WALLER, Texas—Veteran IndyCar driver Charlie Kimball joins AJ Foyt Racing as the full-time driver of the No. 4 Chevrolet with backing from his long-time sponsor Novo Nordisk. The 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season marks Kimball’s 10th consecutive season in IndyCar and his 12th season of partnership with the global healthcare company. Kimball, who ran a…
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December 31, 2019
HOUSTON —The 2019 season had some highlights for A.J. Foyt and the AJ Foyt Racing team which are chronicled in this video. A.J. was inducted into the Houston Sports Hall of Fame, he placed a bronze brick– commemorating his four 500 victories in the Indy 500—in the Yard of Bricks at the Speedway, and he received the Pop Dreyer Legends Award. Tony Kanaan surpassed his boss’s total (369) of IndyCar starts this year and finished on the podium in the Bommarito Auto Group 500. Matheus Leist claimed a fourth place finish in the Indy Grand Prix.
However, the season also marked the departure of ABC Supply Co. as our full-time marketing partner after a 15 year run, and we thank them for their support. Fortunately, they will return for the Indy 500. And we lost some good friends. Our deepest sympathies to the families of Glen Wood, John Martin, Bill Simpson, Junior Johnson, and that of our longest-serving crew member, Cecil Taylor.
We look forward to 2020 but for now, a look back on 2019…
2nd Gen Drivers Gurney & Bucknum talk about working on Ford V Ferrari
Second-generation race drivers Alex Gurney and Jeff Bucknum (pictured L and R above) were hired as stunt drivers for the film Ford V Ferrari. Alex also portrayed his father Dan Gurney who won the pole for the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1966, which is the race the movie is focused on. Gurney’s car broke that year but he went on to win Le Mans the following year with teammate A.J. Foyt. Ironically, Foyt had co-driven with Bucknum’s father Ronnie in the 12 Hours of Sebring in 1966 (placed 12th with brake issues).
Also pictured is Derek Hill (center). Hill, the son of 1961 Formula 1 champion Phil Hill, portrayed Graham Hill in the film (no relation) and was a stunt driver in the film as well.
Alex, the youngest of Gurney’s four sons, didn’t start racing until he was in college but he became a two-time Rolex Sports Car Series co-champion (2007, 2009) with Jon Fogarty driving for the Gainsco Bob Stallings team. Bucknum, whose father Ronnie finished third at Le Mans in ‘66, won the 12 Hours of Sebring and fielded his own car in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2003. Bucknum drove a partial schedule for Foyt in 2005 and 2006 scoring his best finish of 10th with the team at Sonoma Raceway in 2005.
We asked Alex and Jeff a few questions…
Q: How did it come about that you were tapped to do the stunt driving in the movie?
Alex: “I got a call one day from Rich Rutherford, an old racing friend who has been doing stunt work in all kinds of movies and commercials for many years. He told me that there was a part for the Dan Gurney character and that I should audition for the part of my dad since I look a lot like him. Rich put me in touch with the stunt coordinator Robert Nagle and things started to move from there. I went up to Fox Studios and read a few lines in the audition, a strange but exciting experience! The whole idea was a nice fit since I would be able to do both the little bit of acting and all the stunt work required.”
Jeff: “I got a call from a good friend of mine named Rich Rutherford who is one of the top stunt drivers in Hollywood that I knew from my early years of racing at the Skip Barber Racing school. Rich was one of the instructors at Skip Barber Racing school back in the 90’s when I got my start in racing and then he went into the Hollywood industry doing movies and commercials as a stunt driver. He called me and let me know about the movie and that the stunt coordinator (Robert Nagle) wanted to hire me to do the driving of my dad’s #5 GT40 car featured in the movie plus other cars in the movie.”
Jeff Bucknum in a replica of the car that his dad drove to third place in the ’66 race.
Q: Have you ever worked on a movie set before? If yes, what is your favorite thing in making a movie. If not, what surprised you the most?
Alex: “I have never been involved in a movie before or even set foot on a movie set so it was all new to me. It was fascinating to observe how the sausage is made. As it was a big budget Hollywood production, there were so many people on set and so many necessary and important duties. It was just interesting to see how everyone works together to create something of this magnitude. Most of the time it was like a fun vacation for me as I was working with a bunch of stunt drivers, many ex-race drivers, that I had known previously so it was a bit like hanging out with your buddies every day and being served nice meals. The most surprising aspect for me that I hadn’t realized before was how often you have to shoot the same scene over and over again from different angles, I thought there would be a better way to do it but apparently not!”
