Archives for A.J. Foyt Racing PR

ROKiT Group Expands Its Program with AJ Foyt Racing; Tatiana Calderón Hired for 2022

Tatiana Calderón leaves the pits during a test with A.J. Foyt Racing at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (Photo Courtesy of A.J. Foyt Racing)

INDIANAPOLIS (January 17, 2022) — ROKiT Group is expanding their marketing partnership with AJ Foyt Racing for 2022 as the team will enter two ROKiT-branded Chevrolets in the NTT INDYCAR Series with Tatiana Calderón hired to drive the No. 11 ROKiT Chevrolet.

The agreement expands AJ Foyt Racing to a three-car team with the previously announced Kyle Kirkwood in the No. 14 ROKiT Chevrolet and veteran Dalton Kellett in the No. 4 K-Line Insulators USA Chevrolet.

A.J. Foyt, who turned 87 yesterday, will be experiencing another first in his iconic career which spans eight decades. Calderón becomes the first female driver to compete for the legendary Texan. The 28-year-old Colombian native is set to drive the street and road courses. No driver has been signed for the oval tracks to date.

 “I’m thrilled and very thankful to Jonathan Kendrick, ROKiT and AJ Foyt Racing for the opportunity to race in the NTT INDYCAR Series!” exclaimed Calderón. “Ever since I started my single seater career in the United States eleven years ago, INDYCAR has been a reference for me and it’s a dream come true to be on the grid this year! I can’t wait to get to St. Petersburg for the first race of the season! I’m well aware of the challenge ahead, but this is the chance of a lifetime and I’m keen on making the most of it.”

Entrepreneur Kendrick, the Co-founder and Chairman of the ROKiT Group of Companies, has supported Calderón’s career since 2020 when she competed in the World Endurance Championship and Super Formula Japan.

“One of our fundamental principles in the overall marketing of the ROKiT brand worldwide is our support and promotion of women in motorsport and, as part of that principle, we’ve supported Tatiana for a long time now,” Kendrick said. “We recognized her talent and charisma early on, which we’ve seen grow and develop, so we’re very excited to be expanding our partnership with Larry and the AJ Foyt Racing Team by having Tatiana drive the No. 11 ROKiT Chevrolet alongside Kyle Kirkwood in the No. 14 ROKiT Chevrolet this season. We know Tatiana is already a role model to many young female drivers around the world and we think the huge exposure of the NTT INDYCAR Series will serve only to increase her reach even further to become an inspiration to many more women to get involved in motorsports.”

Calderón spent the last two seasons competing in Super Formula in Japan for Threebond Drago Corse and for Richard Mille Racing in the FIA World Endurance Championship. She has been a test driver for the Alfa Romeo Formula 1 team for the past four years. Her extensive resume includes stints in Formula 2, Renault Series Formula V8 3.5 where she was the first female on the podium in Bahrein in 2017, GP3, European Formula 3, and the British Formula 3 Series, where she was the first female to score a podium.

Born in Bogota, Colombia and currently living in Madrid, Calderón tested the No. 14 ROKiT Chevrolet at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio last July which prompted talks of competing for the team in 2022.

Those talks resulted in Team President Larry Foyt signing an extension and expansion of the ROKiT sponsorship along with the hire of Calderón who impressed Foyt.

Foyt said, “I’m thrilled with the continuation and expansion of the ROKiT AJ Foyt Racing Team. We welcome Tatiana Calderón in car number 11 joining Kyle Kirkwood in car 14, both in the very cool ROKiT liveries. Tatiana showed a lot of potential in her test at Mid-Ohio. With Dalton Kellett in the No. 4 K-Line Insulators Chevrolet, I think our three-car team is in for an exciting season.”

Calderón will test with Kirkwood in Sebring, Fla. this week. Kellett is planning to attend in an advisory role.

Calderón and Kirkwood, the 2021 Indy Lights Series champion, will make their INDYCAR Series debut in the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on February 27th which will be broadcast on NBC starting at 12 noon ET. Kirkwood and Kellett will compete in all of the races while Calderón will run in 12 of the 17 races on the schedule. 

RIP Al Unser (1939 – 2021)

HOUSTON (Dec. 10, 2021) Four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser passed away on December 9th after a valiant and hard-fought battle with cancer. Unser, the first driver to tie A.J. Foyt as a four-time winner of the Indianapolis 500 in 1987, had a long friendship with the famed Texan dating back to 1965.

“I was really sorry to hear about Al Unser,” Foyt, 86, said. “We were able to catch up in July at the 4-time winners deal [photo shoot] we did at Indy and I’m glad for that. I always thought a lot of Al, even when he first came to Indy. That’s why I was happy to give him his first ride there. He was a nice person and well-respected because he was a cool, smart race driver. Always knew what he was doing, knew how to take care of a car. He was very smart and when he was winning you had to be because racing was a lot more dangerous back then. I always had a lot of respect for Al. It’s a sad day.”

Foyt gave Unser his first ride at Indy when the car Unser had suffered several engine problems. It was a favor that Unser never forgot, especially because it came at a time when Foyt was the defending 500 champion after winning for a second time in 1964. Foyt explained to Unser that the car had a problem with handling but told him he thought it would qualify and Unser did qualify it.

Foyt also teamed with Al in 1985 (and Bob Wollek and Thierry Boutsen) to win the 24 Hours of Daytona in Preston Henn’s Porsche 962. They teamed again in 1987 (along with Danny Sullivan) when Foyt entered his own Porsche 962. Of that experience, Foyt said, “We were leading when we had electrical problems and dropped out near the end. I remember George Snider was mad cause he said he stayed up all night (working on the crew) only to have us break at the end.” In 1991, Foyt tapped Unser to replace him at Phoenix in the No. 14 Lola/Chevrolet after Foyt broke his shoulder in practice.

