Verizon IndyCar Series competitors, A.J. Foyt Enterprises, have left ISM Raceway feeling positive after last weekend’s Phoenix Grand Prix. The team and its drivers feel that the weekend, on the whole, was a positive one as they continued to make steps in the right direction in their pursuit to become more competitive as the season goes on.
For series veteran Tony Kanaan, it was a solid weekend in the #14 ABC Supply Chevrolet. The Brazilian qualified inside the top ten in ninth place, a position that he never fell below throughout the race. Although he only finished one place better in eighth place, after a late battle for seventh with Ed Carpenter, Kanaan was very pleased with how the team fared. The team were happy with Kanaan’s performance too, as the result was the team’s best result in the last six races they’ve entered.
“It was a big improvement for the team, we’ve been aiming to finish in the top-10 and we did that tonight,” Kanaan said afterwards. “We have our struggles and there are things we need to fix and we’re doing it one piece at a time. I think we had a great weekend, we were in the top-six all weekend long.
“I’m happy with the progress but there’s a lot more work to do.”
For Kanaan’s team-mate and fellow Brazilian, Matheus Leist, it was a difficult race. The Phoenix Grand Prix was the rookie’s second race in the Verizon IndyCar Series, as well as his first time racing on an oval in an IndyCar.
The weekend started out without issue. Leist qualified sixteenth out of the twenty-three competitors and was running in the top fifteen for much of the early stages of the 250-lap race. However, the problems started, and continued, on pit road.
Leist’s pit box was in a tricky location. Rather than being on the start/finish straight, it was halfway around turn one, making it hard for the team to guide him into the box. On his first stop, he slid deep into the box and hit one of the tyres that were set to be fitted on to his #4 Chevrolet. He was forced to pit again so that the team could check that his front wing hadn’t been broken, which pushed him down to twentieth place for the restart.
The second stop was worse, but this time it was the team’s mistake. The team sent Leist back on his way before the left-rear tyre changer had finished, meaning that the tyre came loose on pit-road and spun the young Brazilian around. The error put him seven laps, with the team then instructing Leist to use the rest of the race as a test session to get acclimatized with the car and racing on an oval. He would eventually come home nine laps down in nineteenth.
Despite the dramas, Leist left Phoenix happy and having learned a lot from the troublesome night:
“My first oval done, my first complete race in IndyCar done, so lots of new stuff learned,” Leist said after the race, “We made a lot of passes which was good–not too many guys were passing. I was feeling good physically in the car, I’m not tired at all. Today wasn’t our day, wasn’t my day, but I want to say thanks to the team. I think we had a car to finish in the top-seven. Onto Long Beach now.”
With one driver finishing strong and one driver having had a tough time, it was a mixed result for the team. Nevertheless, team president Larry Foyt, was pleased with everything the team learned as they now prepare for the next round in Long Beach this weekend:
“Tony drove hard all night but passing was super difficult and he and the 14 team did a good job to hang in there and get the top-10 finish,” Foyt said.
“Matheus did a nice job, and really did exactly what we asked him to do. He had the mistake on the first stop, and we had a mistake on the second stop which took us out of contention for a good finish. He still drove a great race and it seemed like he passed more cars than anyone. He brought it home in one piece and learned a great deal here for his first oval race. The experience he gained will be a big help for Indianapolis.
“Both teams are looking for more in Long Beach, and we will keep building on the experience we have taken from these first two races.”
The next round of the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series takes place this weekend. The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach will be run on April 15.