Jeff: “Actually I have never worked on a movie set this large. I had done a few small movie and commercial stunt driving jobs in the past but this was on a completely different level. I was extremely impressed on how much effort, time and money they put into rebuilding things like the Pit Lane / Garages to duplicate as close as possible the real thing as the 1966 race at Le Mans in France. I was also impressed on how well they took care of all the stunt drivers with our own dressing rooms and wardrobe. We even had people doing all of our hair and makeup which took a bit of getting used to.”
Alex Gurney poses on the extraordinary pit lane set created for the movie.
Q: What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome—or the hardest thing for you with regard to the filming?
Alex: “The heat during filming in Willow Springs was serious, over 100 degrees every day, but the extras had it much worse than the drivers did. We always had cool suits in the car so it was fairly cushy for us. Our stunt coordinator Robert Nagle was a true pro and he always made sure to take care of his drivers.
“There were some scenes in Georgia where we hit some respectable speeds on a highway in Statesboro in the rain and fog, a few dangerous moments but not too bad. There were several nights where we filmed from sun down to sun up.”
Jeff: “The biggest thing I had to learn was realizing every day was not going to be the same. Most of our days were 10 to 15 hour days on location. The hard part was some days we would do almost NO driving at all while they were trying to get other filming done with some of the acting stuff and other days we were in cars for almost 15 hours straight with very few breaks. You just never knew what each day was going to be like until the day unfolded.”
The group of stunt drivers who worked on the movie. Bucknum is third from right, Gurney is sixth from right.
Q: Was it bittersweet portraying your dad?
Alex: “It was. Showing up every day and putting on a near exact replica of a race suit with my dad’s name on it was a strange but special experience. In any way that I could, I tried to make sure that my dad was portrayed accurately. I had hoped there would be a little mention about him being on the pole in ’66 and leading much of the race but not to be.”
Jeff: “I was actually hired to do just the driving stuff in my dad’s #5 GT40. Before I was hired onto the movie, the director had already hired Tanner Foust to do the acting parts of my dad Ronnie Bucknum. Tanner was really awesome during the whole movie shoot because he kept trying to get me to do the acting parts of my dad which were only a couple lines in the movie which never made it in the movie anyway. During the whole movie shoot, Tanner and I had a fun joke going on where I called him ‘Dad’ and he called me ‘Son’ which we still do whenever we talk or text each other.”
Q: After working on the movie, did you get a feel or sense for that era?
Alex: “I feel I had a sense for the era going in but there were moments that really hit home and brought us all back. I was massively impressed by the Le Mans pit lane set built in Agua Dulce and filming the start sequence was an unforgettable experience. As the drivers lined up for the running start on the opposite side of the start straight, with a view of Henry Ford II ceremoniously walking down the pit lane, with Christian Bale standing next to me as Ken Miles, I’m staring over at all the beautiful GT40s and Ferraris and Porsches, the big crowd, I’m crouched down in the pole position spot, ready to dart across and jump in the car, what a moment. I felt a sense for the era right there.”
Jeff: “They really did a great job of making everything look like and feel like you were really back in the 1960’s. As we would work on the movie set everyone had their hair and clothing just like the 60’s so it was funny to see people at the end of the day wearing their normal current clothes. I almost didn’t recognize people away from the movie set at restaurants or other places we would meet up.”
Q: Did you talk to your dad about the race in ’66? What stood out for him?
Alex: “I did talk to my dad about many of his races, more about ’67 than ’66 though. He was on the pole by 1.1 seconds over Ken Miles in ’66 and was heartbroken to have dropped out while leading in the 18th hour.”
Jeff: “To be honest, I don’t remember having many conversation with my dad about the 1966 race at Le Mans, but the few things I do remember is his telling about the start of the race as they had to run to the cars and jump in the cars and take off before they even had the seat belts on. He told me it wasn’t until he got on the Mulsanne Straight on the first lap that he would have a chance to put his belts on while he was doing 200 mph. He said he would drive the steering wheel with his knee while he used both hands to get his belts on. The other thing I was amazed about was how back then they did the whole 24-hour race with only 2 drivers. I had the privilege of racing the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2003 and we had three drivers.”
Ronnie Bucknum exits his car after his shift at LeMans. His teammate was Dick Hutcherson, who competed in NASCAR as a driver before becoming a car builder. They finished third at LeMans.