Unser and Foyt chat during the day long photo shoot at Indy in July. It was the last time Foyt saw his friend.

Unser and Rick Mears journeyed to Foyt’s shop outside Houston in November 2012 for the 2013 Indy 500 program cover shoot. The three 500 winners spent the day reminiscing and all agreed it was a very special time for each of them.

Dalton Kellett Will Continue To Drive for AJ Foyt Racing in 2022

INDIANAPOLIS (Dec. 1, 2021) — Canadian Dalton Kellett will continue to drive the No. 4 K-Line Insulators USA Chevrolet in the NTT INDYCAR Series in 2022 for AJ Foyt Racing. It will mark the 28-year-old’s third straight season in North America’s premier open wheel series.

“I’m very excited to be back with AJ Foyt Racing for the 2022 season!” Kellett exclaimed.  “We are looking forward to the year and continuing to build on the momentum from 2021. I’m grateful for the opportunity to be back in the number 4 Chevrolet. A.J., Larry, our team partners, and K-Line have made this a possibility, so I am very thankful for them. Looking back at 2021, we had moments of promise and some encouraging results, we need to enter the 2022 season on that trajectory. The schedule looks very exciting this year, some familiar tracks returning (looking at you Iowa) and I can’t wait to be racing in front of the hometown crowd in Toronto!”

Kellett began his Indy car career with the team in 2020, driving on the street and road courses. He also competed in the Indianapolis 500 where he started alongside then teammate Tony Kanaan. Kellett, the 2018 pole winner for the Freedom 100 in the Indy Lights Series presented by Cooper Tires, scored his best finish of 12th in Indy cars at World Wide Technology Raceway in August.

“It’s great to have Dalton continuing with the team in 2022,” said Team President Larry Foyt. “He made some solid progress in his first full season in the NTT INDYCAR Series, and I’m looking forward to seeing what he can accomplish next season. He is a true team player and a great ambassador for AJ Foyt Racing.” 

Kellett, a Queens University graduate with a degree in engineering physics, hails from Toronto but has been a resident of Indianapolis since he first began competing in the Road to Indy Series dating back to 2014. He recently became engaged to Hoosier native Nicole Westra.

“On a personal note, Nicole and I are busy planning the wedding, slated for winter 2022, so we have the whole year to look forward to that!”

Kellett will be joined this season by 2021 Indy Lights champion Kyle Kirkwood who will pilot the No. 14 Chevrolet in his rookie season as an INDYCAR driver. The NTT INDYCAR Series kicks off its season on Sunday, February 27 with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

Race Report: Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach

LONG BEACH, Calif. (Sept. 26, 2021)—The NTT INDYCAR Series wrapped up its season under overcast skies but A.J. and his team were beaming as everyone had reasons to smile. And it wasn’t just because their very tough season had ended.

“Today was a pretty good day,” said A.J. Foyt, who made his first trip to California in several years. “I was hoping we would have run a little better but, you’ve got to take what you can get. The drivers and crews all did a good job. This track you’ve got to be real careful because you can get parked real easy.”

Bourdais and Foyt share a laugh after the race.

When the race started, it appeared that Sebastien Bourdais, who started 22nd, was going to be a victim of an aggressive youngster yet again! A bottleneck that occurred in the hairpin at the end of lap 1 due to Pato O’Ward being tagged by Ed Jones, saw Rinus Veekay run into Bourdais’s gearbox bouncing him in the air but luckily not into a barrier. The car stalled and when the car was restarted by the AMR Safety team, Bourdais was 28th — aka last.

This pit stop on lap 18 was the game changer for the No. 14 ROKiT team.

A timely strategy call to pit on lap 18 proved key as it came just before the caution came out on lap 20 for Pato O’Ward’s car which had stopped on the frontstretch. With solid pit stops, savvy driving and saving fuel to make the race with just one more stop, Bourdais worked his way into eighth to notch another top-10 finish!

Seb poses with his parents, Jocelyn and Patrick, who were visiting from LeMans, France.

“A pretty good day for the ROKiT Chevrolet No. 14 here with A.J. Foyt Racing,” a satisfied Bourdais commented on video afterwards. “From 22nd, (and then) essentially last, to P-8 with really good strategy from the boys. I had a pretty quick car, which I knew we were not that bad, but I didn’t think we’d be that quick during the race. Not quite sure what the future is going to be made of but if it was to be the last one, not too shabby for the last one, and I really hope to see you guys next year.”

Charlie Kimball showed he didn’t lose his form in the No. 11 Tresiba Chevrolet despite a nearly four-month hiatus. Starting 20th, and employing a different fuel strategy from Bourdais, Kimball had run as high as seventh before pitting on lap 27 during the third caution (this time for Marcus Ericsson who was battling with Alexander Rossi and ended up in a tire barrier). The yellows didn’t work to Kimball’s advantage but he was on pace to post a solid 14th place finish until Graham Rahal drilled him in the final corner—the hairpin leading onto the homestretch. Kimball recovered to finish 18th.

Charlie Kimball stands with his dad Gordon, a former engineer in IndyCar and Formula 1.

“Well, it sure was a fun day in the No. 11 Tresiba Chevrolet!” Kimball exclaimed. “The guys at AJ Foyt Racing did a great job, the car ran flawlessly. We had a great race going, a few strategy calls, things were looking good but then a couple yellows helped the guys ahead of us. And then the last lap I got run into by someone not paying attention. But at the end of the day, it was a great day of racing and I can’t thank AJ Foyt Racing [enough], or Novo Nordisk for the years of support! What a way to finish the season here at Long Beach and crown a champion.”

