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Spring Training at ISM Raceway

PHOENIX – Tony Kanaan led A.J. Foyt’s ABC Supply Racing team to the top of the leader board both days in the Verizon IndyCar Series Spring training session at ISM Raceway before dropping to third overall in combined times when the sessions ended.

As if that were not enough, Foyt entertained a special visitor Saturday evening when General Chuck Yeager dropped by with his wife Victoria and several friends to see the cars in action. Yeager was in town to celebrate his 95th birthday on Tuesday. When told of the 200+mph speeds the cars were going, the General retorted, “Amateurs! I’ve gone over Mach 3!” but he was clearly enjoying the track action and posed for photos with admirers.

In most of the practice sessions Kanaan popped up to the top of the charts first and as the team made changes to test different items on the No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolet, he slipped down slightly but never below the top five. His speed of 189.632mph was third quickest when the times from all the sessions were combined Saturday evening.

“It was a good couple of days,” the veteran said after logging a total of 146 laps—the second lowest of all drivers. “We tried to run in traffic a little bit at the end. It [the race] is going to be tricky, it’s definitely going to be tricky. We are still learning about the downforce, but all in all, I think it was a positive test for us. We learned a lot, we didn’t have any major problems, which that’s what we’re looking for at this team right now is just to build–build confidence and build momentum.”

Matheus “Matt” Leist found the ragged edge on more than one occasion but he was fast in his No. 4 ABC Supply Chevrolet. He topped the rookie session on Thursday, was in the top-10 in the next three sessions when the full contingent of IndyCar competitors—23 in all–took to the track on Friday and Saturday.

“The car was good and I think we are in good shape for the race here,” said the 19-year-old rookie, who posted a top speed of 187.431mph and ran a total of 240 laps. “I have to concentrate a little bit more on my race stints. The team did a great job. The last couple laps we were running in traffic and the car was actually very good.”

He slipped to 13th in combined times when he was he was caught out by slowing cars ahead of him and had to take evasive action several times Saturday night. The first maneuver resulted in a brush with the wall and damaged a right rear toe link. Two more ventures into the marbles later that evening didn’t damage the car.

Speaking of the last incident after the session ended, Leist explained, “I made some great passes and then [Graham] Rahal just brake-checked me going into Turn 3. I went to the outside and just got into the marbles and couldn’t stop the car. Just did a small touch on the wall but didn’t break anything. But it was a great day, great learning experience.”

Leist wasn’t alone as past Indy 500 champion Scott Dixon spun and hit the wall between Turns 1 and 2 midway through the three-hour Saturday evening session and current INDYCAR champion Josef Newgarden found the marbles and brushed the wall just before the session ended. Dixon was cleared after a visit to the infield care center.

Kanaan sought to downplay the significance of his results but not the team’s efforts, saying, “It’s been a good couple of days, but that doesn’t mean anything. Next is St. Pete, and when we come back here it will be a different day, different weather, you never know. I’ll take it obviously, it’s been a really good day for us and a really good weekend like I said, but it doesn’t mean anything.”

Team President Larry Foyt acknowledged that the team still has some work ahead of them but he was happy with the team’s overall performance.

“I couldn’t be happier with the job the AJ Foyt Racing ABC Supply team did here at Spring Training in Phoenix. Obviously we had a lot of changes as a team, and the League had a lot of changes to the cars, so the guys have had to work so hard just to get here number one, but then to come out and have great pace was really satisfying. Tony showed the 14 car was very strong and Matheus did a great job as a rookie. And having a lot to learn, he certainly had some lessons and some close calls out there but it’s great that he got to experience some of those things. It’ll pay huge dividends when we come back here to race.

“This open test showed that this car is not easy to drive so the drivers are working very hard. It’s going to be a difficult race for sure. I’m just happy we got both cars out of here without a major incident and we showed some good speed. We’re looking forward to coming back to Phoenix but right now we have to analyze the little glitches we had and make sure they are fixed.”

Team owner A.J. Foyt concurred with his son’s assessment.

“I’m really happy with the way things went,” said Foyt. “This test has gone a lot better for us than it has in the past few years. Tony and Eric [Cowdin], along with some of the other new people we’ve hired, have really helped our program and it shows.”

Overall, the top five performers were Takuma Sato, Will Power, Kanaan, Newgarden and Graham Rahal.

The season opener in St. Petersburg, Fla. takes place March 9-11.

Leist still smiling after Rookies’ Test

Leist still smiling after Rookies’ Test

PHOENIX – Driving the No. 4 ABC Supply Chevrolet, Matheus “Matt” Leist set quick time in rookie testing at ISM Raceway as the Verizon IndyCar Series officially got underway Thursday afternoon at the mile oval formerly known as Phoenix Raceway.