Q: Did you go to Le Mans for any part of the movie?
Alex: “I did not go to Le Mans for any part of the movie.”
Jeff: “No we did not ever go to Le Mans for the movie. We did all of the filming in America. Fortunately, I had already raced at the 24 Hours of Le Mans so I had a good idea of what the whole experience must have been like even back in the 1960’s.”
Q: Where did they film the racing scenes?
Alex: “I was in Georgia for almost a month. We filmed in three different locations there. We were at Road Atlanta and used that just for a few sections, mainly under the ‘Dunlop Bridge.’ We were also at a great little track in Savannah that used to have Indy Lights races in the ‘90s and is still kept up well. And we also used a tree-lined highway in Statesboro as a stand-in for the Mulsanne straight (and a few other corners like Arnage). That was amazing that the powers-that-be were able to somehow commandeer a whole highway. There were people that lived along the side of the highway, so we would have to shut down production when the bus would come through to pick up and drop off kids for school each day.”
Jeff: “We did the filming at a few different race tracks and a rural long stretch of road in Georgia that duplicated the Mulsanne Straight. We started off at Willow Springs Raceway in California, then we went to the Hutchinson Island Savannah Raceway. After that we went to Road Atlanta and then the rural six-mile road blocked off in Georgia. We finished filming at California Speedway and all of the pit lane straight away was filmed at a small private airport in the hills of Los Angeles.”
Alex shared the podium with his dad in 2008 when Dan was the Grand Marshal of the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
Q: Have you raced in the 24 Hours of LeMans?
Alex: “I never raced at Le Mans but I did do the 24 Hours of Daytona nine times. I was on the pole twice (2007 and 2014) and I finished 2nd in 2008 with Jimmie Johnson, Jimmy Vasser, and Jon Fogarty.”
Jeff: “Yes I raced at the 24 Hours of Le Mans one time (2003). Not only did I get to drive in the 24 Hours of Le Mans but I actually owned the race team that raced there (Team Bucknum Racing). I am one of the few owner-drivers that have raced at Le Mans. My co-drivers were Brian Willman and Chris McMurry who I raced with for five years in the American Le Mans race series in America.”
Q: Where did you watch the movie?
Alex: “I have seen the movie and was lucky enough to be able to take my wife to the premier up in L.A. and hang out with the big wigs. We also later rented a theater close to home on two different nights and had a great time, and invited a bunch of family, friends, and co-workers.”
Jeff: “I have seen the movie twice. I went to see the movie on Opening Night with my whole family and fiancée Tamara Baglin. The next night, Tamara and I went to a private screening of the movie that Alex Gurney and his family put together in southern California for all the stunt drivers and many famous racing drivers like Townsend Bell and Jimmy Vasser.”
The Gurney family rented a theater in Newport Beach to host a preview of the movie for family and friends. Here Dan (center) is pictured with his sons at Indy in 2015, the year Dan was honored with an exhibit at the IMS museum. His sons (L to R): Jim, Justin, Alex and Danny. Dan passed away in January, 2018 due to complications from the flu.
Q: Jeff, you drove A.J.’s No. 14 Indy car at select races in 2005-2006. What did you think of that experience?
Jeff: “I was telling my son Spencer Bucknum, who is just starting his racing career and plans to be a third generation racing driver in the Indy 500, how much it meant to me in my racing career to not only get a chance to race Indy cars but to drive the #14 AJ Foyt Racing Indy car. A.J. was always such a great team owner and mentor to me while I was racing for him. He is such a wealth of knowledge from all his years as a racing driver and being a team owner, that he knew all the right things to get the best out of me every time I got in the car. I can still hear his voice in my ear over the radio encouraging me to keep pushing and wanting me to never give up during a race. I think many times A.J. is misunderstood as being an angry person until you get to be in his racing camp and realize it’s his extreme passion for competing and being the best. Of course there are things that might upset him from time to time but if you give him five minutes he will be back in the race trailer telling some sort of amazing, crazy and funny story that has happened to him in racing or just regular life. It was honestly a true honor to have driven for A.J. Foyt in his #14 Indy car before I retired from my racing career.”
Bucknum drove the No. 14 at Milwaukee in 2006.
November 13, 2019
The film Ford v Ferrari chronicling Ford’s podium sweep of the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1966 will be released nationwide this Friday. A.J. Foyt was originally scheduled to compete in that 1966 race, but he was badly injured at the Milwaukee Mile when he crashed in practice (suspension failure) and hit the wall.