Dalton Kellett drove one of his best races of the year at a track he’d never seen before this weekend. Starting 26th, he had moved up to 16th by lap 65 and was running just behind Kimball at that point. With less than 15 laps to go, Kellett had run out of push-to-pass seconds (the extra boost in horsepower which was limited to 200 total seconds) to defend against Graham Rahal, Max Chilton, and with just four laps to go, Jimmy Johnson. Helio Castroneves passed him too but the Brazilian was a lap down. Kellett slipped to 19th.

Dalton Kellett with his fiancee Nicole Westra prior to the race. Her parents, Barb and Cory are far right.

“Last race of the year, the 2021 INDYCAR season is wrapped up,” the 28-year-old Canadian said. “Happy to end it on a pretty good note for the No. 4 K-Line Insulators USA team. We brought that Team Chevy home P19 I believe with a drag race to the finish with teammate Charlie Kimball, so that was exciting. Took that restart 16th, moved up from 26th so that was some good moves, but was a little over-zealous on the push-to-pass in the middle of the race, so with about 12 to go, I had no push-to-pass. I was having to defend pretty aggressively from Helio and Jimmy so lost a few spots there, but move on and learn as far as managing that. But happy with how we’re wrapping it up. Kind of an up and down year, but we’ve had some high spots and I think this was a good way to end the year.”

Team President Larry Foyt looked back on the race and the season and said, “When Seb got hit on the first lap, it felt like more of the bad racing luck that has hovered over us all season. But what I love about this group is that we don’t give up, so for the ROKiT Chevrolet to come from last to a solid top-10 feels great to end the season. Dalton drove hard and did well for never having been to Long Beach, and I thought Charlie did amazing for being out of the car for a while and should have been top-15 if not for others’ mistakes. All in all, this was not the year that we were hoping for, but we never gave up and the team made gains. We aren’t exactly sure what our lineup will be at this point, but we will be back and focused on getting stronger and moving up further in the championship standings.”

Colton Herta dominated the race, leading 43 of the 85 laps to win his second straight race of the season, bringing his total to three victories this year. Pole winner Josef Newgarden gave chase but finished second in the race which was enough to vault him past O‘Ward in the 2021 standings and become vice-champion.

Rounding out the top five were Scott Dixon, Alex Palou, who clinched his first ever NTT INDYCAR Series title, and Simon Pagenaud.

In just his second INDYCAR season, Palou, 24, is the youngest driver to win the title since his teammate Scott Dixon won it in 2003. Trailing Palou and Newgarden in the final standings were O’Ward, Dixon and Herta. Bourdais wound up 16th and Kellett was 23rd.

The 2022 NTT IndyCar Series kicks off in St. Petersburg on Sunday, February 27th.

Qualifying Report: Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach

LONG BEACH, Calif. (Sept. 25, 2021) – Qualifying for the final race of the 2021 NTT INDYCAR Series is in the books. AJ Foyt Racing fielded three cars for this event, welcoming back Charlie Kimball in the No. 11 Tresiba Chevrolet.

Kimball, who hadn’t been in a car since May, or on a street course since a year ago in St. Petersburg where he registered his 2020 season best finish of eighth, qualified the fastest of the Foyt contingent and will start 20th. He posted a time of 1 minute, 9.67 seconds around the 1.968 mile street course.

Charlie Kimball appears ready to get back into action. (INDYCAR Photo)

“Well, I don’t know about the qualifying result but I’m still grinning from being back in and Indy car,” Kimball said afterwards. “It’s been so much fun this weekend. First and foremost, most of the credit goes to the AJ Foyt Racing crew. The No. 11 crew guys have made sure the car ran flawlessly both practices through qualifying. Qualifying we missed it a little bit on the grip and the result wasn’t great, it wasn’t what we wanted as a team, but we know there’s some left on the table for the race tomorrow.”

Starting 22nd will be three-time Long Beach Grand Prix winner Sebastien Bourdais in the No. 14 ROKiT Chevrolet. Bourdais rubbed a barrier in the morning practice which bent a rear lower wishbone. The team couldn’t repair it before the session ended (less than 10 minutes left). He didn’t get to run the alternate compound (red) Firestone tires before qualifying which would have been useful. In qualifying, the brakes locked up going into Turn 1 on the “money lap” so the warmup lap ended up being his best time which was 1 minute, 9.70 seconds. 

“Pretty disappointing qualifying for the ROKiT Chevrolet No. 14,” Bourdais commented afterwards. “Kind of paying the price for my mistake this morning. Made the change that seemed to be a good thing for our teammates, but it ended up causing another issue. Bounced off the rear third (spring) going into Turn 1 and locked everything up—rear and front [brakes]. Unfortunately, that was on what had to be the fastest lap. It’s just a real shame, now we’ll be starting well out of position. Not sure what we can do, but we’ll dig as hard as we can and see what we can do tomorrow.

A.J. Foyt explains something to Jonathan “JK” Kendrick, co-founder and chairman of the ROKiT Group of Companies. 

Dalton Kellett got his first look at the course on Thursday during the track walk as he didn’t race here last year due to event being cancelled. He will start 26th after posting a time of 1 minute, 9.76 seconds in the No. 4 K-Line Insulators USA Chevrolet.

“Overall, a tough qualifying session for us, obviously not where we want to be starting with our team cars towards the back,” the recently engaged Canadian said. “The field’s very tight, very competitive and a couple tenths [of a second] puts you in the mix. From our end, we’ve been fighting some oversteer most of the weekend. Our street course car we typically have a better front end versus the road course so trying to get the rears to work a bit better and allow me to come off the brakes and really roll speed through the middle of the corner. Just happy from practice to tighten up the gap to Seb and Charlie, so that’s a gain for the 4 team. We’ll try some stuff out for tomorrow. We have three cars so we can really evaluate different packages for the race and see what we all hone in on and what we think is going to work best for tomorrow.”