Leist emerged from the cockpit to hear his race strategist and boss Larry Foyt say “Good Job.” Team owner A.J. Foyt seconded that adding, “I’m proud of you.”

“It was a good day,” said Leist, who ran a total of 63 laps. “The car was pretty good since the beginning. Tony did a few laps and did a great setup with the car. I think we’re going to be alright. We still have two more days to test. Tomorrow [Friday] is the day to test with the big guys so we’ll see how it goes.”

Leist, who at 19 is the youngest full-time driver in the series this year, showed maturity in his approach to a track he had only driven on a simulator. He saw the track for the first time this week. His quick time of 19.97 seconds (184.236mph) was nearly a tenth quicker than fellow Brazilian rookie Pietro Fittipaldi’s time of 20.06 seconds (183.347mph). The grandson of Indy 500 winner Emerson Fittipaldi was also testing at Phoenix for the first time for Dale Coyne Racing.

Other drivers testing here in order of speed, were Robert Wickens, the Canadian rookie teamed with James Hinchcliffe, Spencer Pigot, who despite his 22 IndyCar starts for Ed Carpenter Racing (mostly on road courses) had never driven a short oval, Andretti Autosports rookie Zach Veach (who made his IndyCar debut in the Indianapolis 500 for Foyt last year), 2017 Indy Lights champion Kyle Kaiser driving for rookie team Juncos Racing and Gabby Chavez, who was doing a refresher test with Harding Racing, a new team that ran a few races last year.

A three-time winner in the Indy Lights Series last year, Leist explained, “I’ve never driven an Indy car on the ovals so this is the first time and I’m getting to know the track as well since I hadn’t raced here in Indy Lights. A lot of new things but in the same way, the car doesn’t change that much from the Indy Lights [car] so the technique you need to drive it is pretty much the same for me.”

At the end of the test session, the ABC Supply team did a couple of practice pit stops which Leist said is one of the areas where he needs to get experience. “I never did pit stops in Indy Lights so since I’ve started testing in Indy car, I’ve tried to come into the pits always fast so I can get prepared for the race. It’s one thing to come in fast on a road course, but it is quite different coming in fast on an oval because you never know the level of grip the warmup lane has. It’s very tricky. There are a lot of things you have to have experience to know how much you can push, how much you need to brake before the pit lane turn. These are some things that in time will come.”

Kanaan, who set up the car prior to Leist getting in it, gave his young protégé some tips for getting around the ovals. Kanaan, an oval meister, has won 15 of his 17 races on ovals. But even Leist wasn’t quite prepared for TK’s reaction when he got out of the No. 4 Chevrolet.

“When Tony jumped out of the car and said to me, ‘Whoa, this is fast!’ I was like, if he thinks this is fast, I wonder how I’m going to feel!”

At the end of the day, he was smiling—apparently feeling just fine.

Smiles after Sebring Test

 

SEBRING, Fla. (Friday, Jan. 26)—Smiles all around. A.J. Foyt’s ABC Supply team ran its first two-car test with INDYCAR’s new aero kit at Sebring International Raceway’s modified road course this past Wednesday and Thursday and deemed the test a success on all counts. Tony Kanaan had tested the aero kit in December but this was the team’s first experience with the new and much more complex electronics system that will be used this season by all teams.

Kanaan did the development work for the team as his rookie teammate Matheus ‘Matt’ Leist familiarized himself with the car and the track as it was his first time testing at the central Florida circuit.

The AJ Foyt racing team completed a successful for test in 2018 at Sebring in preperation for the 2018 IndyCar season (photo courtesy of AJ Foyt Racing)

Kanaan, who logged 146 laps over the two days, said, “It was a very productive two days of testing I think. We needed to see how everything we’ve been developing over the winter related to the race track. There was a lot of damper work to be done, a lot of small aero things, and with the new electronics package, it was good that we had these two days to sort out all the problems with the two cars. We have a few days of testing the next couple of weeks—Sonoma and then the Phoenix Open Test- so we needed to make sure that everything works properly. I’m pretty happy.”

Team President Larry Foyt echoed Kanaan’s assessment and was pleased with the team’s performance, especially considering there were a lot of new hires.

“We made a lot of progress,” Foyt said. “Day one was our first experience with the new electronics. That was surely a patience tester, but the team and drivers did a great job checking off each box and getting everything running smoothly by the afternoon. From there, Tony was a bit of the workhorse and had to run through a great deal of changes and items we were validating from our offseason testing. For Matheus it was more about getting laps and experience than changes. He did an excellent job and got up to speed very quickly. Both cars were turning good laps by the end of the test on Thursday, so I’d say it was a job well done.”