Although Foyt missed that opportunity, the following year he was invited back to join the Ford team by Dan Gurney and Carroll Shelby, a fellow Texan. Gurney and Foyt rocked the motorsports world when they became the only All-American team to win the historic race with a car built in the U.S. and piloted solely by American drivers. It is a record that still stands. In contrast, the 1966 entries were built in the U.K. and were driven by a contingent of international drivers.
In April, 2017, Gurney and Foyt reminisced about their victory for a special 50th anniversary event which reunited both drivers with their No. 1 Ford Mk IV for the first time since 1967. Following are some excerpts from the interview conducted for Ford Performance, Ford’s motorsports division.
A.J. and Dan pose with their Ford Mk II–reunited after 50 years. (Photo courtesy of Ford Performance)
Q: After Ford won in 1966, did you feel pressure coming back in 1967?
Foyt: “At the time, I was supposed to go over in 1966 with the Holman Moody bunch, but I got hurt at Milwaukee, burnt real bad. Ford lost three or four of their drivers before Le Mans that year: Walt Hansgen – the boy from the East Coast, was killed testing in the rain [at Le Mans], and Lloyd Ruby was supposed to drive and he crashed his airplane taking off from Indy. I can’t remember who else. [Note: The fourth driver was Jackie Stewart who was in a horrific crash in the Belgian Grand Prix the same weekend as Foyt’s crash.] We went over there to blow Ferrari off. That’s what Ford wanted us to do and that’s what Dan and I did.”
Q: Fifty years later, you’re still the only All-American team to win Le Mans, car, engine,
drivers. Are you surprised at that? How do you feel about it?
Foyt: “I feel great about it, mostly because a few of my races were overseas and I was fortunate enough to win some of them, but most of them were in the U.S. I’m an American so it means a lot. I was invited to go back more than once but I said I went over as a rookie and won, so I have no reason to go back. It was great.”
Gurney: “Does it surprise me? Yes it sure does. But all those wimps haven’t come back (laughs), I don’t know what’s stopping them. For us, Ford said they were going for it and they went for it. I’m very proud to have been part of it, just like A.J. is.”
Q: You both participated in a very special time in American racing, probably never equaled. A.J., you won the Indy 500, then went over and won Le Mans. Dan, you won at Le Mans and then won the F1 race at Spa in a car you built, the first and only time an American has done that. How do you feel about that time of your life, in terms of where you were in your careers?
Foyt: “I don’t think the boys [today] realize what they’ve missed. When Dan come up, and when I come up, it was altogether different racing. It was a great time in your life. Back then when I raced, I loved racing the midgets and sprints and stock cars and everything, like Dan loved to go over there and run [Formula 1] and he did a great job, and I respect him highly for it, and for picking up a little Texan like me to go over and run the 24-hour, I give him a lot of respect. I know at that time, a lot of them thought I was kind of wild, so Dan had faith in me, and I knew if he got the car set up, I thought I could hang onto it for him.”
Gurney: “Of course, looking backwards, that was a pretty high peak in my career. I think racing drivers, a lot of people, want to have bragging rights and certainly A.J. and I have them now and that’s a fabulous feeling.”
Dan Gurney was the first driver to spray champagne in victory circle which has become a tradition in motorsports. (Photo courtesy of All American Racers Archives)
Q: Did you feel there was competition between the Shelby and Holman Moody teams?
Foyt: “There was a lot of friction. (Beating Ferrari was the object). Ford wanted to win, regardless of which Ford won. He (Gurney) wanted to win. I damn sure wanted to win, but regardless of how Ford had to get there, we were going to get there some way. Like I said, there were two different teams. There was no love between either team.”
Gurney: “We wouldn’t tell them the time of day. But they were prepared, so they were going to do very well.”
Foyt: “Ford had two great teams, but they weren’t really one team. Shelby’s team was there, Holman Moody’s team was there, and we wanted to beat them. It was a race between Ford teams, to be honest. There was no love.”
Q: Was it similar among the drivers?
Foyt: “They had some good drivers and we were all friends. It was just that when the green flag came down, there was no love between none of us, right Dan?”
Gurney: “They were all good drivers and we were friends until they became even better. Then we didn’t like them anymore.” (Both laughing). “Typical thing.”
Q: Let’s talk about Henry Ford II. Did he chat with all of you before the race? Do you remember his reaction to the win?