Josef Newgarden won the pole with a time of 1 minute, 8.22 seconds. Rounding out the Firestone Fast Six were: Scott Dixon, Helio Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud, Felix Rosenqvist and Romain Grosjean. Teams will have a 30 minute final warmup tomorrow morning.

The 85-lap Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach will be broadcast live on NBCSN Sunday afternoon starting at 3 p.m. ET.

Notes & Quotes: Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach

Notes & Quotes: Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach

Photo Courtesy of A.J. Foyt Racing

Charlie Kimball will compete in the Grand Prix of Long Beach this weekend in the No. 11 Tresiba Chevrolet, marking his return to the NTT INDYCAR Series competition for the first time since May. Born in England (when his father Gordon worked in Formula 1 as an engineer), Kimball grew up in Camarillo, Calif. (about 75 miles north of Long Beach) and attended the race as a child. He last competed in the Grand Prix in 2018 when he finished 10th, his best finish to date at his home track. We asked him a few questions…

What does it mean to you to be able to race at Long Beach (why is the track so special to you)? “It’s really special. Being at the Long Beach Grand Prix and not racing in 2019 was a huge motivator to put a program together with AJ Foyt Racing to be a full-time driver in 2020. And then with the pandemic, not getting to the West Coast at all last year was tough. So I am excited to be back in the car racing for A.J. Foyt in front of the Southern California INDYCAR fans.

“It feels like coming home for me because it’s not only getting back in a race car but being back in Southern California where I’m from. I remember going to the race and being on the outside of the catch fencing and waiting in line for the autographs of the drivers, and now to be on the other side of the catch fencing, it’s that much more special. It’s a great way to finish out the 2021 season.”

Photo Courtesy of A.J. Foyt Racing

How have you prepared for this event? The street races like Long Beach are noted for being physically demanding. With the aeroscreen increasing the heat in the cockpit, the physicality of the race has also increased. How have you prepared for that? “I have been training all season with PitFit Training and despite not having any races planned, I trained as if I was in the car every weekend. I am looking forward to the physical challenge of hustling an Indy car through the streets all weekend! As for the heat, heat training and preparation has been a part of the PitFit programming for years and it has really paid off with the addition of the Aeroscreen.”

Even though you haven’t been racing as much this year you have been at the races in several capacities…can you speak about that? “I seem to have been busier on race weekends this year than if I was in the car every weekend! I have been broadcasting the Indy Lights races live on Peacock all year alongside Kevin Lee and Katie Kiel (and Georgia Hennebery since Katie went on maternity leave!). I have been adding my perspective to the AJ Foyt Racing team where and when I can, and at a few races this year, I have been on the radio during the races to Sébastien Bourdais in the No. 14 car helping navigate traffic on starts and merging out of pit lane!”

Photo Courtesy of A.J. Foyt Racing

Do you think it will help you this weekend—allowing you to stay current on the competition? “Being around the paddock all year and watching the on track activity from a different vantage point will help me gauge what is happening during the sessions and when I’m on track. Having that feel and perspective has broadened my experience base when I’m in the cockpit.”

Photo Courtesy of A.J. Foyt Racing

What do you think of the competition level in INDYCAR these days? “INDYCAR has never been more competitive. The lap times are incredibly close and there are at least 12-15 cars that are capable of success each and every weekend. That means you have to make as few mistakes as possible to be competitive each weekend.”

Photo Courtesy of A.J. Foyt Racing

Will the fact that no one has been there with this car (with the aeroscreen) make it a more level playing field? “It may help level the field some, but I have a lot of confidence in the AJ Foyt Racing street course set up. After Sébastien and I both finished in the top-10 at St. Pete last year, I know we can be fast!”

What is the key to getting around the Long Beach circuit? “The most important part is having a car you can trust- the balance doesn’t have to be perfect, but it does have to be consistent. Knowing you can consistently drive right next to the concrete barriers pays off in lap time all weekend.”

Novo Nordisk has been your sponsor since your Indy Lights days. How has the relationship with the company impacted your life? “Working with Novo Nordisk has been incredibly rewarding. Not only have they supported my dream within racing, but they have been great partners in telling my story to the whole diabetes community. I know we have made a difference in the lives of people with diabetes, and I can’t wait to continue that story this weekend at the Long Beach Grand Prix!”

Kimball Fast Facts: Age 36…Born in Chertsey, England while his father, Gordon, worked in Formula 1 as an engineer…grew up in Camarillo, Calif. where his family still owns an avocado ranch…lives in Indianapolis…married to Kathleen, has two children, Hannah and Gordon…Made history by becoming the first driver with diabetes to win an IndyCar race—Mid-Ohio in 2013. Won the 2013 Rolex 24 at Daytona driving for Chip Ganassi Racing. Still holds track record for qualifying at Texas Motor Speedway with speed of 222.747mph set in 2017.

DALTON KELLETT (No. 4 K-Line Insulators USA Chevrolet) will be competing at Long Beach in an Indy car for the first time; he never raced there in the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires Series.

Photo Courtesy of A.J. Foyt Racing

Kellett: “It will be my first time racing and driving on this track so I’m excited to be turning some laps there in an Indy car. It is definitely one of the crown jewels on the INDYCAR circuit so it should be a fun weekend. I personally love street courses, and I think we have our best road course performances on the street courses this year, so looking forward to getting back on the city streets. And what a better place to end the season than on the streets of Long Beach, California! It’ll be super fun and can’t wait to wrap things up and have a strong finish.”

SHE SAID YES! Kellett proposed to his beautiful girlfriend Nicole Westra in Napa Sunday evening. Westra is an occupational therapist and has been at Kellett’s side since his Indy Lights days. It is a big year for Kellett who purchased his first home earlier this year in Indianapolis.

