Notes & Quotes: Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach

Source: Team PR

A.J. Foyt ventured out of Texas to attend the Open Test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last week. While Foyt has sharply curtailed his schedule in attending NTT INDYCAR Series races, he usually makes it to the Speedway. With the stormy weather cancelling the second day of testing, we took the opportunity to ask him a few questions…

What’s your outlook for the season?

AJ: “Well, I think we’ll have a good season. You know, Larry’s worked very hard the last three or four years so he’s finally getting it together pretty good. We got some pretty good people with us, so we’ll just have to wait and see.”

Were you happy with the way testing went?

AJ: “I’ve been very happy with testing. Testing tells you a lot but sometimes it doesn’t, but normally it does. I thought the Open Test went very well. We were up in the top five or six and they had the full field there so that kind of tells you where you stand a little bit. I know we had something left and I’m quite sure a lot of them had something left. We’ll just have to wait till they drop the green here.” 

1999 Indy 500 winner Kenny Brack shares a laugh with his old boss during the Open Test. (Photo Courtesy of A.J. Foyt Racing)

What do you think of your drivers this year?

AJ: “I think Sting Ray is gonna be real good and Santino has proven to be so much better this year on the road courses. We’re very happy with him. He ran good last year at Indy. I thought we were gonna win it but third is better than fourth.”

Returning to Indy for the 500, do you think that the car will be as strong as it was last year?

AJ: “I think we’ll be very strong based on the recent testing. I mean sometimes testing backs up on you. Even when I raced, sometimes I’d test and then I’d come back and have to change everything to get going good, but at least you’re in the ballpark.”

What do you think about how the Penske technical alliance is working out for you?

AJ: “Well, I think it’s real good. Roger and I’ve been friends for years and we’ve got a young engineer [James Schnabel] of his that’s working with us and I think it’s been very successful. We’re giving information back and forth. And Roger does a lot more tests than us right now so that’s good. I’m just glad that we’re operating together. We talked about it at the test and he seems real happy too.” 

Santino, Larry Foyt (center) and race engineer James Schnabel in deep thought at the Open Test at IMS. (Photo Courtesy of A.J. Foyt Racing)

What would you consider a successful season for your team this year?

AJ: “Well, I would say it’d be a successful season if you can constantly run up in the top five all year. With everything being new like it is, I think it’d be very good. Of course, you always want to win and possibly we could win, but I would be very happy with top fives with all the changes in the cars. Everybody’s gonna have the same problem. And who figures it out first will be the ones that you have to beat. There’s a lot of unknowns there for everybody.”

Does that make it more of a level playing field because of all of the unknowns?

AJ: “Well, yes and no. That’s what makes it good with us working with Penske because he’s gonna do everything to stay up front and we’re gonna try and do everything to stay up front. Like I said, one of his young engineers is working with us so we’re sharing information back and forth. All we can do is wait and see and hope for the best.”

When you go to a racetrack, you always get stopped for autographs and pictures. Your thoughts on the fans?

 AJ: “Well, I think that’s what made A.J. Foyt – it was the fans. I tried to be good to them. I think one thing they liked about me was I always called a spade a spade, where people right now won’t do that. They just kind of cover up and go on about their business and I always used to run my mouth and say it like it was. Sometimes it’s good and sometimes it’s bad, but I think the good offset the bad in the long run.”

You’ve talked about some of the things that the fans made for you over the years.

AJ: “Oh, I’ve got beautiful trophies, but the fans have sent me so much beautiful stuff, that I think they’re just as important to me as the trophies I’ve won. The fans made things that they didn’t just do overnight, it all took time. So, they put in a lot of effort and I’m talking about racecars to blankets and quilts. The fans have sent me so much wonderful stuff. I’m just as proud of them as the trophies I’ve won.”

(Photo Courtesy of A.J. Foyt Racing)

So you never give that stuff away?