Foyt: “I think Dan [and I] had the same idea. We knew we couldn’t tear the car all to pieces. We knew we had to take care of it and I think Dan felt the same way I did. We had to nurse it, then when we had to run hard, we could run hard. I think that’s how we won the race.”
Gurney: “We were up there celebrating, and everyone was up there, Michael Parkes from Ferrari and all the Ford people. We didn’t call him Henry II, we called him ‘Hank the Deuce.’ He was an imposing figure and if he looked at you the wrong way, you kind of shriveled up and tried to disappear. He was there with a new bride, I think, on their honeymoon and when I started spraying him, I’m not sure he liked it or not, but he was a good sport about it and we had a wonderful time spraying champagne, A.J. and I both.”
Q: The champagne. It was a spontaneous thing, right?
Foyt: “That’s true. I think Dan was as happy as I was. Now you see all the Formula 1 drivers doing the same thing, but we did it 50 years ago. It was just a great victory, I think, for both of us.”
That April evening in Long Beach, Edsel Ford II presented Foyt with the Spirit of Ford award, the racing division’s highest honor, which Gurney had received in 1999. The award recognizes lifetime achievement and contribution to the industry both on and off the race track.
Edsel Ford II presented A.J. with the Spirit of Ford award in 2017. (Photo courtesy of Ford Performance)
Sitting with Gurney and Ford, Foyt entertained the idea of returning to Le Mans for the 50th Anniversary celebration of the victory. Two months later, he did return as a guest of Ford and was amazed at the changes in the venerable venue. He was driven around the track just before the race by Sebastien Bourdais’s father, Patrick, who is a longtime competitor at Le Mans.
Racing fathers and sons figured in the filming of Ford v Ferrari. Gurney’s son Alex, who is a two-time national champion in sports car racing’s premier Daytona Prototype division, worked on the film in two capacities: as a stunt driver/consultant in the on-track racing action and as an actor—he played his dad.
A.J. and Dan pose with Dan’s wife Evi and their son Alex who was on the set of the movie for 60 days as a stunt driver and consultant. (Photo courtesy of Ford Performance)
While Foyt may not see the film in the theater—the last film he saw in a theater was The Godfather in 1972—if and when he does watch it, it will be sure to bring back some fond memories of a magical time in motorsports.
The boys today don’t realize what they missed.
MONTEREY, Calif.— That’s a wrap for the NTT IndyCar Series as Josef Newgarden won his second series title and rookie Colton Herta won his second IndyCar race of the season.
Following the 19-year-old rookie across the line were three IndyCar Series champions Will Power, Scott Dixon, Simon Pagenaud and fellow rookie Felix Rosenqvist.
For AJ Foyt Racing, the season finale was bittersweet as ABC Supply made its exit as the team’s full-time sponsor, a partnership that spanned the last 15 seasons. However the company will be back as a sponsor of a third Foyt entry at next year’s Indianapolis 500.
“A big thank you to ABC Supply for 15 wonderful years of red, white and blue race cars out there,” Larry Foyt said. “We’re definitely going to miss all of the ABC associates and customers that we’ve gotten to know over the years. It’s a bit sad today saying goodbye to some of the people here at the track, but hopefully they’ll come to some races next year and see us. We just really appreciate the partnership, it was really great for AJ Foyt Racing and it was great for ABC Supply.”
The Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey was off to a smooth start – so smooth in fact that the race went green for the first 45 laps. With Tony Kanaan starting 21st and Matheus Leist starting 23rd, the chance to advance was hindered by the lack of cautions since passing on the classic 2.258-mile road course is difficult at best.
Throughout the 90-lap race, the drivers made the most of the situation, keeping their cars on track, avoiding the mistakes of others. At one point, Leist was squeezed in the famed Corkscrew set of turns as cars entered three-wide – perhaps a first — but he managed to maintain control and not lose a position. Both drivers started on the alternate red tires (as did nearly all but three cars in the 24-car field), but on the second fuel stint, Kanaan opted to stay on the alternate tires while Leist switched to the primary black tires. Kanaan found the tire degradation was too much in that stint and switched to the primary tires for the final fuel stint while Leist stayed on the primary tires, too.When the checkered flag dropped, Kanaan finished 16th and Leist placed 17th.
Kanaan won the Hard Charger of the Year Award with 97 passes in competition, 14 more than any other driver.