Photo Courtesy of A.J. Foyt Racing
Photo Courtesy of A.J. Foyt Racing

STEM Talk: Kellett will address 150 STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) students from the Long Beach Unified School District on Friday in the Long Beach Convention Center prior to practice. Inspiring students to pursue STEM careers is a personal passion of Kellett’s. Since 2018, the Canadian driver has worked with Ten80 Education’s National STEM League (NSL), as their brand ambassador. The NSL is an international K-12 engineering design competition using remote-controlled cars. He supports the teams, representing them in INDYCAR and engaging with them at their competitions and through online learning materials.

Kellett Fast Facts: Age 28…Born in Stouffville, Canada…lives in Indianapolis; bought his first house there in May, 2021…Graduated from Queens University with a degree in Engineering Physics…Brand spokesman for Ten80 Education’s National STEM League…Enjoys rock climbing, backcountry skiing, camping, playing guitar, cooking and golf.

Photo Courtesy of A.J. Foyt Racing

SÉBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 14 ROKiT Chevrolet) has raced at Long Beach 14 times and finished in the top-10 in seven races. He won three straight races (2005-2007) and the pole twice (2006 and 2007), and finished on the podium in 2004 (3rd) and 2017 (2nd). Bourdais’ best finish in 2021 is fifth (Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham and World Wide Technology Raceway/Gateway in St. Louis).

Bourdais: “Very excited to go to Long Beach. Obviously, a track where I’ve had a tremendous amount

of success. I very much enjoy the layout, the atmosphere, the people and just have a lot of really good memories and very recent ones too. Got a podium there not so long ago and have been competitive many, many times—pretty much every time I’ve been there so looking forward to that last race and last Californian weekend.”

Photo Courtesy of A.J. Foyt Racing

Bourdais Fast Facts: Age 42…Born in LeMans, France…lives in St. Petersburg, Fla. …Married to Claire, has two children, Emma and Alex…Ranks sixth on INDYCAR’s All-time Wins list with 37 victories and ranks seventh in career poles with 34…Ex-Formula One driver (2008-09)…Won 12 Hours of Sebring this year; has won Rolex 24 at Daytona overall (2014) and Petit LeMans…Finished second overall in 24 Hours of LeMans and won in the GTE class with Ford in 2016.

Past Performance at Long Beach: Sébastien Bourdais is a three-time winner of this event (2005-2007) and a two-time pole winner (2006-07). Dalton Kellett has never competed at Long Beach and Charlie Kimball’s best finish is 10th in 2018, the last time he raced there. AJ Foyt Racing’s best finish came in 2013 when Takuma Sato won after starting fourth, also the team’s best start. The team has four more top-10 finishes.

Last Race: At Laguna Seca, Bourdais finished 14th after starting 21st. Kellett finished 23rd after starting 27th.

Photo Courtesy of A.J. Foyt Racing

A.J. Foyt stopped by the Stevenson Hotel in Monterey this week and met second-generation owner Craig Smith. The Foyt crew stayed there this past weekend. A.J. stayed there 58 years ago when in town to compete in the sports car race at Laguna Seca in 1963 (he finished second). In fact, Smith’s father told him that A.J. was their first customer! Smith has been managing the hotel since 1984, explaining that he loves dealing with his clientele.

Foyt with Stevenson Hotel owner Craig Smith. Photo Courtesy of A.J. Foyt Racing

The Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach will be broadcast Sunday, Sept. 26 on NBC starting at 3 p.m. ET. Qualifying will be broadcast on NBCSN on Saturday, Sept. 25 starting at 3p.m. ET. The practices and qualifying will be streamed on Peacock.

Race Report: Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey

MONTEREY, Calif. (Sept. 19, 2021)—The Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey was run under ideal weather conditions at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca Sunday afternoon. The 95-lap race was slowed by just one caution period when a fight for the lead resulted in Alexander Rossi spinning after making contact with pacesetter and eventual winner Colton Herta.

That caution on lap 2 set up the gamble that the ROKiT crew took by pitting Sébastien Bourdais’ No. 14 Chevrolet on lap 3 when the pits opened for service. They opted to go off strategy, meaning that they would do just two more fuel stops – pitting on laps 33 and 64–with long stints in between them. The K-Line Insulators USA team elected to make it the traditional three-stop race, pitting Dalton Kellett’s No. 4 Chevrolet on laps 16, 38 and 66.

Pitstops were solid for the ROKiT crew today. (Photo Courtesy of A.J. Foyt Racing)

Being on a different strategy from the leaders, Bourdais, who started 21st, ran in the top 10 from laps 14 through 31 just before he pitted. By lap 47, he worked his way back to 11th and stayed in the top-12 until lap 83 when his fuel-saving mode made him vulnerable to a charging Scott Dixon and Scott McLaughlin. Bourdais finished 14th.

Bourdais (left) talks with his engineers after the race: Technical Director Mike Colliver (center) and Race Engineer Justin Taylor. (Photo Courtesy of A.J. Foyt Racing)

“A pretty interesting race for the ROKiT Chevrolet number 14 with AJ Foyt Racing,” Bourdais said afterwards. “Started 21st, obviously a few incidents in the field and that early yellow, which the team decided to go for a two-stopper from there which was a long way to go, very long stints on that high tire degradation track. So kind of struggled at the end of every stint, but we were definitely pretty competitive in that middle stint! Just really struggled on the last one so we came out with 14th place, but it was pretty much all we could hope for today.”

