Alejandro (Alex) Diaz became involved in auto racing after four years of working as an engineer in the automotive industry in Detroit. Finishing his post graduate work at the University of Michigan, Diaz had earned his B.S. in mechanical engineering from Florida International University. A Miami native, Diaz recalled: “One early memory (of racing) was attending the 2002 CART Indy car series race in downtown Miami. Seeing the cars run through the streets of Miami and hearing the sounds echoing off the buildings… I was in love.” We asked him a few questions…
How did you get involved in racing? Where did it start for you?
AD: “Good question, I’ve just always loved cars, and I was ‘cursed’ with the car obsession at a very young age. One of my life goals was to work on cool stuff, whatever it would be, just be able to wake up every morning happy to go to ‘work.’ To create a life working on fast cars. IndyCar seems to be doing that for me at the moment.”
What does your job as a support engineer entail?
AD: “Just as it reads, support all engineering aspects of our operations, from design work, to car performance and testing. You must be very dynamic, creative and be ready to solve any problem… Never a dull moment.”
How long have you been an assistant engineer?
AD: “I’m in my second year as an assistant.”
What do you do on race day?
AD: “Well by race day, things slow down a bit, which is nice because it gives you a chance to breathe and prepare for the actual race, fuel strategy, race strategy…etc. Also, some race days we are already preparing for the next race/test day. Keeping an eye on car performance and running fuel strategy are really two of the main tasks during a race.”
What does it take (skills needed) to be a good engineer?
AD: “I’m not going to lie, when I read this, I did laugh… first we should define what a “good” engineer is. But all jokes aside, “engineers” tend to get this stigma or cloud put over our heads that we over complicate things… but the reason I mention this is because I believe a start to a good engineer is taking a complex problem and simplifying it (learn it, answer it and re-teach it). What skills? Be able to think clearly, be creative, have an unbiased opinion and always use science to prove out an answer, no guessing.”
Greatest thrill of your career (to date)?
AD: “Being able to work with a lot of great people. Being surrounded by hardworking and passionate people. Race days are always pretty electric and thrilling though.”
Tell us something that may surprise people about you.
AD: “Not sure if there is anything people don’t know about me; I think I’m pretty simple and open with everyone.”
What’s the most challenging aspect of your job?
AD: “Always being ready… whether you’re in the office or on the road… always be ready to solve problems and critically think.”
How do you prepare for a race?
AD: “Race preparation includes supporting all engineers with what we need for car performance, including but not limited to: data analysis, simulations, R&D new parts for the racecars.”
What’s your favorite track and why?
AD: “All of them… heading to a new race weekend or test, getting another fresh start and chance to perform and solve new problems.”
Do you have a motto/favorite saying?
AD: “KISS: Keep It Simple Stupid.”
Who has been the greatest influence in your life?
AD: “My family. Very grateful for all the sacrifices they have made to put me in a position to do all the things I’m able to do today.”
A.J. Foyt Racing assistant engineer Alejandro (Alex) Diaz on the timing stand (Photo Courtesy of A.J. Foyt Racing)
Do you have any hobbies or interests outside of racing?
AD: “Well, I haven’t had too much time these past 2 years with IndyCar, but I’m into drifting cars, it’s NOT racing, but it’s still about car performance/setup, driver skill and your own personal style.Other than that, fitness and running… keeps me sane I suppose.”
TONY KANAAN on Toronto: “Toronto is one of the nicest street course that we go to so I always look forward to going there. It is a pretty fun race track. I’ve had a few podiums there so hopefully we’ll be able to have a good result there.”
MATHEUS LEIST on Toronto: “I’m looking forward to going back to Toronto this year because it is one of my favorite tracks on the circuit. It is a fast street course so hopefully we will have a good car there and we can have some fun there. Downtown Toronto is really nice and very busy, it reminds me of when I lived in Brazil, so I’m looking forward to have a great time there.”
Past Performance at Toronto: Tony Kanaan’s best start is fourth (twice: 2001 with Mo Nunn Racing and 2013 with KV Technology). His best finish is second in 2014 (Race 2) with Ganassi Racing. Last year Kanaan placed sixth, his best finish to date since he joined Foyt. Matheus Leist will be making his second IndyCar start at Toronto. Last year he started 12th, got tagged in the rear in a multi-car accident which broke the underwing but he rejoined the race and finished 15th. The ABC Supply team’s best start is eighth with Takuma Sato in 2015; their best finish is third with Mike Conway in 2012. The team’s record shows better finishes than starts: they have four top-5s and three more top 10s.
Last Race: At Road America, the race went caution free which didn’t help Matheus Leist who used an alternative fuel strategy to try to gain track position. He started and finished 20th. Tony Kanaan didn’t fare any better, starting 23rd and placing 21st.
ABC Supply is in its 15th season as primary sponsor of A.J. Foyt’s IndyCar team, making it the longest running team sponsor in the NTT IndyCar Series.The company was founded in 1982 by Ken and Diane Hendricks with just three stores. The company now has over 700 stores and topped $10.5 billion in sales in 2018. ABC Supply began sponsoring the AJ Foyt Racing team with the 2005 Indianapolis 500. The company has leveraged its involvement by entertaining well over 110,000 associates and customers over the past 14 racing seasons.
The Honda Indy Toronto will be televised live on NBC Sports Network on Sunday, July 14, starting at 3:00 PM ET. Also available on the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network. Qualifying will be broadcast live on NBCSN on Saturday from 2 to 3:30 PM ET. All of the practices are available on NBC’s INDYCAR Pass on NBC Sports Gold at https://www.nbcsports.com/gold/indycar.