“It was an okay race for us,” Tony Kanaan said afterwards. “I think we were actually pretty competitive in the beginning. We struggled with the race pace all weekend long so I think by the end of the day we should have been a couple tenths quicker a lap to be able to be more competitive, but we did what we could do. Looking forward to what’s next. I want to thank ABC Supply for all the years that they helped this team. We have a long offseason now, so we have a lot of time to work on the things that we think are going to have to be better. We’ll be back next year, reset and start again.”
Leist, who turned 21 earlier this month, was not quite as happy with his race day ABC Supply Chevrolet as he was with the car he qualified yesterday.
“Overall a difficult race today, I thought we would have a better pace,” the young Brazilian said. “We made some changes after qualifying and I feel like we didn’t go in the right direction today. Our tire degradation was pretty high with both types of tires. Still it was a fun race, I think we were in the mix back there, not where we wanted to be but still in the mix and not so far off the pace. I felt that towards the end of the year we gained some pace with the car and the car setup overall. We’re still far away from where we want to be but we’re going to keep working hard and hopefully we will be back next year.”
Team President Larry Foyt assessed the 2019 season which was one of the most frustrating seasons for both the drivers and the team.
“2019 was a really tough year for us but there were a lot of positives to take out of it,” Foyt said. “For one thing, I’m really proud of our guys to go through this whole season without one DNF (Did Not Finish) mechanically. That shows the quality of the mechanics we have putting these cars together. We just struggled for pace a bit which is what racing is about. It was good to have three top-10s – including a podium finish at Gateway – towards the end of the year but we’re not here to get top-10s, we want to win races. That’s what we have to focus on this winter, what changes we need to do to make it better next year. That starts tomorrow. I’m proud that the crew and drivers and engineers kept their heads down all year, even through the tough times, they gave 110 percent.”
The loss of ABC Supply certainly impacts the team but Foyt was philosophical, saying, “We have to move on to another chapter but I’m looking forward to the future.”
September 21, 2019 MONTEREY, Calif.—Despite the beauty of the WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca and its surrounding hills, the frustration of this season was summed up in the first round of qualifying for the AJ Foyt Racing team today. While Tony Kanaan is still searching for the sweet spot on his No. 14 car, Matheus Leist…
September 19, 2019 Shelby Tracey joined AJ Foyt Racing as a mechanic in January. Born and raised in Monterey, Calif., Shelby grew up at Laguna Seca where his mother was a volunteer on race weekends. He handles the No. 14 car’s bodywork, the vinyl wraps and decals, and assists where needed. On race day, he changes…
September 17, 2019 DALLAS–Texas-born watch company, Jack Mason, announces the launch of their new limited-edition watch to celebrate the legendary race car driver, A.J. Foyt, in time for the NTT IndyCar Series finale this weekend at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif. This A.J. Foyt Limited Edition Chronograph is the second watch in Jack…
Matheus Leist captured an eighth place finish in his No. 4 ABC Supply Chevrolet after starting deep in pack in the Grand Prix of Portland at Portland International Raceway Sunday afternoon.
A strategy twist to capitalize on a late race caution saw Leist pit with five laps to go for a fresh set of Firestone alternate (red) tires. Armed with fresh rubber, the young Brazilian passed both Charlie Kimball and Sebastien Bourdais in one lap to move into eighth. He put heavy pressure on seventh-running Simon Pagenaud, weathered a few blocks by the wily veteran before settling in for his second top-10 of the season.
Leist started the race in 21st, just behind teammate Tony Kanaan who qualified 19th in his No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolet. In a repeat of last year’s race, there was a multi-car crash in Turn 1 on the start– this time triggered by contact between Graham Rahal and Zach Veach.
Both Kanaan and Leist managed to snake their way through for the second straight year. Veach and Rahal were out and so were the Arrow team cars with James Hinchcliffe and Conor Daly. Takuma Sato lost laps in the pits with his repairs.
Leist ducked into the pits on lap 11 to top off his fuel as his team re-thought the two-stop strategy in favor of more flexibility. The race restarted on lap 12 but contact between Jack Harvey and Ryan Hunter-Reay on lap 14 brought out the second caution. By the time they restarted on lap 17, Kanaan was sixth and Leist was 11th.
Kanaan, on a three stop strategy, pitted on lap 30 with the team thinking he could gain track position (if not spots) by running in clean air. Unfortunately the car didn’t have the pace he needed to take advantage of it. By lap 62, he lost a lap to the leaders. He regained it when they pitted on lap 73 but lost it again when he pitted on lap 82.