The K-Line Insulators Chevrolet at speed. (Photo Courtesy of A.J. Foyt Racing)

Kellett’s race from 27th on the grid was a struggle as the high tire degradation, which this historic 2.23-mile track is known for, made the Canadian’s car difficult to handle—especially at the end of the fuel stints. When it was time to pit for fresh rubber, Kellett was more than ready. He was philosophical in his review of the race, noting he learned quite a bit from it. He finished 23rd.

Kellett (left) explains his point to Mike Pawlowski (race engineer-second from left), Scott Harner (race strategist – third from left) and Ryan Briscoe (driver coach). (Photo Courtesy of A.J. Foyt Racing)

“Bit of a tough day for us but at least we made some spots up from where we started,” Kellett pointed out after the race. “It was definitely a struggle during the race to try and keep those Firestones under us. The second stint we ran reds and they went away really quick and it was a pretty big struggle but we got through it. Getting back on reds sort of bringing the average pace down and keep them under me for a longer stint, but it was pretty tough just trying to make them last and be competitive towards the end of the tire life. Not the result we were looking for but still lots learned and looking forward to the final round at Long Beach.”

Herta dominated the race leading 91 of the 95 laps. It was his second straight sweep at this track, the first coming in 2019 when the INDYCAR Series returned to the track after a 15-year hiatus. Finishing second was Alex Palou, the current points leader. Rounding out the top five were Romain Grosjean, Graham Rahal and Pato O’Ward.

Charlie Kimball returns to the cockpit of the No. 11 Tresiba Chevrolet for the final round of the 2021 NTT INDYCAR Series next weekend. The Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach will be broadcast on Sunday, Sept. 26th starting at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

A.J. Foyt made the trip to Monterey for the first time since 1995. He chats with Bourdais after the race as team manager Craig Baranouski looks on. (Photo Courtesy of A.J. Foyt Racing)

Qualifying Report: Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey

MONTEREY, Calif. (Sept. 18, 2021)—The AJ Foyt Racing team will have its work cut out for them tomorrow in the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

The optimism after yesterday’s practice where Sébastien Bourdais was 12th quickest in his No. 14 ROKiT Chevrolet (until his fastest lap was deleted due to the yellow coming out a couple seconds prior to his hitting the timing line) was replaced by disappointment after qualifying today.

“It started off pretty good yesterday,” said Bourdais, who will start 21st after posting a lap time of 1 minute, 11.97 seconds (111.935mph). “I thought the car was seemingly in the window, just needed a bit of grip and a bit less understeer. It seemed like there was potential from the work we did at the DIL (simulator). At least it correlated pretty well, the feel behind the wheel was very similar. Then we went back out this morning and picked up a massive amount of understeer which was really strange. Put the reds on and it didn’t really fix anything, so made very little changes for this afternoon, because for us the car has gone fairly oversteer between cold and higher track temps, and sure enough, we got loose on entry and really never recovered the front grip that we had in the center of the corners, so it became a very difficult car to drive. Unfortunately, it’s nowhere near good enough, so yeah, very disappointed.”

Dalton Kellett was fourth quickest early in this morning’s practice before he made contact with the barrier in Turn 4 which damaged the right side. Fortunately, the 28-year-old Canadian escaped injury. The K-Line Insulators USA crew made the repairs in time for Kellett to qualify, however he was at a disadvantage having lost most of the morning practice session.

“Not an easy session for us overall,” said Kellett who will start 27th. “It was obviously a scramble to recover from that hit in practice and the guys did a good job getting the car fixed up. Luckily it wasn’t too much damage and they were able to turn that car around quickly, so that was a good job by them. We tried to gamble and do reds-reds (tires) because we felt like without having the experience on reds from practice that would be a good move just to get some more time and see how those tires behave.

“The overall grip felt like it never came in and it was just kind of sliding around the whole time on the first set and then the second set, the same thing,” Kellett continued. “Kind of loose in, quite a bit of understeer mid-off and kind of backed it off a bit to just put a lap together, but it just never really felt like the temps came up. Towards the end of the stint after the checkered going through (turn) 10, it felt like we were finally getting some load in the wheel, so maybe we could have gone a lap shorter on the first stint to do four on the second run probably would have been a better idea, but hindsight is 20/20. So we obviously have some work to do in the race but we’ve shown that we could have good race pace. Qualifying is still our crux, but we’ll have to make something happen in the race tomorrow.”

Colton Herta won his second consecutive pole at this track, having swept the card in 2019, the last time the NTT INDYCAR Series raced here. Alexander Rossi, Will Power, Alex Palou, Oliver Askew and Pato O’Ward rounded out the Firestone Fast 6.

Teams will have a 30-minute final practice tomorrow morning before the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey is broadcast on NBC starting at 3 p.m. ET.

Notes & Quotes: Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey

Notes & Quotes: Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey

A.J. Foyt will be traveling to the final two races of the NTT INDYCAR Series, having only attended half of the races run so far. Indy’s first four-time 500 winner has had some health issues (heat stroke) but he has been watching the races on TV this season. And he doesn’t always like what he sees. We asked him a few questions…

How is your health these days?

A.J.: “I guess it’s alright…I feel pretty good lately.”

Why are you coming to California races?

A.J.: “It’s the end of the year, and I want to see what’s going on for myself. I want to be able to evaluate everything.”

When was the last time you were at Laguna Seca?

A.J.: “Probably the last time was in 1995, my last year in CART [IndyCar Series]. Before that I raced out there twice, and ran second in a Scarab to Bruce McLaren in a sports car race (Oct. 20, 1963). And then I ran an Indy car race but I don’t know where I finished, I might have fell out.” [He competed on Oct. 16, 1988 on the newly configured course but dropped out after 17 laps with gearbox troubles.]

Foyt ran second in the Scarab at Laguna Seca in October, 1963. Bruce McLaren won the race. (Dave Friedman Photo)

What did you think of the “Corkscrew” (the downhill turns 8 and 8a where cars descend nearly six stories in less than 500 feet of track)?

