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Race Report: INDYCAR Grand Prix of Sonoma

SONOMA, Calif.—The Verizon IndyCar Series wrapped up its final race of the season with its final appearance at Sonoma Raceway with the INDYCAR Grand Prix of Sonoma. Scott Dixon finished second in the race to Ryan Hunter-Reay but Dixon won the championship title, the fifth of his career.

 

Tony Kanaan made his record 300th consecutive IndyCar start and drove with passion and precision in the No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolet making the most of his start from 18th—where he gained five positions on the first lap—and the restarts by passing cars in improbable places. But in a season marked by pitfalls, his top-10 finish turned into a 12th place finish in the final stint due to a miscue on the final pit stop.

 

“I’m happy with my performance,” the 43-year-old veteran said quietly. “We tried a couple different things this weekend and finally I think we found a direction to work on over the winter to make the cars better. It was a great start [to the race], I had a lot of fun.”

 

“It was a fun weekend celebrating my 300th consecutive start,” he continued. “I was really amazed by how many people came by to congratulate me–even a lot of the drivers I raced against. Coming into the weekend, to be honest, I didn’t really think much about it, I didn’t think it was that much of a big deal but as the weekend progressed I was realizing more and more what it is. It’s one of those things I don’t think I’m going to really realize it until 10 years down the road and you look back with all the names that I mixed with and people that won’t maybe beat that record and it will probably be even more enjoyable.”

 

“You know it was difficult year for us at AJ Foyt Racing but we’re coming back,” he concluded. “We have the whole winter to think about what we did right and what we did wrong, fix it and come back stronger.”

 

Matheus “Matt” Leist started 23rd in his No. 4 ABC Supply Chevrolet but he was never comfortable with the car throughout the race. He finished 19th.

 

“I think this race basically sums up our season,” the 20-year-old said afterwards. “It was a pretty tough season for everyone, not just the 4 car but for the 14 car too. Everyone worked very hard and we tried very hard but sometimes we just couldn’t put everything together, we just didn’t have the pace. It’s a shame because all the engineers, the mechanics and the drivers deserve better results. As we’re going to stay together as a team for 2019, we have to concentrate and try to do a better job, try to do a better off-season and figure out what is going to be better for us next year.”

 

“It was a tough race for me,” he continued. “Unfortunately I had a drive-through penalty due to the contact [with Carlos Munoz] on the restart. I think the penalty was not fair – if the leaders go and then they back off, everyone knows what happens when you are running in the back [accordion effect] but I just couldn’t do anything to avoid the crash and I hit Carlos and he spun unfortunately. But we just didn’t have the pace again and we struggled a lot with the old tires.”

 

 

 

“We’ll keep working hard and better days will come for sure. Big thanks to my team, my sponsors, ABC Supply, Alfe, Sherwin Williams and also INDYCAR for the great season and I’m looking for a good season in 2019.”

 

The team had its best performances on the ovals where Kanaan led the Indianapolis 500 for 19 laps before getting a tire puncture and then climbing back to ninth before crashing with less than 10 laps to go. Leist posted one of his best finishes of the season—13th–in the 500. The street courses also showed strength in performance as Leist qualified third in his first IndyCar race in St. Petersburg and Kanaan posted his best finish of the season—seventh– at Detroit.

 

“It was a long year,” said Team President Larry Foyt, who shouldered the final half of the season without his father A.J. Foyt trackside. Foyt, 83, contracted a staph infection from a back surgery in July and spent the rest of the season recovering in Houston. He expects to be back in action for the 2019 season.

 

Assessing this season, Larry put it into perspective saying, “We put a lot of focus on the Indy 500 this year and it showed, we ran well there so that was definitely a high. We had a real chance to win the Indy 500 and that was good. We know we have some weaknesses that we have to work on in the off season, our road course package has been an Achilles heel this year and it’s made this last quarter of the season really frustrating because there were a lot of those types of tracks.

 

“I think we have a good idea of what our weak areas are and what we need to do to fix them. I’m really happy we will be carrying on with Tony and Matheus and that a lot of our key people are in place and we’ll just work on strengthening some of the weaknesses and looking for a couple more key people to add to the team and strengthen the whole program.”

 

The ABC Supply team will take this week off but when they return, they will be starting on the winter project list as they focus on turning it around for 2019.

Qualifying Report: Sonoma GP

SONOMA, Calif.—Under sunny skies and with temperatures in the low 70s, Tony Kanaan qualified the No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolet for a record-setting 300th consecutive IndyCar race in what will be the final appearance for the Verizon IndyCar Series at the beautiful Sonoma Raceway.