Leist, who ran 131 laps over the two days, was also quietly satisfied with his first experience of working with the team on track.

“So far so good,” the 19-year-old said with a smile. “The test has been great. I hadn’t driven a race car since September so I was a little bit off the first laps I did — the car was feeling like crazy fast! But after 10 or 20 laps I was already on the pace and feeling comfortable in the car which is good. We’ve been working a lot on me [getting used to the car] and on the car and everything we’ve done has worked well.”

Leist, who tested the old aero kit in a half day test with Andretti’s team at Road America last summer, compared the two Indy cars to the Indy Lights car he drove last year.

“Indy Lights has a great car but it doesn’t have a lot of downforce,” said Leist, who won three races last year including the prestigious Freedom 100 at Indianapolis. “The new Indy car is much better on the brakes, has more downforce than the Indy Lights car and has more power, so pretty much everything is a little bit better. Comparing the new Indy car to the old Indy car, this car is a step closer to the Indy Lights car. The older aero kit just had so much downforce that it would probably take me quite a lot of time to get used to that. This new aero kit is something that it won’t take as much time for me because the kit is that much closer to the Indy Lights car. I’m already feeling comfortable with this Indy car. The biggest difference are the brakes. The Indy car has the carbon brakes which is a huge difference for me.”

Leist knows that the brakes are just one of the many things he has to adapt to this season.

“Everything is pretty much brand new for me,” he said. “The car is new, the tires are new, I’ve never done any test with red tires, never done pit stops, never raced for two hours, and the list goes on. There’s so many things, it’s difficult to say what I expect for the first race but I’m sure by mid-season it’ll be alright. I’m not putting a lot of pressure on myself for the first couple of races, I’m just trying to get as much information as I can from the Tony, A.J. and the whole team. I feel I have a lot of people supporting me. Of course I’m going to be in my best shape physically for St. Pete but I know it’ll be tough–and I’m looking forward to it.”

A.J. Foyt summed up, saying, “I thought with having new drivers, new engineers, new mechanics and new cars, everyone and everything worked really good together so I couldn’t ask for a better test.”

The ABC Supply team heads to Sonoma Raceway for a one day test at the road course February 5th. The Open Test at Phoenix’s one mile oval is scheduled later that week, with rookies taking to the track February 8th and all the drivers testing February 9th and 10th. The first race of the season in St. Petersburg is March 11th.

Tony Kanaan tests the No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolet at Sebring for the first time

SEBRING, Fla. – He likes it. That is the verdict from Tony Kanaan after his first test in the No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolet outfitted with the 2018 aero kit. “It was a good day and nice to be back on the track,” said the 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner. “Happy with the progress and that we…

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A.J. Foyt Hires Matheus Leist to drive the No. 4 ABC Supply Chevrolet In the Verizon IndyCar Series

WALLER, Texas (Nov. 16, 2017) – Smart. Young. Fast.  Matheus Leist, the 19-year-old Brazilian, will drive A.J. Foyt’s No. 4 ABC Supply Chevrolet in the Verizon IndyCar Series next year.

Foyt, who made the decision to hire the rookie to partner with veteran driver Tony Kanaan, said, “I wanted a fresh start for 2018. I think the combination of an experienced driver like Tony and a hungry young driver like Matt [Foyt’s nickname for Leist] will work. I watched him in the Indy Lights this year and he won at Indy [the Freedom 100 Indy Lights race]. I know he’s got a lot to learn but I think he’s going to learn very quick and I think he’ll be very good in the Indy cars.”

Matheus Leist will be joining A.J. Foyt Racing in 2018 after winning three races in the 2017 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tire season. (Photo courtesy of A.J. Foyt Racing)

Leist, currently the youngest full-time driver in the series, will be paired with the series’ most experienced driver in Kanaan, who will enter his 21st season of IndyCar competition. The rookie will benefit immensely from having the 2013 Indianapolis 500 champion and fellow Brazilian as his teammate and he knows it.

“This is a special moment in my career and I’m so grateful for the things that are happening,” said Leist, who lives outside of Miami in Aventura, Fla. “Sometimes it is hard for me to believe that I’ll be driving for the legend A.J. Foyt. Having Tony Kanaan as my teammate is incredible because he’s been an idol for me since I was a child. Tony and I are from different generations but I can’t wait to be with him at the track and learn as much as I can from him. It will be a pleasure.”

