No driver likes to be credited as moving the farthest forward during any given race - it's the nature of the beast to always want to start near or at the top of the grid and, of course stay there. Different situations oftentimes don't permit...
No driver likes to be credited as moving the farthest forward during any given race - it's the nature of the beast to always want to start near or at the top of the grid and, of course stay there.
Different situations oftentimes don't permit that, as both Alex Barron and A.J. Foyt IV have discovered. Barron, who hasn't seen a podium since Texas in 2004 made his way from 18th grid spot to fourth at the close of last weekend's AMBER Alert Portal Indy 300 on the 1.5-mile Kentucky Speedway tri- oval, his fourth top-10 result of the year. Barron credited a better handling car more than any new-found power for that result.
"We started by making some different adjustments to the car and we gained on the track as well as in the pits," as his Red Bull Cheever Racing helped the Californian gain spots on all of his pit stops. "The biggest thing was that we were able to go flat all race long and keep the right rear in good shape. We were able to run quite a few laps flat under green and that helped us a lot," Barron explained.
"Another contributing factor was the pit stops. On the yellow stops I gained two positions each time and made up one on the green flag pit stops. We've got new guys on the crew this season," as there's been a pretty big staffing turnover at Red Bull Cheever Racing since the 2004 campaign. "It takes time to jell as a team but at that last race, everything just clicked. I would still like to get another podium though," Barron remarked.
The IndyCar Series is making a westward swing over the next couple of weeks, racing this Sunday at Pikes Peak International Raceway and the following Sunday on the Infineon Raceway Sears Point road course. Barron, who honed his skills on road-racing circuits is looking forward to remaining in his native state of California after the Pikes Peak competition is complete.
"After so many ovals, I'm really excited about road racing. I tested well at both Sears Point and Watkins Glen International and the mixture of tracks in the final races of the season makes it even more exciting for the drivers and fans. I really like the IRL's idea on qualifying for the road races and it's going to be cool to go to some local tracks again. The expense of traveling (from his Menifee, CA base) has been pretty expensive," he related.
A.J. Foyt IV has had a couple of tough years in the IndyCar Series, coming up as the initial Menards Infiniti Pro Series champion to race under the auspices of his grandfather A.J. Foyt Jr.'s entry. The Foyt team has struggled with Toyota engines that Grandpa didn't think were equal to those given other teams and has been quite vocal about it.
Over the two-week period between the Michigan and Kentucky oval contests, Foyt's team went about changing his Dallaras to accept Chevrolet power and the swap paid off for his grandson last weekend as the team equalled its best finish of the season, a confidence-builder for Anthony.
"The switch made a big difference and our racing went a lot smoother in Kentucky," the younger Foyt admitted. "It was a tough decision for A.J. to make but we needed a change," he said. "We hadn't finished well and now we're more competitive so I just hope it continues."
After the final - of four - cautions in Kentucky, Foyt was able to make up three spots and related, "The car felt really good. We maybe had too much downforce on it but we had good restarts all day long. Working in fifth gear at the end of the race, I didn't have anything to give because we didn't have another gear but, all the same it was really a good race for us," as he finished ninth.
"We had some decent speed with the Chevy at Kentucky and I'm real glad for the guys. They work too hard to be running at the back and I've been racing my heart out. There's no extra pressure put on me because of my last name," Foyt said. "Hey, I put all the pressure on myself to be successful. I don't need more, so I just try my best to make things work."
A.J. Foyt IV thinks he's got a tough couple of weeks ahead, particularly with his first road course race since St. Petersburg, the street course where the IRL competed in April. "I think we'll be a bit stronger on the ovals (with the new Chevrolet engine) but on the road course, I'm not sure. We haven't tested at either one of them, and the rest of the guys are really strong on those tracks."
Foyt feels comfortable dicing with his competitors on the oval tracks - but it remains to be seen how he's going to do on the Infineon Raceway Sears Point and Watkins Glen International circuits. "I think we all pretty much respect each other pretty well out there," Foyt confirmed. "You can see the respect if you watch what we're doing," he chided.
The Honda Indy 225 set for the one-mile Pikes Peak International Raceway oval this Sunday is the 13th race in a 17-event campaign for the Indy Racing League's tenth anniversary season.
Can either Alex Barron or A.J. Foyt IV, coming off their best results find their way to either the podium or Victory Lane with their Toyota and Chevrolet power, respectively? Or will Honda, celebrating the tenth anniversary this weekend of their first American open wheel victory (at New Hampshire International Speedway on August 20th with Andre Ribeiro driving) win the 225-lap contest they sponsor and, thereby earn their second consecutive IRL engine manufacturers' trophy?