A.J.: “It wasn’t that bad really, you just had to be prepared for it.”

Looking at the starts and restarts this year, there have been some crazy accidents. Where do you think the problems lie? Any ideas on how to fix them?

A.J.: “On some of those crazy starts, whoever causes them needs to be penalized. The penalties they give them now is nothing, maybe a stop-and-go in the pits or put them to the back of the field; they need to penalize them for a race or two—that’ll make them stop and think.”

The start of the Portland Grand Prix as the cars approach Turn 1. (INDYCAR Photo)

Drivers are starting to approach some of your records – like Helio Castroneves joining the 4-time 500 Winners club and Scott Dixon shooting for a 7th title. What do you think about that?

A.J.: “Records are made to be broken and with the equipment they’ve got now, it wouldn’t surprise me to see someone win Indy five or six times. Castroneves really worked hard to win it, he deserved it. Records aren’t going to last forever. But you also have to think about the cars these days, they’re so much better than they were in my day, like the durability of the motors and gearboxes. You didn’t have a button to push to come off [a turn] in fourth, fifth and sixth, you had to manually shift it yourself, and use a clutch. Nowadays, you’re just using the throttle and turning the steering wheel, so it’s a lot different driving the cars today. But talking about Dixon, he’s very competitive and he doesn’t get excited. Even if they’re outrunning him, he’s still running the same pace and that’s what puts him up front usually at the end of the race. I think he’s a very smart driver, he doesn’t get excited and he’s real smooth.”

Chip Ganassi, who owns Scott Dixon’s car, shares a laugh with Foyt at Indy.

Did you ever have a championship battle going down to the last race?

A.J.: “Yes in 1967. It was out in Riverside, California on the road course. I went off the track to miss a wreck and I still got hit out there, so I ran back and got in Roger McCluskey’s car and beat Mario Andretti for the championship.”

Had you arranged to get in another car prior to the race if you had trouble?

A.J.: “I did in case I needed one.”

They don’t allow that anymore, right?

A.J.: “No, they don’t let you do a lot of things. Now they tell you what kind of tires you’ve got to run (primary and alternate tires on road/street courses). It’s not like racing used to be. I won a race with Goodyears on the front and Firestones on the back.”

Did you get in trouble for that?

A.J.: “I was under contract with Goodyear, but like I told them, Firestone chased them all night long. That was in a sprint car. I was on the pole at Indy and went out to the Fairgrounds to run the Friday night before the 500.”

There are some new young winners in IndyCar—more so today then there have been in the last 10 years. Why do you think that is?

A.J.: “They’re good race drivers, but if you put them on a dirt race track, they wouldn’t even make the show. They’re used to running the road courses. They’re familiar with these types of cars [open wheel formula] a little bit and they’re used to this type of racing, which is the biggest thing.”

What would you consider a successful Western Swing?

A.J.: “Naturally to be successful, it would be to win but if we run good out there, I’ll be happy. We’ve won at Long Beach, so we know what it’s like to win. It’s a hard race track, a lot of people crash out there. It’s kind of like Portland, you knew on the first lap there was going to be a crash.”

Do you think the drivers have a different temperament these days?

A.J.: “No; the one thing about racing now, the cars are about a thousand percent safer, so they don’t really think about getting hurt. It’d be a lot different if a lot of them spent a little sheet time in that hospital and think more about it.”

Foyt’s Indy 500 ring has four diamonds on the flagstaff signifying his four wins. His right arm bears the scars from his accident at Michigan in 1981.

DALTON KELLETT (No. 4 K-Line Insulators USA Chevrolet) will be competing at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in an Indy car for the first time, but he did race there in the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires Series with a best finish of sixth in 2019. In 2019, he competed in IMSA and won his class (LMP2).

Kellett: “Laguna is definitely one of the most historic and iconic tracks on the calendar. I’m so excited

that we get to race there. I’ve had the chance to drive there in the Road to Indy and IMSA, but never in an Indy car. I’m sure the Corkscrew section will be very exciting!

“The track surface tends to be low grip, the asphalt is relatively polished and the sand from the run-offs can get blown on the track, so it is a challenging place to get right. With lots of mid-speed corners, having a balanced car that can roll good apex speeds will be important. It’s a short and intense track, the racing should be exciting!”

Kellett Fast Facts: Age 28…Born in Stouffville, Canada…lives in Indianapolis; bought his first house there in May, 2021…Graduated from Queens University with a degree in Engineering Physics…Brand spokesman for Ten80 Education’s National STEM League…Enjoys rock climbing, backcountry skiing, camping, playing guitar, cooking and golf.

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 14 ROKiT Chevrolet) has only competed at Laguna Seca three times with his best start coming in 2004 when he won the pole driving for Newman-Haas Racing. His posted his best finish – seventh – in 2019 driving for Dale Coyne with Vasser-Sullivan.

Bourdais: “Next round, Laguna Seca, obviously a really tough track. Very, very tricky, slippery, very old surface that hasn’t been repaved, the last time was 2006! So pretty rough, very aggressive on tires, big tire degradation. Lots of elevation change, camber, off-camber, wheels hanging off in the Corkscrew. A big challenge technically and a big challenge for the engineers to try and figure out a way to get the car to comply and at the same time have enough downforce and platform control that it’s a workable car for the driver. So always a lot of head scratching over there but a big and interesting challenge. We did work quite a bit as well at this one on the simulator. I think we did kind of come back to some of the conclusions that they and I had seen before during our last visit in 2019. So, it will be interesting to see if we land on our feet and get a competitive car right away off the truck and we’ll go from there.”