 

Kanaan will start 18th after posting a time of one minute, 18.5966 seconds (109.241mph). Kanaan drove the car on the edge and despite starting in the second half of the 25-car field, he took personal pride in his qualifying run.

 

Kanaan with Crew Chief Dave Higuera (L) and Technical Director Eric Cowdin (R).

“It was the lap of my life,” Kanaan revealed. “It’s a shame you do such a good lap with what you’ve got and you start where we are. I’m not saying I’m happy where we’re starting but I’m happy that we found something that we can work on for tomorrow and during the off season to make this car better. But I’m also happy that I really put a good lap together, that is satisfying for me [personally]. It’s nice when I can make the difference. That’s why we’re a team, if the car’s not there, I can make the car go there. It was my best lap of the weekend and one of my best qualifying [laps] ever. Not of the result but putting a perfect lap together. That’s a shame because sometimes it doesn’t mean that the perfect lap that you put together will be the fastest lap on the race track but it’s the fastest lap of your limits and what you had in your hands. We’ll keep fighting. I don’t give up, that’s not in my vocabulary. I’m not giving up.”

Matheus “Matt” Leist was not quite as happy with his car and admitted the past two days have been tough on the team as they struggled to find the right balance in the No. 4 ABC Supply Chevrolet.

 

“It was a tough qualifying for the ABC Supply car 4,” Leist said after posting a time of one minute, 18.9665 seconds (108.730mph). “We just missed the pace today, the whole weekend to be honest. We were trying a different setup for qualifying but it didn’t work very well for us. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. We’re going to debrief with the team, see what Tony tested, see what he likes, what he doesn’t and focus on tomorrow’s race. We might have a shot to have a great race tomorrow. It’s the last one of the year so we’ll try to finish on a high note.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay won the Verizon P1 Award with his pole-winning run of 1 minute, 17.6277 seconds (110.605mph). Rounding out the Firestone Fast 6 were Scott Dixon, Josef Newgarden, Marco Andretti, Pato O’Ward and Alexander Rossi.

 

Kanaan spoke to the media yesterday about reaching his personal ‘Ironman’ milestone of 300 straight starts in a sport where injury is a possibility every day of every race weekend. His streak began over 17 years ago at Portland, Ore. on June 24, 2001.

 

“Oh, as a driver, you don’t think about stats and that kind of stuff,” Kanaan shared. “I don’t have this habit of looking at stuff. But obviously, I’ve been around for a long time. I feel very fortunate that I’m still able to do what I love and be around. I love IndyCar. I was made — my name was made in IndyCar, and it feels great to be — it’s funny to watch Colton Herta and Pato walking out [of the media center], but I was Colton’s first sponsor in his go-kart when Bryan [Herta] was my teammate. So I don’t know if I feel humbled or I feel old that I can tell Bryan today that I raced with him and his son. But it’s an awesome feeling. Obviously I still enjoy it.”

 

And as one who never gives up, he maintains an optimism about his chances in the race tomorrow.

 

“You know, we’re having a challenging year,” the 43-year-old said. “We knew that was going to be difficult for us. Right now I think this race is wide open with the nature of the track, the weather, the wind changing between morning and the afternoon. I think it’s going to be an interesting race. I mean, tire deg [degradation] has been a big issue. Everybody is complaining about grip. Not the tire’s fault, but I think it’s a combination of our downforce, the tires and the type of track. I think it’s wide open for anybody. Last year we saw Pagenaud winning with the strategy of four stops instead of three. Some people are going to try to save fuel. I mean, it’s wide open. And it’s a double-points race, so there are four guys going for the championship, but all the other 20 are going for a win, so it will be interesting.”

 

Notes & Quotes: INDYCAR Grand Prix of Sonoma (TK’s 300th Consecutive Start)

September 12, 2018

TONY KANAAN will make his 300th consecutive IndyCar start this weekend in Sonoma. It will also mark his 360th IndyCar race (total) since he started competing in 1998 at the age of 23 and went on to win the Rookie of the Year title. His victory at Sonoma in 2005 was his first and only–so far–victory on a permanent road course as the six previous wins came on ovals. Kanaan’s wife Lauren gave birth to their first daughter on Friday, Aug. 31 while he was in Portland. He flew home the night of the race to meet Nina who weighed in at 7 lbs. 11 oz and was 20.5 in long. We asked him a few questions…

Q: 300 consecutive starts is quite significant. Did keeping this streak going enter your mind when you might have been hurt or not feeling great?