AJ: “No, nobody would ever buy it as long as I’m living. No, I don’t give it away. No. I’ve given away trophies sometimes when I’ve won them and given to people but stuff that people made for me will stay with me long as I live. After I’m gone, I can’t control it. But until I’m gone, I will control it.”

The Aerotech was crafted by Stephen Watson. (Photo Courtesy of A.J. Foyt Racing)

How do you think Larry’s doing as president of the race team?

AJ: “Well I think he’s learned a lot I’ve let him kind of hang himself and he’s come a long ways and I think he’s doing a very successful job this year. And he’s he’s learning every day and you know, you got to crawl for your walk. And that’s where I look at it. And it’s so much different now. Because you can’t even really start your own race cars anymore without the engineers of Honda or Chevrolet. And I don’t care for that. But that’s the rules. You’ve got to go by them.” 

(Photo Courtesy of A.J. Foyt Racing)

Do you like working with Chevrolet?

AJ: “Oh, yeah, I’ve worked with Chevrolet almost all my life. So, and I also I worked for Ford. I worked with Honda a lil bit. Honda was very good to me. I even had Honda and Chevrolet dealerships, so I can’t say anything bad about either one. They’re both great companies with great people.”

Did you ever think you achieved the success that you did?

AJ: “I was hoping to and trying to, and that’s the reason I raced so much. But no, I never thought I’d have what I have now when I was renting a cot for ten dollars a week in Speedway.”

Have you mellowed since your younger days?

AJ: “Only reason why is I’m 90 years old, well almost 90. I have to a point but I just don’t get out and get in trouble like I used to. I still think I can, but I know better.”

Do you think you were gifted?

AJ: “I think I was. Why? I can’t answer that, nobody can answer that. But just like everybody how do you drive a midget to a sprint car to an Indy car? I know a lot of people tried it and they couldn’t. Why? I can’t answer that. But I was able to adapt myself to whatever I was in –stock cars, sports cars, it didn’t make a difference. I guess that’s where I was very lucky.”

Do you think being able to jump from car to car made you a better driver?

AJ: “I think it did. And I know people that worked hard trying to do it and they couldn’t. They were good race drivers in one particular type car. But when you had to jump in something else, they were a nobody. And that’s where I was very fortunate to be able to do, I guess convert myself. People asked you how’d you do it. I can’t answer that. I just do it. I think that’s something you’re gifted with.”

Foyt won the 1972 Daytona 500 driving for the Wood Brothers. (Photo courtesy of DIS)

You’re known for your incredible determination–where does it come from?

AJ: “When I worked for my father in the garage business, I always listened to the Indianapolis race. I always hoped I could just make the race and be fortunate enough to win it. I know after I won it the first time, I was back up in my daddy’s shop and a lady said to him, ‘Well you won’t see your boy no more around here.’ He said, ‘Yep, he’s down there on that car.’ The lady walked down and saw me under hood working on a car and said, ‘Why are you doing this?’ I said, ‘My father needed help.’ And she couldn’t believe what she was seeing. And I’ll never forget that lady saying, ‘I can’t believe you’re doing this.'”

Do you think winning Indy four times changed you as a person?

AJ: “I don’t think it has. I’m still the same ol’ A.J. Some people like me, some people don’t. I don’t care. Ones that like me, I love; the ones that don’t, I don’t care what they think. No, I’ve had some great fans.”

Where do you get your determination from?

AJ: “Regardless of whatever I do, I want to try and be the best at.”

Where does that come from? You never seem to give up.

AJ: “People who give up aren’t very successful at nothing. And even though things didn’t go my way today, I still said tomorrow I’m gonna make it go my way. I mean, I had determination and I never give up on it. Sometimes it was hard but I still said I’m going to do it. And I made myself do it.”

Such as coming back from accidents?

