By A.J. Foyt
It is time to regroup at AJ Foyt Racing. I think things had been going relatively well up (with a couple hiccups) until Milwaukee. I thought I knew what had happened to set us back at that race but it turned out to be only half the problem. We found the other half at Iowa Speedway this past weekend. It didn’t really make itself known until the final practice on Friday night.
It had to do with a small modification to a part that created a handling problem. We were about last in final practice and Vitor was saying the car was like it was in Milwaukee. I thought to myself, I can’t take another Milwaukee…and I knew he couldn’t.
So I had the crew come in first thing on race day (the garage opened at 10 a.m.) which gave them a good seven hours to go through everything before the ABC Supply car had to go to tech inspection. They found the culprit and we fixed it. After the first few laps, Vitor said it the car was like another car, meaning it was good.
Vitor said he was being careful in the beginning of the race which explains how he dropped back to 16th after we picked up three spots following the first round of pit stops. Two positions came because of quick pit work by the ABC Supply crew; we gained the third spot because of the Will Power-Charlie Kimball pit lane accident.
At any rate, when Mike Conway and Ana Beatriz tangled on lap 44, Vitor was behind them and had nowhere to go when a nose assembly came flying towards him. He hit it and he radioed in that he thought he had a problem. He sure did. We replaced the nose/wing assembly. He went back out and we figured out on subsequent stops that the toe link was bent.
We had to get another one off the truck because it isn’t something that we stock in the pits. Usually when that is bent, there’s a whole lot of suspension damage and your race is done. But we were able to replace it and adjust it with only losing a lap.
But you know, when things aren’t going your way, stuff happens. We made a full stop (fuel, tires) on lap 62 and we were still adjusting on the toe link. When we came out of the pits, the field was charging hard on lap 63 because the race went green on lap 64. When Vitor got the green he was half a lap down so it only took 13 laps before he went two laps down.
But we didn’t give up. We got the wave around on the next yellow for Power’s wall banger on lap 90. So we were still only one lap down through all of that.
When Saavedra crashed on lap 114, we pitted to make an adjustment on the front wing and had to remove a piece of wheel debris from it! A couple more stops on the same caution—including one for a splash of fuel—and we were ready to start racing. He was running lap times with the leaders but then he started dropping back.
He was lapped several times when we saw a streak of sparks coming from the right side of the car on the main straightaway on lap 180. Larry immediately radioed Vitor to slow down and pit which he did. We thought something was going on with the right rear suspension but it was in fact the right front wing. He must have run over something that shot under the car causing the sparks.
With everything else that happened that night, it was my turn to be over-cautious and make damn sure it wasn’t a suspension problem. We probably lost several laps checking thoroughly (even though we were under yellow) because of my caution. It took a while to patch up the front wing too. He was in the pits for seven minutes before he went back out.
I told him to keep his nose clean and ride it out which seems pretty funny in hindsight because that was the one part of the car that kept getting hit. When it became obvious that he was going to be mixing it up with the leaders who were going at it pretty hard, I told him to pit. We didn’t send him back out. No sense getting in the way of the leaders because whatever we may have gained (nothing as it turned out), it wasn’t worth the risk.
Marco Andretti and Tony Kanaan put on a helluva show by the way. There were some moves out there by the kid that must have made his grandpa proud. Andretti earned that Iowa Corn Indy 250 win all the way.
We have this holiday weekend off so we’ll use this time to re-group, re-focus and regain what we lost over the last two races and turn this season around in Toronto. Oh Canada!
I hope everyone has a happy and safe holiday weekend.