Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

Race Report: Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. March 27, 2011— Piloting the No. 14 ABC Supply car, Vitor Meira avoided the big crashes, fought back from an early flat tire while running sixth, to finish eighth in the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Sunday afternoon. It was the team’s best finish to date here.

A.J. Foyt, at home recovering from a stent procedure on Friday, called immediately afterwards to congratulate his team directed by son Larry Foyt on the come-from-behind top-10 finish.

“Every restart we were careful and lucky,” said Meira, who celebrated his 34th birthday today. “A couple times [on the restarts] you had no control, you just had to choose where to be and today it worked out for us. We moved from 13th to 5th but with all that debris on the track, we cut the left rear tire and developed a slow leak so we had to come to the pits under green. We put on blacks which were not good for us. Also we had a problem with the left front wing which caused a lot of push so we put more front wing in it and it helped. Overall the team did a good job on a course where we struggled last year ; to get a top 10 in a complicated race was good.”

A six-car crash at the start offered a prelude of what was in store for the 25-car field which could not funnel into the first turn without incident in the opening segments. The crash on lap one eliminated six cars from serious contention with Marco Andretti flipping upside down, ending his race before it got started. Teammate Mike Conway was also sidelined while Ryan Briscoe, Scott Dixon, Helio Castroneves and Oriol Servia rejoined the field several laps down.

Meira managed to avoid the carnage on all of the double file restarts but sustained a cut tire on lap 18 either from debris on the track or from Will Power’s front wing end fence with whom he was battling moments before the tire went down. He made his way back to the pits but lost a lot of track position. He rejoined the field in 15th position, three quarters of a lap behind the leaders.

Never losing their cool, the team got back on the same pit strategy as the leaders around lap 40. Meira was able to gain two positions to move into 13th with quick pit work by the ABC Supply crew. The fifth and final full course yellow came out for Charlie Kimball’s single car accident on lap 42. Careful on the final double file restart, he picked up two positions as cars jostled through the first turn.

Quick pit work again on lap 67 saw Meira pick up two more positions to move into ninth and five laps later he moved into eighth when Justin Wilson went off course.

When asked about the double file restarts, Meira said: “What everyone else thinks—they’re hectic! Either it doesn’t work or we are all crazy. I think it will work on the ovals but on the road courses, I’m sure they will have to think about it.”

Dario Franchitti led 95 of 100 laps to win his 27th IndyCar race putting him 10th on the all-time victory list. Pole winner Will Power finished second. Tony Kanaan and Simona DeSilvestro waged a heated battle over the final 20 laps to place third and fourth; it was a career best finish for DeSilvestro now in her second year of competition. Takuma Sato rounded out the top five.

On April 10th, the IZOD IndyCar Series returns to action at Barber Motorsports Park, a 2.38 mile permanent road course near Birmingham, Ala. The race will be televised by Versus at 3 p.m. ET.


 

Meira Will Start 13th in Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG, FL Mar 26, 2011—Vitor Meira and the ABC Supply team bounced back from a frustrating Friday to qualify 13th, their best start since teaming up in 2009. Meira posted a lap of I minute, 3.13 seconds or 102.643mph and will line up inside of row seven for the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

“We definitely made the right changes on the ABC Supply car and compared to everybody else, I think we made the biggest jump from yesterday to today,” said Meira. “We didn’t finish very well yesterday but today every time we went out we kept moving forward. Thirteenth isn’t where we want to be but we have to take into consideration that we started a little bit behind but we made very, very good progress. We are starting better than we did last year and the year before so we can’t complain about that. I will take that as a good day.”

Meira was in the top six up to the final seconds of the 15-minute, 13-car session when Marco Andretti laid down his best lap, knocking Meira to seventh and out of the second round of eliminations.

Will Power continued where he left off last year: winning his second consecutive pole position on the streets of St. Pete with a quick lap of 1 minute, 01.9624 seconds (the quickest of the weekend). Teammates Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon were second and third. Rounding out the Firestone Fast Six were Mike Conway, Ryan Briscoe and Justin Wilson.


 

Larry Foyt To Call the Shots This Weekend As A.J. Foyt Recovers from Stent Procedure

ST. PETERSBURG, FL Mar 26, 2011—Team Director Larry Foyt will be calling the shots this weekend for the ABC Supply team at the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg while his father A.J. Foyt recovers from a procedure to insert a stent in his main artery Friday. Doctors had discovered a more than 95% blockage in the artery after an angiogram was performed on Monday.

“It was touch and go according to Dr. Civitello,” Foyt said last evening after the procedure. “They had a full surgical team on board with the surgeon [Dr. O.H. Frazier, an internationally renowned heart surgeon who trained under Dr. Denton Cooley] who did my wife Lucy’s triple bypass, prepared to do a bypass if the stent didn’t work. Their challenge was that they had to go through several stents first to get to the blockage and then get the artery opened enough to take the stent. I watched on the machine while they did it. After what seemed an awful long time, my doctor stepped back and said ‘We got it A.J.’ I can’t tell you how happy and relieved I was. I think he was too.”