AJ: “I think the hardest ones to come back from — even though I was broke up bad a lot —  was burns. That’s where the boys are so lucky today where we cared 75 gallons of fuel with no fuel cells and nothing. When you hit ,it was like a bomb. With the cars today they carry 18 gallons and got fuel cells and you very seldom see anybody get burned. And I think that was the most painful part I had in my racing career when my hands were burned and my neck –like second and third degree burns. It was nasty. I know when they brought me home from the hospital, my hands and arms were all wrapped up and my face was all covered up except my eyes. My kids all ran and started crying cause they didn’t know who I was. I’ll never forget that.”

The winning team in victory lane at Long Beach in 2013. (INDYCAR Photo)

What do you think of Takuma Sato being inducted in the Long Beach Motorsports Walk of Fame Induction Ceremony for winning the GP in 2013 with your team?

AJ: “I’m proud of him. No one deserves it more than he does. No, I really liked him when he drove for us. He won the race out there at Long Beach for us. I know I was sick, for some reason I wasn’t out there. My wife and I were watching on TV. She said, ‘There aren’t but five laps to go.’ I said, ‘ Honey, Long Beach I’ve run and anything can happen at any lap so we sat there and both sweated so we brought him in too even though we weren’t there. We were happy for him and he did a good job for us. I can’t holler I think he’d have won Indy for me and he just got too eager, but he stands on the gas. That’s what I like about him. And he’s just a super guy.”

SANTINO FERRUCCI, driving the No. 14 Sexton Properties Chevrolet, returns to Long Beach where he had his best finish (11th) with AJ Foyt Racing outside of his third-place finish at Indy last year. In this season’s first street race in St. Petersburg, he qualified 14th and finished 11th. This race will be his third time at Long Beach – in his first outing he qualified 13th and finished 21st driving for Dale Coyne.

What do you like about racing at Long Beach?

SF: “It’s a very fun street race with solid strategy behind it. I also enjoy the racing we can have there as long as we have the proper amount of tire degradation. Also, it’s nice to be out in SoCal for the weekend!”

(Photo Courtesy of A.J. Foyt Racing)

What is the key to running well there from your perspective?

SF: “Having a car that can turn really well! If you have plenty of rotation you are normally pretty quick. The hairpin is crucial to being fast since it’s the slowest turn on the track leading to the longest straight.”

Your season opener on the street course in St Pete went better than last year—how do you account for the improvement in performance? Is it more car-related or just having a full season under your belt with the team?

SF: “I think a lot has to do with finishing the race. We definitely had more qualifying pace than the previous year. Some of it has to do with me coming back for a second season and some with our car performance.”

Is there anything you learned at St Pete that can help you at Long Beach?

SF: “Yea I think we are going to have a similar car to St. Pete as I was very comfortable. Some small changes since the tracks aren’t exactly alike but it will be nice to drive a car that feels familiar to me.”

(Photo Courtesy of A.J. Foyt Racing)

What would you consider a successful weekend at Long Beach?

SF: “Top 10 and fighting for a Top 5. I believe we have it in us as a team. We just need to clean up some small things on the race weekends. The series is super competitive at the moment so we can’t afford any mistakes.”

Ferrucci Fast Facts: Age 25…Born in Woodbury, CT…Lives in Dallas, Texas…Married Renay Moore in January…Began racing karts at age 5, moved to cars in 2013…Competed in Formula 2000, British Formula 3, GP3 finishing third at Spa Francorchamps as a rookie, was development driver for Haas F1 team for three years (2016-2018), moved to Formula 2 in 2018…made his INDYCAR debut in Detroit in 2018…moved to NTT INDYCAR Series fulltime in 2019 finishing 13th in standings for Dale Coyne and won Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year after finishing seventh…13th in standings again with fourth place finish in the 500…drove part-time in 2021-22 but maintained top-10 streak in Indy 500 with finishes of sixth (RLL Racing) and 10th (Dreyer Reinbold Racing)…Scored career-best finish to date with his 3rd place finish in the 2023 Indianapolis 500 to continue his string of consecutive top-10 finishes in the 500…Competed part-time in NASCAR Xfinity Series in 2021-22.

