Notes & Quotes: Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg
• ABC Supply enters its eighth season as sponsor of A.J. Foyt’s team. In the course of the past seven years, the company has entertained over 35,000 associates and customers at IndyCar Series events. This weekend, the company will have 600 guests at the race on Sunday.
• Mike Conway on the ‘News’ this year:
New Team: “I’m excited to be working with AJ Foyt Racing. It's a new challenge for everyone in the team, in terms of new people, car and a new season but everyone is working well together. We’re really looking forward to the first race. There are lots of unknowns still but I think we’ll be looking okay.”
New Car: “There’s a lot of different things: engine, gearbox, brakes, different aerodynamic package from what we’ve driven before but I think Dallara’s done a good job with what they’ve produced. There are certain different driving characteristics but we’re still on similar tires so it’s not a whole lot different driving style. There’s definitely more downforce compared to the year before and with the carbon brakes, the car stops pretty well which shortens up the braking zones a little bit. That may make it harder to overtake but I’m not sure it’s enough to be noticeable.”
New Engine: “The new Honda engine’s been pretty good. I think all of the manufacturers are exploring new things so there have been a couple teething problems here and there but all in all, everyone’s working hard to make sure that they’re on top of things. The turbo engine is different from what we’ve had years previous but it’s pretty nice, drivable and pretty smooth. Although it’s my first time driving a turbo, it’s not a whole lot different.”
New Competition: “We have a few new drivers coming to the series this year and they are looking good, especially Rubens Barrichello with all of his experience in Formula 1. I think everyone is excited to get racing with the new guys but at the same time, we have to worry about all of the competition. At the end of the day, we have to beat the whole grid.”
• Conway on looking for first finish at St. Pete: “Anything can happen in the first race and some things are more likely to happen because it is the first race. We’re rusty on starts and everyone’s anxious to get the race going. But our main goal will be to finish this race…ahead of everyone else.”
• Conway on the St. Petersburg street course: “It’s quite a short lap compared to other street races that we run and it does have quite a long straight running down to the first corner which is good. If you’re going to make a move on the track in terms of passing, that’s one corner where you can definitely pass at. It makes it good for the spectators—there’s a big grandstand at the end of that straight so there’s a lot to see there. In terms of the track layout, street courses are similar because they’re all pretty bumpy. St. Pete has quite a crown in the road compared to Long Beach and Toronto which are fairly flat. St. Pete’s crowns in the roads are more exaggerated especially through the tight twisty sections of the track. It makes it interesting. Driving can be quite tricky at times where the car really gets pulled to the inside wall and then pulled out to the corners at the same time when you transfer from one side of the crown to the other. But that’s part of the challenge.”
• Conway on St. Petersburg: “There’s always a good crowd there which makes the race a lot better. It’s a cool place as well. There’s a lot to see there and it’s right on the water so that always makes it fun. I like St. Pete.”
• A.J. Foyt returns: A.J. Foyt returns to action this weekend. Foyt is still recovering from a surgery to remove bone spurs near his artificial knee and the staph infection which ensued. Foyt had been to only one of his ABC Supply team’s tests since his mid-January surgery. He saw Conway drive the 2012 car at MSR, a motorsports club track south of Houston in late February. “I’m still far from 100% but I’m gaining every day, so I’m glad about that. It turned out to be a lot tougher on me than I thought it would.”
• Past performance in St. Pete: Mike Conway’s best start is fourth (2011) and he has never started farther back than 12th (2009). However, he hasn’t had much luck in the races (he’s yet to finish) which he looks to change this year! The ABC Supply team’s best start is fifth (Darren Manning, 2007) and their best finish is eighth (Vitor Meira, 2011).
• ABC Supply roofing customer, S.C. Signature Construction and Roofing located in the Port Richey, FL area, won the ‘Your Name Here’ contest for the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. The company name will be atop the sidepods of the No. 14 ABC Supply Dallara/Honda. Owner Joe Matissek will receive selected merchandise, race tickets, hospitality and garage passes, plus a Meet and Greet with A.J. Foyt and Mike Conway.
• Juan Perez will be the ABC Supply Honorary Crew Member of the race this weekend. Perez works as a delivery driver for ABC Supply in the Hudson, FL area which is north of Tampa.
• AJFoytRacing.com gets a new look! The team’s official website received a makeover this month and the revamped site launched as the first day of spring drew to a close. The site will still have the same easy navigation but there will be more emphasis on the team’s social media outlets as well as video content once the season gets underway.
• The Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will be shown live at 12:30 p.m. E.T. Sunday, March 25 on ABC-TV.
• For more information on the Foyt Racing program, please check our web site: www.ajfoytracing.com.