Foyt trying to temper expectations despite promising start
Larry Foyt says that the new and more positive atmosphere within AJ Foyt Racing has created a lot of expectation – but says he’s fine with the fact that others haven’t yet registered the team’s progress.
20-year IndyCar veteran Tony Kanaan and 19-year-old Matheus Leist ended the opening day of practice for the 2018 Firestone GP of St. Petersburg in ninth and 12th places respectively, with TK less than half a second off pacesetter Ryan Hunter-Reay.
However team president Foyt says that the all-new driver lineup that has “helped put the team in a good place”, is aware that the team is still growing, and fighting back from a couple of disappointing seasons.
Foyt told Motorsport.com: “Within the team, all of us are trying to temper any expectations, whereas from what I read, most people outside the team aren’t expecting a lot out of us – which is fine.
“But thanks to the longevity of ABC Supply, we’re getting a little bigger every year, and we had our best ever winter program by far, in terms of going out to gather data. We’ve been able to answer our questions and check boxes, whereas in the past there seemed a little too much guess work. It would be, ‘We think this is better,’ when what we’re pushing for is, ‘We know this is better, so let’s do it.’
“So it’s good to be fighting in and around the Top 10 today. Both drivers are doing a great job but we’ve seen already how much everyone improves session to session and if you don’t take that jump with them, it’s hard to stay up there.”
Regarding the driver lineup, Foyt said that Kanaan had not expressed any frustrations over moving from Chip Ganassi Racing to one of the smaller teams in the paddock.
“Honestly,” said Foyt, “I think Tony is in a good place, and together, him and Matheus have helped to put us in a good place.
“I know people said the last couple of years that it might be time for Tony to retire but you speak to him and you know he’s not ready at all! He’s giving as much now as he ever did, and that’s the kind of attitude that I knew would push us to be the best we could be for him.
“We’re putting him in a good place, and he’s doing a great job being team leader for us, bringing a lot of experience.”
Foyt was similarly full of praise for Leist, and said that the radically new behavior of the car had made 2018 the ideal year in which to bring on a rookie.
“Yeah, that did come into the decision,” he said, “but I also knew people who he’d driven for who said he was quick, so I started watching him, AJ started watching him. I hate to call him a kid, but Matheus is only 19 years old, and he stays cool, calm, collected. I looked him in the eye when we were about to hire him and I said, ‘Are you sure you’re ready for this?’ But he shows this great confidence, 100 percent committed. At Phoenix he had some close calls, but everywhere else he didn’t put a wheel wrong.
“He’s still got a lot to learn. Like in the second session today, when he was trying to get quick lap in on reds and he was battling traffic, I said, ‘Hey, this is how it is every weekend. You better get used to it!’ But he kept his cool, kept his head. So I think if he keeps learning, he’s going to be great.”
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