By A.J. Foyt
This year’s Honda Indy Edmonton ran on a new track layout at the City Centre Airport in Canada’s “Oil City.” In fact, we landed on the runway that we raced on last year! The new layout is a big improvement over the old track; it’s a lot smoother and has a couple long straights so drivers have places to pass.
One thing they have to work on is the track’s ingress and egress—especially the paddock area! We were there four days and we entered and left four different ways. Hopefully when we return next year, that part will be better.
Rain all day on Friday washed out the two practices scheduled but Saturday was clear so we got two 45-minute sessions before qualifying. Vitor Meira qualified the ABC Supply car 14th which makes it the fifth time in six races that he’s started on Row 7. He has come so close to transferring into the next group but hasn’t yet and I know it’s eating on him. This time it looked like he’d get in and then in the last couple seconds of the session, Sebastian Bourdais turned in a lap that was six-hundredths of a second quicker. Row 7—again.
This race was a lot cleaner than the one in Toronto two weeks ago—this time there were only two full course cautions and probably only eight to 10 cars that went off course or wrecked. In Toronto I think everyone had some sort of incident at least once.
Edmonton’s Honda Indy was one of those races where nothing went right for our ABC Supply team--but it could have gone a lot worse. Vitor barely missed getting “tagged” when Alex Tagliani rammed into Graham Rahal on the first lap -- Rahal started 13th alongside Vitor. Vitor restarted 13th but that inside lane was not the place to be midpack because as Vitor said, it would get ‘bottled up.’ He ran 13th until the Oriol Servia-Mike Conway accident on lap 24.
On that restart, cars were really jockeying all around and then EJ Viso took out Scott Dixon (that was just a local yellow). Vitor was behind the accident but he made it through. He ran over a piece of debris and radioed in that he thought he had a flat tire. We checked the tire pressures on the telemetry and they were all fine but he lost several positions. He gained some back but on his final stop he was hustling into the pits and overshot his marks which he hardly ever does. When brakes are hot, tires are worn and drivers are trying to get every last bit of speed out of the car, stuff happens. It was only by a few inches--enough that the crew had to roll him back to hook up the hoses.
I know he felt bad but the important thing is to recover quickly. His out lap from the pits was the fastest of the race! He came out in 12th which is where he finished. Yeah, we were disappointed in the finish because if just a couple things had gone differently, we’d be talking about a sixth or seventh place finish. Looking on the bright side, we moved into 12th in the points so we gained a position there.
As I said before, the weekend could have turned out much worse and I’ll tell you why. When we landed in the Brenham airport about 10 p.m. Sunday night, I felt the plane flare up after touching down. I thought my pilot overshot his approach to the runway which meant he wouldn’t have enough runway left to stop the plane.
He lifted up because there were two deer on the runway! Talk about deer in the headlights! They weren’t moving but they sure bolted when my Hawker jet cleared them by about 30 feet. It was close. It didn’t bother me but it got my passengers’ attention. Their eyes got big and no one said a word. They were wondering what in the world was going on.
Hitting the deer wouldn’t have been life threatening (except to the deer) but it sure would have messed up my airplane, so as I said, things could have been a lot worse than a 12th place finish that day.
Our next race is at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on August 7th. It will be televised on Versus starting at 2 p.m. ET. I hope you’ll tune in.