With 17 victories to his credit, the 2004 IndyCar Series champion will be a valuable asset in both developing the teenage driver and moving the team’s ambitious race program forward.

“I’m happy to welcome Matheus as a teammate to Foyt and the ABC Racing family,” Kanaan said. “Matheus is an extremely talented driver with a bright future ahead of him. I’m looking forward to working together and help get AJ Foyt Racing to the next level.”

Leist ascends to America’s premier open wheel series after one year in the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires Series where he won three races, two of which were sweeps. Leist won the pole position and the race at two of this country’s most historic tracks: Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Road America. His first major victory in America came in the Freedom 100 at Indy, more notable because it was his first experience in oval track racing. At Road America, he won the first race of the doubleheader. His third triumph came at Iowa Speedway. The three tracks epitomize the diversity of the open wheel series: superspeedway, road course, short oval. In four starts on the series’ two street courses (St. Petersburg and Toronto), his best finish is fifth. Like the ovals, it was his first experience on temporary circuits.

Leist’s mercuric rise to IndyCar was fueled by a championship performance in the British Formula 3 Series where he posted four victories and seven more podium finishes. The championship came down to the wire where Leist’s coolness under pressure served him well as he snatched the title from series leader Ricky Collard in the final race. It was after winning that title in 2016 that he decided to pursue a career in America.

“I’ve been racing for eleven years so far, and since I started in 2006, my brother and I always dreamed about getting into a top category,” Leist revealed. “I’m so thankful for the opportunities that I had so far and for the big moments that I lived. Every day I keep telling myself that I couldn’t have made a better decision than to come to the USA at the end of 2016. America is where things happen and where the good drivers have a proper place. The IndyCar Series is one of the best categories in the world and has the most important race in the world. The championship is amazing with its combination of road courses, street courses and ovals. It’s a series where all the teams are capable of doing a great job. I’ve dreamed about racing in this series and I can’t wait for this dream to come true.”

 Team President Larry Foyt spoke about the changes in the team’s program, saying, “We had to make some tough decisions but we made them with a focus on strengthening the overall program. We are positioning ourselves to be contenders next season. The added testing and development we are undergoing, combined with the new aero kit for all of the competition should help our overall competitiveness and consistency. We think Matheus is going to be a really good fit with Tony Kanaan because Matheus has a lot of talent and he is going to learn a lot from Tony.”

Matheus Leist, Larry Foyt, and Tony Kanaan at the announcement for the 2018 A.J. Foyt Racing line-up. (Photo courtesy of A.J. Foyt Racing)

Kanaan will be running a manufacturer’s test of the new universal aero kit next month at Sebring International Raceway while Leist is scheduled to test the new car in early January at Sebring. Both Kanaan and Leist will test together there at the end of January. The Verizon IndyCar Series will kick off its season with the Firestone Grand Prix at St. Petersburg, Fla. March 11.

Tony Kanaan Joins AJ Foyt Racing To Drive the No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolet

Tony Kanaan Joins AJ Foyt Racing To Drive the No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolet October 5, 2017 INDIANAPOLIS, IN– Indianapolis 500 champion Tony Kanaan, of Miami, Fla., will join AJ Foyt Racing to drive the No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolet in the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series team officials announced today. The pairing of a modern legend…

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Race Report: GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma

    SONOMA, Calif. – The 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season ended Sunday with Josef Newgarden winning the championship in his first year driving for Team Penske, and his teammate, the defending series champion Simon Pagenaud, claiming the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma.   Driving the No. 4 ABC Supply Chevrolet, Conor Daly finished 10th after starting 13th…

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Qualifying Report: GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma

    SONOMA, Calif.—For the final race of the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series, Conor Daly just barely missed advancing to the next round in his No. 4 ABC Supply Chevrolet, however, he did post his best start here at Sonoma Raceway. He will start 13th which also matches the best start for the ABC Supply team…

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Notes & Quotes: GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma

    A.J. Foyt’s ABC Supply team switched to Chevrolet this season with 25-year-old drivers Carlos Munoz (No. 14) and Conor Daly (No. 4). Munoz finished 10th and Daly 11th in the INDYCAR Grand Prix at The Glen.   Carlos Munoz on Sonoma Raceway: “Sonoma is really different from Watkins Glen. We’re arriving at a track…

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Race Report: INDYCAR Grand Prix at The Glen

    WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – It appears the many changes that AJ Foyt Racing undertook this season are starting to pay off. Since Mid-Ohio, either Conor Daly or Carlos Munoz has finished in the top 10, and that momentum continued at Watkins Glen International where Munoz finished 10th and Daly 11th. For Munoz, it was…

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