By A.J. Foyt
Edmonton is a temporary circuit in Canada where we haven’t had great results but this year we were optimistic going in. And with good reason it seemed because Mike Conway was fast from the time we unloaded the No. 14 Honda from the ABC Supply transporter. Our chief engineer Don Halliday and his staff figured out what Mike needed for that bumpy airport circuit.
Mike was in the top three in all of the practice sessions until we started having problems with the fuel pressure midway through the session before qualifying. Back in the paddock, we went over the fuel system and changed the fuel pump, but we wouldn’t know if it worked until Mike qualified.
Qualifying turned out to be the worst session of all. He ended up last because he never laid down a real hot lap in the three laps he was out there. This time, we tore the fuel system apart and found the source of the fuel pressure trouble. In the race morning warm-up, Mike was again in the top three. Problem solved but one session too late.
We planned on doing a three stop race – run flat out in all four stints--but early in the race, things weren’t playing out as we hoped. We had to change the strategy mid-stream in that first stint which saved the race for us but also affected how Mike ran the rest of it.
I don’t like fuel economy races. I really like being able to run as fast as the car can instead of having to run to certain fuel numbers. In a caution-free race with a small window for pit stops, your hands are tied as to what you can do.
With all of the restrictions a fuel strategy race requires, Mike did a helluva job coming from 23rd to 11th. He made most of his passes under braking. We probably could have trimmed the car out a little bit more because he really didn’t pass anyone on the straightaways.
As much as I wanted to throw caution (and those damn fuel numbers) to the wind and allow Mike to charge as hard as he could in the Edmonton Indy, he needed to finish the race because we are down in the standings…19th for him and 20th for the car.
In June, the ovals did not go well for us at all, but I expect that to change in the season finale at California Speedway. The shaker rig test we did just before Toronto really helped our engineers to better understand how the shocks work on this new car. Their hard work is paying off on the track.
The toughest part about this race? For me, it’s the knowledge that if Mike were able to qualify where he had practiced, he would have been fighting for the win. But this sport is not about coulda, shoulda, woulda—it’s about results.
And not giving up when the chips are down.