After Leist’s initial stop under caution, he was essentially on the cycle of pitting with the leaders, who were doing a two-stop strategy.
A bit of good fortune played into his hands with the final caution on lap 98 as he was the last car on the lead lap. Race strategist George Klotz made the call to pit for fresh tires and the team performed it quickly to get him in and out. Kanaan also made a final stop on the same lap 99 but the cars around him (also a lap down) pitted too so he didn’t gain the advantage Leist did. However, Kanaan’s stopping likely helped him to maintain his 12th position in the final five laps of green.
“Tough but pretty good race for us here at Portland,” said Leist. “Since the beginning we decided to do a different strategy and we went for a two stop strategy and I think it worked pretty well for us. We had to save fuel for most of the race and we were consistently running in the top 10 or 11. On the last yellow, as we were the last car on the lead lap, we decided to come in and put new alternate tires on. We went out tenth and finished eighth so I think decent job, another top-10 for me and a good job for the team too. The guys did a pretty good strategy, and a pretty good job in the pits so I’m proud of everybody. Let’s go for the last one.”
Kanaan soldiered through in his record 316th consecutive IndyCar start—a streak which began here in Portland in 2001—to finish 12th.
“Good start, awesome start actually,” said Kanaan whose career tallies 376 IndyCar total starts. “It’s a shame on the strategy, we missed the boat on that and I have no control over that, so after that I just hung in there. Good job for the team though, two cars in the top-12, that was always the goal so it looks like we’re getting stronger towards the end of the season which is good. I’m happy for Matt, he drove a great race. They got the strategy right and got him in the top eight. Let’s move on to Laguna and see what we can do.”
Will Power won his second race of the year, assuming the lead when Scott Dixon stopped unexpectedly due to electrical issues. Power then had to fend off Dixon’s teammate Felix Rosenqvist in the closing laps after the field packed up following the final caution on lap 98 of the 105-lap race.
Trailing Power and Rosenqvist across the line were Alexander Rossi, Colton Herta and Josef Newgarden. Just 42 points separate the top three NTT IndyCar Series championship contenders Newgarden, Rossi and Pagenaud.
With double points up for grabs in the season finale at Laguna Seca’s WeatherTech Raceway, the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey will decide the champion. The race will be broadcast live on NBC on Sunday, Sept. 22nd starting at 5:30 p.m. ET.
PORTLAND, Ore. – Tony Kanaan and Matheus Leist will start 19th and 21st in the Grand Prix of Portland Sunday afternoon.
Despite his starting position, Kanaan is enthused about his chances tomorrow in the No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolet.
“It’s kind of bittersweet because if you look at the lap times we’re only a tenth and a half from the top 12,” said Kanaan, who posted a lap time of 58.10 seconds (121.68mph). “That’s the closest we’ve been all year. We improved the car a lot but it’s that little bit (still needed). I’m happy because the boys did everything right, we timed qualifying right to have the right tire choice. We went quicker than we went in the morning so it was a step in the right direction. I’m excited. I think we’re coming from a great momentum, everybody’s uplifted (from his third place finish at Gateway) and I’m excited for tomorrow.”
Last year at this 12-turn, 1.964-mile road course, Kanaan started 24th and finished 11th.
Kanaan’s team will start the race on Firestone’s primary compound tires. Leist, who will start the 105-lap race on the Firestone alternate compound (red) tires, felt he was stronger on the primary tires in qualifying his No. 4 ABC Supply Chevrolet.
“Practice 3 was actually decent and gave us some direction and some things to think about,” said the Brazilian who will turn 21 a week from tomorrow (Sept. 8). “In qualifying I think my black tire pace was pretty good but we didn’t have a good run on the reds and that was it. We’re going to work on the reds (setup) for tomorrow and see if we can have a good race.”
Leist, who started 19th last year, ran in the top 10 for much of the race until an untimely caution ruined his fuel strategy. He placed 14th.
Rookie Colton Herta won his second pole of the season with a lap time of 57.81 seconds (122.3mph) beating veterans Will Power and Scott Dixon in the final seconds of the session. Rounding out the Firestone Fast Six were Jack Harvey, rookie Felix Rosenqvist and Ryan Hunter-Reay.
The Grand Prix of Portland will be broadcast live on NBC starting at 3 p.m. ET.