TK: “I’d say I never thought of breaking a record or anything like that. I just took one race at a time, and when I noticed I was breaking [Jimmy] Vasser’s record in 2011, it actually took me by surprise the 212 races. It’s something you don’t think about. Now, all of a sudden, it’s already 300!”

Q: Was there ever a race where you had to drive through the pain? What were the circumstances?

TK: “In 2003 when I crashed at [Twin Ring] Motegi, Japan, I broke my wrist and the

suspension went inside my leg. That was right before the 500. I raced with a carbon fiber cast at the 500 and I finished third. [Dr.] Trammel operated on me the Tuesday after Japan and I had two weeks before opening day. I missed opening day and the first two days. Then I raced with this special cast. I couldn’t twist my arm because I had a bunch of pins. It was not the most comfortable thing to do, but I kept going.”

Q: Did you ever “hide” an injury to stay in the cockpit?

TK: “No, not really. By doing that you’re putting yourself and others at risk and I’m not like that. Maybe as a kid you might think it’s worth hiding an injury, but at this level it’s not something you can even consider.”

Q: What is the closest you came to quitting IndyCars? What brought you back?

TK: “At the end of 2010 when I was released by my contract with Andretti it crossed my

mind. By that time I had many victories, a championship and an established career. It was the end of the season, all good seats were taken at the other teams and I was left with no option. But I took it the same way I took the beginning of my career when my dad passed… No option was not an option. I had to reinvent myself and go after sponsorship and a team, something that I didn’t have to do since I got to Indy Lights in 1996. It was extremely challenging time and what kept me going was that I didn’t think I was done. Two years after that I won the 500, so I guess it was a good thing I kept going.”

Q: What is the next milestone number you have in mind? Or do you even think about them?

TK: “No, I don’t think about it.”

Q: In 13 starts at Sonoma, you qualified in the top-10 seven times and finished in the top-10 seven times, including winning your first time there in 2005. What do you like about the track?

TK: “It’s a fast, physical and challenging track. It’s a place that’s fun to drive, like a roller coaster.”

Q: It’s been a tough year helping to rebuild the No. 14 team, what would a top-5 finish at Sonoma mean to you?

TK: “We all knew coming in that 2018 would be a building season for the AJ Foyt ABC Supply Team. Like I said, Sonoma is a challenging place so getting a good result would be a huge morale booster for the team, a very good way to end the season and better than that, a good way to start our off-season focusing on 2019. I can’t believe that this is the last race of the year already.”

On the birth of his daughter Nina (quote given Sept. 1 in Portland, Ore.): “I know people

say, it’s your fourth. But it doesn’t matter how many there are, it’s still very sweet. I feel very lucky that we have healthy kids—all born very healthy with no problems. When you have a bad day on the race track you have to put life in perspective and believe there are much bigger issues than just having a bad race car and not starting well. Days like yesterday and then being up all night with Lauren on the phone and hearing the baby cry and it was a girl, which deep inside, when you have three boys, you kind of hope for a girl, it’s awesome.”

On racing at Sonoma: “Sonoma is such a cool place to drive. It’s fast, technical and full of elevation changes. When you put all that together it makes for a pretty challenging track. I’ve enjoyed racing in Sonoma since INDYCAR started there in 2005, you know it always has a great crowd, great fans and an awesome atmosphere overall. It’s a track that will surely be missed by the paddock.”

MATHEUS LEIST ON:

Racing at Sonoma: “Headed to Sonoma this weekend and just realized that the season flew by. I remember St. Petersburg and Indy as if it was yesterday, and now my first IndyCar series season is almost over. Has been a great year! Sonoma is a place that I’ve never raced before, but grew up playing video games there and thinking about racing in that place one day. It’s such a pretty city and a fun track to drive, it has lots of elevation changes which make things pretty interesting. After a great pace in Portland, the ABC Supply car No.4 is gonna give its all to finish the season on a high. I definitely can’t wait for it.”

On His Teammate Tony Kanaan and his 300th IndyCar Start: “Tony and I had a great time together this year. I grew up seeing him race, and today we’re teammates. The guy has achieved everything he always wanted in his career and he loves what he does. I’m on my way to my 17th IndyCar start and he’s on his way to his 300th straight start, over 20 years racing in the same series, that’s crazy. I’m just so grateful to have him around helping me all the time, he deserves the best. And you know what, the old man is still fast, he can keep going for a long, long time yet.”