Bourdais Fast Facts: Age 42…Born in LeMans, France…lives in St. Petersburg, Fla. …Married to Claire, has two children, Emma and Alex…Ranks sixth on INDYCAR’s All-time Wins list with 37 victories and ranks seventh in career poles with 34…Ex-Formula One driver (2008-09)…Won 12 Hours of Sebring this year; has won Rolex 24 at Daytona overall (2014) and Petit LeMans…Finished second overall in 24 Hours of LeMans and won in the GTE class with Ford in 2016.

Past Performance at WeatherTech Laguna Seca: Kellett competed at Laguna Seca in the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires with a best start of fifth and best finish of sixth. Bourdais won the pole in 2004 and his best finish was seventh in 2019. AJ Foyt Racing’s best finish was eighth with Mike Groff who also posted the team’s best start of 11th (both in 1992).

Last Race: At Portland, both Bourdais and Kellett, who started 12th and 24th respectively, maneuvered their way through the Lap 1 Turn 1 chaos for significant gains: Bourdais restarted fifth and Kellett 13th. Kellett had an electrical issue halfway through the race forcing him out while running 12th. Bourdais’s strategy, which appeared it would pay off with another top-10, went sideways when the yellow flag waved halfway through the race (ironically for Kellett’s electrical issues as well as Callum Ilott’s problems). On lap 90, Bourdais made contact with Oliver Askew which resulted in Bourdais dropping from 16th to 20th. In the laps remaining, he did pick up two spots to finish 18th.

The Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey will be broadcast live at 3 p.m. ET on NBC. Qualifying will be broadcast on NBCSN on a delayed basis Saturday night from 11:30 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. ET. Peacock will stream practice on Friday at 5:30 p.m. ET, on Saturday at 11:45 a.m. ET and Sunday morning starting at 12 noon ET. It will stream qualifying starting at 5:05 p.m. ET on Saturday.

Race Report: Grand Prix of Portland

PORTLAND, Ore. (Sept. 12, 2021)—To quote Yogi Berra, “It ain’t over till it’s over.”

When the Grand Prix of Portland slowed for a Turn 1 melee on the initial start which Sebastien Bourdais and Dalton Kellett navigated cleanly and found themselves in fifth and 13th respectively, things were looking pretty good for AJ Foyt Racing. Especially considering that from their original grid positions, Bourdais gained seven spots in the ROKiT Chevrolet and Kellett gained 11 spots in the K-Line Insulators USA Chevrolet.

However, the cautions — there were four for 20 laps–played havoc with the fuel strategies and turned the apparent negatives into positives with cars that were penalized in the beginning finishing on the podium in the end.

Alex Palou won the race after starting from the pole. However, he worked his way up from P17 because he missed the Turn 1 chicane on the start as did outside pole sitter Alexander Rossi who finished second after climbing back from 20th. Third place finisher Scott Dixon recovered from 18th in the same scenario. Rounding out the top five were Jack Harvey and Josef Newgarden.

Kellett’s race ended early when he had an issue with the fuel injection which was particularly disappointing since he was running 12th when the problem surfaced 50 laps into the 110-lap race. He placed 26th.

Kellett leads rookie Callum Ilott, Josef Newgarden and Scott Dixon before mechanical troubles sidelined him early.

“I’m so gutted for the No. 4 K-Line Insulators USA Chevy team,” said the 28-year-old Canadian. “We were having a great race going and got a little lucky off the start with that melee and the way that the order was reshuffled. Gained some good positions and was able to hold on and be competitive. The pace felt strong compared to where we were in qualifying, so really happy with that. It’s just a shame how this race ended early for us. Looks like we had an electrical issue. We haven’t diagnosed that yet, still waiting for the car to come back. We’ll figure out what it was and make sure it doesn’t happen again. This has been a tough weekend with it kind of being up and down for qualifying, things like that. The race performance, was happy with that. That’s a positive we have to take out of this weekend and just diagnose the mechanical issue and go from there.”

When Bourdais made his first stop from fifth, he dropped to 19th due to the different fuel strategies in play. However, it was thought he would still have a good shot if the race continued under green. The caution that really handicapped them was the one on lap 86 for the incident between teammates Simon Pagenaud and Will Power which resulted in Pagenaud getting an avoidable contact penalty. That caution allowed those who were saving fuel some breathing room as they would likely make it to the end.

The crew gave Bourdais solid stops but the cautions didn’t work in their favor today.

The fourth and final caution, resulting from Bourdais’s contact with Oliver Askew while trying to make a pass in Turn 2, sealed the deal for the fuel stretchers. Bourdais dropped from 16th to 20th. With 20 laps to go in the race, he passed two cars to finish 18th.

“Obviously a bit of a sore day here for us at Portland International Raceway,” Bourdais commented. “Man, it looked like it was going to be a great day and after avoiding the chaos at the start and getting the lucky break with the reordering and getting fifth out of that, it seemed like we were going to do really good. Unfortunately, we were on the three-stopper with Pato and Ericsson and those guys and the yellows fell at exactly the wrong time for the three-stoppers like us and at the perfect time for the guys that suffered at the beginning of the race on the two-stopper and we could never recover from that. On top of that, we got tangled with Oliver Askew – more of my fault than his fault – and we were fighting with Veekay, and he ended up just not quite giving me enough room to be able to make the lap. I was on the curb and just tapped the brakes when I saw him turn and just caught his left rear tire trying to get out of it. Just a shame we’re not getting much out of this weekend when we clearly had some pace, had a pretty decent qualifying and just a shame that we couldn’t transform the essay [a French rugby term meaning “convert the try” or score the goal] and we couldn’t get some good points again.”

The NTT INDYCAR Series heads to California this week for the Firestone Grand Prix at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca which will be broadcast live on NBC Sunday afternoon starting at 3 p.m. ET.

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