Foyt, in his typical no-holds-barred style, spent the previous weekend working on his track hoe at his ranch in Del Rio much to his doctors’ dismay. “Well, I had some things I wanted to get finished in case I was laid up for a while,” Foyt explained.

Dr. Andrew Civitello, a leading interventional cardiologist, performed the procedure at St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital in Houston, home of the Texas Heart Institute, a pioneer in innovative approaches to cardiovascular disease.

Foyt is expected to be released from the hospital later today with strict orders to “take it easy for the next three or four days.”

He will be watching as Vitor Meira and the No. 14 ABC Supply Dallara/Honda team compete in tomorrow’s race which will be televised live on ABC-TV starting at 12:30 p.m. ET.


 

Notes & Quotes: Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

Vitor Meira and the ABC Supply team will start their third season together and make their third appearance in this race together. Vitor’s best finish is fifth (2005 and 2006) while the ABC Supply team’s best finish is ninth (2006 with Felipe Giaffone and 2009 with Meira). Vitor’s best start is ninth (2007) while the ABC Supply team’s best start is fifth (2007 with Darren Manning). Meira will be celebrating his 34th Birthday on race day!

ABC Supply returns for its seventh year as primary sponsor of A.J. Foyt’s No. 14 with GAF signing on for another year on the car’s engine cover.

Continuing its patriotic red, white and blue livery, the No. 14 ABC Supply car is sporting a new design which is meant to evoke the scheme of A.J. Foyt’s 1961 Indy 500 winning car. This year marks the 50th anniversary of his first of four Indy victories as a driver.

Meira on testing at Barber Motorsports Park last week: “We were definitely better than we were last year, we know more of the direction we have to go when we come back. It’s still a tough place, a very tough place with tough competitors so we have to make sure what we do is right and not guesswork. We just have to make adjustments and get what we have a little bit better everywhere.”

Did testing at Barber help for St. Petersburg? “I think testing in Barber always helps a little bit. We ran new parts on the car and we learned about the behavior of these new parts so we most likely will be using that in St. Pete. It was very good to go through these changes so we can make sure we take everything out of it. I think was very valid.”

Do the double file restarts on road courses put less of a premium on qualifying? “No, I think qualifying on road courses is always going to be very important. A double file restart allows you to have more opportunity to pass--and be passed. I think the double file restarts will be good on the road courses but I never did it before in my career so it’s very hard to know what’s going to happen. Aside from the start itself, I have never done a double file restart. Once we do it, everyone is going to have an opinion about it and share it with the league and try to improve the system. It’s in the rules, but I’m sure if there’s something that the team owners, the drivers and the league are not pleased about, they will change it. It’s going to be very interesting this first race and I myself want to experience it, not only the restart itself but also getting arranged on the last lap before the restart. That will be interesting.”

Key factors for the race? “You have to have a good set up, and a good qualifying run. Your setup must have longevity; it can’t just be fast, it has to be one that runs good with older tires. St. Pete is one of the street courses that allows you to pass—you can pass in two or three places—so having your car work towards the end of your fuel stint is important.”

Is this race physically demanding? “It’s not the most physical course—it grips up a lot during the race and you feel it but there are a lot of tracks that are more physical than St Pete. Still, you have to be prepared and if you’re not prepared, you’re going to be losing time towards the end of the race.”

Thoughts on limiting the field to 26 Cars (except for Indy 500)? “I haven’t spoken to many people about it and I’m sure the limiting factor at some tracks is the pit lane as just so many cars can fit there. But without really knowing all the reasons behind the decision, it’s hard seeing somebody not being able to race because everybody makes such a big effort to be there to compete. For this reason, I would like to see maybe a limit on people enrolling—let’s say just 26 cars enroll for the championship, so you’re not sending guys home. If the guy’s on track trying, he should have the right to race. It’s going to be hard to see this happening.”

ABC Supply roofing customer Dale Tadlock Roofing, of Tallahassee, FL, will be featured atop the sidepods of the No. 14 ABC Supply Dallara/Honda. In addition, Dale will receive selected merchandise, race tickets, hospitality and garage passes, plus a Meet and Greet with Vitor Meira.

William Harrell, of Tampa, Florida, is the ABC Supply Honorary Crew Member of the Race this weekend. William will spend race day as part of the pit crew, doing odd jobs as the team preps the car for the race. He will also be in the pits during the race where he will experience the action up close.

Thank You Race Fans! This year the IZOD IndyCar Series is thanking its fans in a unique way. Any fan that purchases a ticket to any IZOD IndyCar Series race this season will be eligible for a complementary ticket to the season finale in Vegas. More information is available at indycar.com.

The Honda Indy Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will be televised live March 27th, Sunday afternoon starting at 12:30pm eastern time on ABC-TV.