STING RAY ROBB, in the No. 41 Chevrolet, will be making his second start on the 1.9-mile, 11-turn temporary street course in sight of the Queen Mary. In his first start there (also with Dale Coyne), Robb qualified 21st and finished 18th. In his first start with Foyt at St. Petersburg, he qualified 24th and suffered a mechanical issue so he placed 26th after completing only 33 laps.

(Photo Courtesy of A.J. Foyt Racing)

What do you like about racing at Long Beach?

SRR: “Long Beach is a great street circuit. There are very characteristic parts of the track that we don’t get to have at any other event on the calendar; such as, the fountain turn, the hairpin and the front stretch that makes for great passing down in to turn 1. It is also a West coast race which I love just from growing up in the Pacific Northwest. There’s usually great weather and a great crowd!”

What are the most challenging aspects of street courses for young drivers?

SRR: “Most challenging, probably being familiar enough with the car to deal with the unpredictability of the bumps. To add to that, the consequences for making a mistake on a street course are much higher than that of a road course. Instead of using runoff, grass, or something similar on a natural terrain course, we have to deal with concrete barriers on narrow streets. This all makes a tight window of operation on a road course that requires skill and experience.” 

What did you learn at St Pete that will help you at Long Beach?

 SRR: “There was a lot to learn at St. Pete, but most of all I think as a team, we have a great direction for car setup. The more seat time I had through the weekend, the better I felt. The biggest key takeaway is how to compromise sequences during some parts of the track. Street courses don’t always flow perfectly together, so that means sacrificing one corner to be good in the next. This will come into play at the last sector in Long Beach leading into the hairpin and onto our best passing straight.” 

(Photo Courtesy of A.J. Foyt Racing)

What would you consider a successful weekend?

SRR: “A big goal is to qualify inside the top 15. If we do that, we can then focus on making a good run in the race. It is a difficult place to pass so that would be a great spot to move forward from. 

Being a west coast race is there added pressure for you with more family and friends present?

SRR: “Definitely not. I love having friends, family, and fans at the racetrack. At times it can be overwhelming how much support we have on a weekend but I enjoy their presence and feeling the love.  

Sting Ray Fast Facts: Age 22…Grew up in Payette, ID…Lives in Indianapolis…Engaged to Molly Mitchell…Began racing karts at age 5 winning several national titles over the next 10 years. His transition to cars began at the Skip Barber Karts to Cars Shootout where he won the Bryan Herta Scholarship which put him on the Road to Indy and into the NTT INDYCAR Series at age 21. In his rookie season, he scored a career best finish of 12th in the season finale in Monterey, Calif. A devout Christian, Robb will be active as a spokesman for his sponsor this season. Off track, Robb enjoys mountain biking, skiing, hiking, hunting, fishing, rock-climbing, golf, tennis, pickleball and basketball., the primary marketing partner on the No. 41 Chevrolet driven by Sting Ray Robb, will host a large contingent of guests from their company headquarters located in Westlake Village, Calif. Over 50 guests are expected to attend the three-day event to experience the thrill of the NTT INDYCAR Series in action.

Peacock Streaming and USA Network Broadcast Information: NBC’s Peacock will stream Friday’s practice from 5:50 – 7:05 p.m. and Saturday’s practice from 11:25 – 12:25 p.m. Qualifying will be streamed live on Peacock on Saturday at 2:25 p.m. Peacock will stream the 30-minute warmup Sunday at 12:00 p.m. The Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach will be broadcast live on the USA Network starting at 3 p.m. All times are Eastern.

Radio Broadcast Information: The Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach race and all NTT INDYCAR SERIES practices and qualifying sessions air live on network affiliates, SiriusXM INDYCAR Nation 218 and SiriusXM NBC Sports Audio 85, and the INDYCAR App powered by NTT DATA.