Sponsor 'stepped up and decided it was time to run two cars,' Foyt says.
This is going to be a good match for A.J. Foyt Racing.
Today the team announced that Jack Hawksworth is joining Takuma Sato as they expand to two cars for the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series; backing for both cars comes from ABC Supply Co., which is Foyt’s longtime partner. “ABC stepped up and decided it was time for us to run two cars,” said A.J. Foyt Jr., who added, “We never did want to run two cars unless we could run them the proper way and have the proper financing.” ABC Supply renewed their sponsorship of the team through 2016 just before this announcement came through, enabling the team to state their 2015 plans.
Foyt, whose team is managed by son Larry Foyt,has enjoyed the past two seasons working with Sato, a driver who seemingly either brings the car to podium or on the wrecker. What Foyt has always liked about the Japanese racer is his drive to succeed at nearly any cost. He’ll find his young (23 years old) British hire a bit more cerebral but no less determined.
Sato expressed his pleasure about working with a younger driver like Hawksworth, who is ultimately hungry to be quick and run at the front of the field. Together with both A.J. and Larry Foyt, Sato, too, was watching the balance of the field to see what drivers might be acceptable should they be able to add a second car which will be the No. 41 ABC Supply Dallara/Honda/Firestone Indy car. “Jack is one of the very talented young drivers,” Sato said. “He showed tremendous speed and we all agreed that he’s the guy to be welcomed.” It was ultimately Larry Foyt’s decision, “But I totally agree with it.”
Engineer Prados also aboard
In addition to hiring Hawksworth, A.J. Foyt Racing is continuing its affiliation with young Spanish engineer Raul Prados, 34, who worked with the team at the Indianapolis Grand Prix and Indy 500 last year as chief engineer for Martin Plowman during both races.
Prados had engineered in the GP2 series; he worked with Foyt’s team as a consultant in 2012 and became performance engineer to the estimable team chief engineer Don Halliday. The move is definitely a positive one for everyone concerned.
“Raul kind of took a step back to come over here, to come racing in America. It was a big goal of his,” Larry Foyt said. “He was a lead engineer on GP2 cars and I think with him, he’s brought some of his knowledge from European racing. Putting that with a veteran like Don Halliday, he’s learned a lot about the Verizon IndyCar Series the past two years. I think he’s ready for the step up. He made a big commitment to the team [by] relocating here to Texas; we wanted to give him a shot to show what he could do.”
The Foyt team has been in the Honda camp since 2012 and continues that affiliation for 2015 and beyond; they’ll be incorporating Honda’s new aerodynamic bodywork kits into their beautiful red, white and blue ABC Supply artwork. Unlike so many Indy cars, the Foyt team will have the same type of cohesive look we see and expect from Formula 1.
Sato spoke of the new aero kits that will appear on the DW12 chassis next year, provided to the teams by their engine suppliers. “Fundamentally, there are only three elements: the weight distribution, the aero balance and the whole platform” working together. “From an engineering point of view, it’s a good challenge, as well as the driver wanting to go faster. Hopefully,” he added,” this changing or shuffling a little bit for the smaller teams, may make even more opportunity to beat the bigger teams. That’s ultimately the name of the sport.”
A.J. Foyt, the first four-time winner of the Indianapolis 500 also spoke about engine supplier Honda and where their engine/aero kit program is going. “They won the biggest race in the world [last year at Indy]; there’s no reason why they can’t win it again. I think you’re going to see them that much stronger this year. If they are, we’ll be on an equal basis (with Chevrolet). It’s going to be up to the engineer, the driver, chief mechanic and I think we’ve got a good shot at [beating] Chevrolet this year.”
Hawksworth and the Foyt team began talking about the second car possibility late last season. “Once it became apparent there might be an opportunity, this is the place I wanted to be immediately.” A September visit to the Houston shop convinced Hawksworth that “this is where I wanted to be, a program I really believe in. It just really excited me and after that, I pestered my manager as much as possible to try to get the deal done. I really couldn’t be any happier.”
A.J. Foyt Racing recently acquired a property in Speedway, IN that will initially serve as their upper midwest location, so that the team doesn’t need to travel back to Houston between each race. The city of Indianapolis has always been a “second home” to the team’s namesake; with the condensed Verizon IndyCar Series season, both A.J. and Larry Foyt felt it was a better idea to be in the Indianapolis area as well as Houston, its home base. “We definitely wanted a presence in Speedway; I think it’s a great place for us to be,” A.J. said. “Our goal is to run both cars out of our home base, which is here in Texas, but there’s a good chance we’ll be working out some of the summer in Indianapolis. For now,” he emphasized, “Texas will still be our home base.”
Larry Foyt remembered his childhood in Indy, walking from the former Speedway Motel to the racetrack and hearing the enthusiasm of all the A.J Foyt fans. “Indianapolis is a such a special place for us and we’ve got family there now with Anthony, Mary and Casey Irsay being based out of Indy it is like a second home. We’re going to have a lot of fun with the new property, have a wine shop, a lot of neat things,” he said.
While this team has run a second car at Indianapolis the past few years, last year with Martin Plowman and the year before for Conor Daly, the patriarch is pretty much ruling out a third car at The Brickyard. “We’re going to run what we feel we can run the best with. We’re happy with two drivers and we’re not looking for a third one. It would be hard to run three cars; I’m not a Chip Ganassi, Roger Penske or Michael Andretti... “
A.J. Foyt knows what he expects of his new two-car teams and its veteran and new driver. “I want them to run as hard as they possibly can; I want them to race each other the best they can and may the best man win. Just don’t take each other out,” he said.
“That’s the biggest thing. I think we got two boys that can be up on the front most of the time. We’re really looking forward to having a big year and a lot of fun. The way I look atbracing, if you can’t have a lot of fun in racing, you shouldn’t be in it.
“I still look at it this way you always want to win but you also have to have a lot of fun. That’s the way I look at a two-car team. I want them to run each other as hard as they can, but don’t take each other out. There will be a day when one of them will be a little better than the other one,” he mused, “and that’s why they call it racing.”