A.J. Foyt – Verizon IndyCar Series legend and team owner of A.J. Foyt Enterprises – has said that his drivers did “a helluva good job” in qualifying for the 2018 Indianapolis 500. Veteran Tony Kanaan and Matheus Leist will line-up in tenth and eleventh on the grid for this Sunday’s race.
Both Kanaan and Leist sadly missed out on making into the “Fast Nine” shoot-out for pole position, ending Saturday’s first day of qualifying in eleventh and twelfth respectively; behind the fastest nine drivers and tenth placed Alexander Rossi.
On Sunday, Kanaan and Leist were aiming to replicate their strong Saturday runs to start as high up as they possibly could. The pair would make their qualifying runs right at the end of the session, with Leist’s 227.571-mph four-lap average putting himself provisionally in tenth place prior to Kanaan and Rossi’s runs.
Kanaan would hit the track right after Leist and would set a 227.664-mph average, which would put him ahead of his team-mate by just seven-hundredths of a second. Tony knew it was an impressive run and was visibly ecstatic when he climbed from the cockpit of his #14 Chevrolet.
In the end, Kanaan and Leist would remain in tenth and eleventh place, with Rossi’s final run going awry after the Andretti Autosport team went the wrong way with their setup on the #27 car.
After the session, the team’s founder, A.J. Foyt, would praise the efforts of his two drivers and commented that he was particularly impressed with how well Leist did in qualifying for his first Indy 500:
“I’m happy for my boys, they did a helluva good job,” Foyt told RACER, “It’s a shame we didn’t get in the Fast 9 yesterday but we had to change gears and with all that rain we ran out of time. I expect good things out of Tony, he’s always fast here, but that kid [Leist] did a helluva job. He’s very smooth and fast and he’s only 19 — what else can you ask?”
“-it was a good day and I’m happy. This is all I care about. May in Indianapolis.”
Tony Kanaan was similarly pleased with how the weekend went. He would state after the session that his tenth place felt like pole position and that he was grateful to Foyt for giving him the tools to get the job done.
“What a great effort”, Kanaan said, “As a team. A.J. and Larry [Foyt] put so much effort into this over the winter. They gave us everything I asked and they stepped up. I have a brand new car for this race, Matheus [Leist] has a brand new car. They spent every single dime to give us a good car. We’re a little team, but we’re having a lot of fun. This is for them. I told them today our pole is going to be 10th. This is pole [position] in my books.”
Like AJ had, Kanaan would also go on to praise the efforts of his team-mate Leist, saying: “That rookie did well, didn’t he? My goal was to guide him through this month and he’s done a great job.”
It was true, Matheus Leist had done an incredible job. The nineteen-year-old was right on pace with his veteran team-mate in only his first Indy 500 qualifying session.
This isn’t the first time, however, that Leist has raced on the oval at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Last year, Leist raced with Carlin in Indy Lights and took pole position, led the most laps and won the series’ race at the Brickyard. This experience, coupled with his strong result in yesterday’s qualifying, has further cemented Leist’s love for the Speedway.
“I’m so happy for the team and for Tony [Kanaan],” Leist said after stepping out of his #4 ABC Supply Chevrolet, “Both crews did an awesome job preparing us for qualifying.
“We were just fast. I think that if qualifying was yesterday and we had this car, we would probably be in the Fast Nine. I’m just so happy for this team. Everyone deserves it. I’m looking forward to the race now.”
“I love this place and starting near the front is great, I hope we can end up at the front,” he would add later, “My car has been good since the beginning of the month and we’ve had a strong pace.”
Kanaan and Leist will be back on track at IMS later today for the penultimate practice session prior to the 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500. Final, “Carb Day”, practice will take place on Friday, with the race itself taking place on Sunday, May 27.