Last Race: At Portland, Kanaan started 24th and finished 11th.  Leist started 19th and finished 14th in his first race there.

Past Performance at Sonoma Raceway: In 13 races here, Tony Kanaan’s best start and finish came in his first year at the track 2005: he won after starting third. He has seven starts in the top-10 and seven finishes in the top-10 including his victory there. Matheus Leist is making his first start here in IndyCar, he did not compete here in Indy Lights. In 16 starts (counting double entries 2015-2017) here, the Foyt team’s best start is 13th with Takuma Sato (2013) and Conor Daly (2017). The team’s best finish is fourth with Sato in 2014 who also posted the team’s second best finish of eighth in 2015.

ABC Supply is in its 14th season as primary sponsor of A.J. Foyt’s IndyCar team, making it the longest running team sponsor in the Verizon 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 $9 billion in sales in 2017. ABC Supply began sponsoring the AJ Foyt Racing team with the 2005 Indianapolis 500. The company has leveraged its involvement by entertaining over 92,000 associates and customers over the past 13 racing seasons. This weekend the company will entertain nearly 600 guests.

ABC Supply national account Petersen Dean, based in Fremont, Calif., will be featured on the engine cover of the No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolet. Guests will receive the VIP treatment this weekend along with a Meet and Greet with Tony Kanaan.

L&W account, North Counties Drywall Inc., based in Sonoma, Calif., won the ‘Your Name Here’ contest. The company name will be on the engine cover of the No. 4 ABC Supply Chevrolet. Guests will receive the VIP treatment plus a Meet and Greet with Matheus “Matt” Leist.

The INDYCAR Grand Prix of Sonoma will be televised live on NBC Sports Network on Sunday, Sept. 16, starting at 6:30 p.m. ET. The first practice on Friday will be live-streamed on racecontrol.IndyCar.com and youtube.com/IndyCar at 2:00 p.m. ET. NBCSN will re-air it at 4 p.m. ET.

Race Report: Grand Prix of Portland

PORTLAND, Ore. – The Grand Prix of Portland returned IndyCar racing to the Northwest and, by all accounts, it was a huge success as the fans turned out in droves the entire race weekend. Matheus Leist, who started 19th, and Tony Kanaan, who started 24th, did a great job in their ABC Supply Chevrolets to avoid…

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Qualifying Report: Grand Prix of Portland

September 1, 2018 PORTLAND, Ore.—Despite the best efforts of A.J. Foyt’s ABC Supply Racing team, the struggles on permanent road courses continues. After two days of practice at Portland International Raceway, the team was still trying to sort through different setups for qualifying today. Unfortunately both drivers weren’t happy with their cars and both did…

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Notes & Quotes: Grand Prix of Portland

August 29, 2018  Rodney Klausmeyer, nicknamed ‘Rod Dog’, joined AJ Foyt Racing in 2000 as a transporter driver after working as an electrician for A.J. Foyt when Foyt built his race shop in Waller, Texas in 1998.  We asked Rodney a few questions, including one about getting his windshield smashed while driving… Q: How long will…

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Race Report: Bommarito Automotive Group 500

August 25, 2018 MADISON, Ill.—A fast car and an untimely yellow created a frustrating evening for Tony Kanaan who appeared to be headed for a top-six finish in the No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolet in the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at Gateway Motorsports Park Saturday evening. “We gambled with the strategy and it didn’t work…

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Practice & Qualifying Report: Bommarito Automotive Group 500

August 24, 2018 MADISON, Ill. – Rain washed out qualifying Friday afternoon and current IndyCar points leader Scott Dixon sits on the pole for the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 which means the starting grid has been set by entrants’ points. Tony Kanaan will start 15th in the No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolet while Matheus Leist will start 18th…

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Notes & Quotes: Bommarito Automotive Group 500

August 23, 2018 Warren Wilson joined AJ Foyt Racing in 2017 to prepare the shocks on both the No. 4 and No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolets. This season is Wilson’s third stint working with Tony Kanaan and Eric Cowdin. He was the gearbox technician on Kanaan’s team when he won his first IndyCar race at Michigan…

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Race Report: ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway

August 18, 2018 LONG POND, Pa. –The home team didn’t have the advantage in the ABC Supply 500 today at Pocono Raceway. Starting 14th, Tony Kanaan’s race in the No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolet ended after just   15 laps with a throttle sensor failure which caused a loss in power. The team determined it would take…

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