find — that little bit that we’re missing. And you don’t have to be missing a lot, you just have to be missing a little bit but it definitely hurts. I still think our strength this year is going to be the ovals, and we’re working hard to figure out what we’re missing on these road circuits. We’re typically pretty quick at St. Pete so that race was disappointing to not show our typical pace there but we still believe in the direction we’re headed. We’ve got a lot of projects going on and we’re just trying to put it all together and get the best out of the whole package.”
Q: What ways are you addressing those challenges?
LF: “The track time is so limited that we’re still trying to maximize and learn to get the most out of our off-track tools. Whether that’s the shaker rig or the Chevy simulator, these are all things we can use off-track but we’re trying to make sure it correlates as best we can. It’s not easy and some guys have figured it out better than we have and that’s where we’re behind. We’re not giving up on that and we have to use every tool we can because when you find that little bit of grip, all of a sudden you pick up that two or three tenths and you are right there with everybody.”
Q: What are your ideas on Matheus’s progress as a driver?
LF: “I think he really has matured as a driver. It’s a shame that he got caught up in that accident at St. Pete because it looked like he had a really good car. What we’re learning now is that he’s growing into his own driver so he knows what he wants out of the Indy car. I think what he and Tony want are a little bit different so we’re letting Matheus go down his own path and explore what he wants out of the car versus what Tony wants. I think you’ll see him come a long way this year.”
Q: You’ve been a race strategist since Vitor Meira drove for the staff, but this yr you’re off the stand. What was that adjustment like for you at St. Petersburg?
LF: “I didn’t know what to do with my hands (laughs). Seriously, looking back at last season, I had a really good feeling of what Matheus’s season was and what we needed to improve there because I was on his stand being his strategist. But I felt like I didn’t have a good feel of Tony’s season and I didn’t like that. I want to be able to step back because sometimes you can get so close to something that you’re missing the broader picture. So when Scott Harner came on board, I thought this is perfect. I’ll put him with Tony and George is down here in Texas with the Texas group so we’ll put him on the stand with Matheus which will let me step back and see things and get the big picture of how the team’s working. It was different for me, and I miss being on there but I can listen to both stands and I think it’s good to get the big picture.
“It’s interesting to listen to how both stands are working and what’s good or bad on both stands and what the teams look like. At the end of the day, we’re trying to get both teams to operate the same but we have the challenge of trying to do that out of different locations so it’s even a little bit more difficult than what the other teams are facing. Being able to observe both teams is good.”
Q: On social media there’s chatter about comparing IndyCar and Formulation 1 lap occasions. What are your thoughts?
LF: “You can’t compare the two series because they are completely different disciplines. Our cars have to be built to run ovals where their cars are made for extreme cornering and corner speed. It is different when we’re running a spec car built to withstand impacts at Indianapolis. And their cars are very safe as well but it’s just altogether different so I don’t think it’s comparable. I think what you have to look at is just how good the IndyCar racing is. It’s nice to go to a race and think pretty much any car has a chance to succeed and you cannot say that about F1. I think that’s why the IndyCar formula is really successful.”
TONY KANAAN on COTA: “We’re excited about going to our first IndyCar race at COTA. I got the chance to be one of the first drivers to do laps around the track last year for a tire test and was impressed with the layout and also the facilities, both in 2018 and also during the IndyCar Spring Training in 2019. The track has some unique corners and also some cool elevation that makes you work hard in the car. We are keeping our heads down and working hard to get the No. 14 ABC Supply car up where it belongs in the grid and I’m confident that we’re making progress. No better place to get it going than at Texas to make the boss happy.”
MATHEUS LEIST on COTA: “I’m so excited to race at COTA for the first time. The place reminds me so much of the tracks I used to race in Europe. It is wide, long and has big straights. The high speed section after T1 has to be one of the most exciting high speed sections of the calendar. I feel like the race is going to be a good show, and as the track is pretty wide I’d say the fans can expect lots of passes. It’s also a home race for our AJ Foyt Racing team and I’m more than enthusiastic to be around some close friends. The No. 4 ABC Supply Chevy crew will be working as hard as ever to bring a good result to our sponsor, fans and family. Looking forward to doing a great race weekend.”
Bluebonnets! The official flower of the Lone Star State is the bluebonnet, which is what A.J. Foyt planted this week on about 15 acres of ranch land he lately acquired. The bluebonnet, which could be enjoyed all through Texas however particularly in the environs of the Texas Hill Country, was declared the state flower in March 1901. The variability (there are five in kinds of lupines in Texas) across the Circuit of the Americas is Lupinus texensis, and it is this extra strong selection that is synonymous with Texas (and the sort A.J. planted). Peak flowering time is late March by means of mid-April, good time for that Instagram pic.
Final Race: At St. Petersburg, each Leist and Kanaan had difficulties in qualifying (Kanaan never received a lap in resulting from ailing timing and two purple flags in his session), in order that they started alongside each other on the 11th row. Leist’s race ended 25 laps in when he obtained caught up in Ed Jones’s bounce into the Flip 9 wall. Leist clipped Jones’s rear wheel which despatched Leist into the wall further down the monitor. Kanaan’s race was hampered by a warning flag popping out when he was because of pit. He misplaced monitor position which he by no means was capable of regain and finished 15th. He summed it up with two words, “Tough day.”
ABC Supply is in its 15th season as main sponsor of A.J. Foyt’s IndyCar staff, making it the longest operating workforce sponsor in the NTT IndyCar Collection. The company was based in 1982 by Ken and Diane Hendricks with just three shops. The company now has over 700 stores and topped $10.5 billion in sales in 2018. ABC Supply started sponsoring the AJ Foyt Racing group with the 2005 Indianapolis 500. The corporate has leveraged its involvement by entertaining properly over 110,00zero associates and clients over the previous 14 racing seasons. This weekend the company will entertain over 130 visitors.
ABC Supply account Alden Roofing, situated in Pflugerville, Texas, shall be featured on the engine cover of the No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolet. Friends will obtain the VIP remedy this weekend along with a Meet and Greet with Tony Kanaan.
L&W account Normal Drywall Inc., based mostly in Del Valle, Texas, gained the ‘Your Name Here’ contest. Every firm identify can be on the engine cowl of the No. four ABC Provide Chevrolet. Friends will receive the VIP remedy plus a Meet and Greet with Matheus “Matt” Leist.
The INDYCAR Classic can be televised stay on NBC Sports Community (NBCSN) on Sunday, March 10, starting at 1:00 p.m. ET. Qualifying can be broadcast reside on NBCSN on Saturday starting at 3:00 pm ET. All the practices shall be out there on NBC’s subscription-based service, INDYCAR Move on NBC Sports activities Gold. The annual worth is $54.99. https://www.nbcsports.com/gold/indycar.
For extra info on the ABC Provide/AJ Foyt Racing program, please examine our website: ajfoytracing.com. To comply with us on Twitter: @AJFoytRacing, @TonyKanaan, @MatheusLeist, @LarryFoyt14. On Instagram, @AJFoytRacing, @tkanaan, @matheusleist, @larryfoyt14. On facebook, we now have the AJ Foyt Racing fan page.