Notes & Quotes: Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

ABC Supply enters its 10th season as sponsor of A.J. Foyt’s team. In the course of the past nine years, the company has entertained well over 50,000 associates and customers at IndyCar Series events. This Sunday, the company will have over 650 guests at the Verizon IndyCar Series season opener.

Takuma Sato is in his fifth season driving IndyCars; it is his second year with Foyt. Sato’s thoughts on:

o The team’s winter testing program: “I’m very encouraged by the results of our winter testing program this off-season. We were able to access some areas of the set-up that last year we were questioning, and we got some good answers by doing back-to-back tests. That is very difficult to do during the season or on race weekends due to time and other restrictions. I, personally feel we are much more prepared too because my first test with the team last year was nearly at the end of February, but this winter, we started in December. Psychologically, we are a full two months ahead. There was a lot to learn and we did. Another plus is that we have the same team members from last year so that is very positive because we know each other and what we do. Everyone on the team does a great job, so I am really looking forward to starting a new season.”

o The key to running well in St. Petersburg: “The car usually behaves with a strong understeer [“push”] balance at the St. Pete street course, so the key is to get a sharp, strong front end but keep the rear very stable [not “loose”  or “oversteer”] too as there are some serious high speed corners. The track is unique as we use an airport runway for the main straight-- which is a good fun--but we have to watch out for the huge striped white lines at the Turn 1 entry. Those paint lines make the track very slippery where we need to brake hard and turn-in on them, so that is actually very tricky.”

o The new points system: “I think it’s good, just have to follow the rules. It is exciting and interesting to have double points for the three 500-mile races on the big ovals [Triple Crown events], although it is a little surprising to see there are quite a few points available for Indy 500 qualifying. It is going to be very challenging.”

o His goals for St. Pete: “My goal for this weekend is to bring home as many points as possible. I think we have a good chance to be competitive here like we were last year although the whole field is leveled up and it will be very tight. We just need to have a clean smooth start right from the beginning of the practice session and go step-by-step. If everything goes smoothly then we should be able to have a strong race.”

o Honda’s new Twin-turbo engine: Not so different but it will be faster as Honda twin turbo seems pick up better bottom and shorter turbo-lag than what it was last year. More torque and more power and better power delivery means go faster!

o Reverting back to single file restarts on street/road courses: “I don’t miss the double file restarts at all. Sometimes it gave you an advantage or opportunity to make up positions but at the same time the opposite thing happened too. It might have made the race exciting or at least at Turn-1’s congestion point but it was such an unfair action/ I’m happy to be back to precise racing.”

o The Verizon IndyCar Series sponsorship: “It’s great for everyone, the league, the teams, tracks and fans. Verizon is uniquely positioned to deliver the great content of our sport to so many people which benefits all of us.”

Past performance at St. Pete: Takuma Sato’s best start is 2nd which he achieved in 2013 in his debut with the ABC Supply/AJ Foyt Racing team.  His best finish is fifth, occurring in 2010 in his first IndyCar race.  Last year’s outside pole start is the best for the ABC Supply team whose best finish remains eighth (2011 and 2013).

ABC Supply national account Lennar Corporation, based in Miami, is one of the nation’s leading builders of quality homes for all generations. The Lennar logo will be on the engine cover of the No. 14 ABC Supply car this weekend. Guests will receive the VIP treatment this weekend, receiving ABC Supply Racing merchandise along with a Meet and Greet with A.J. Foyt.

ABC Supply roofing customer, Universal Roof and Contracting, located in Orlando, Fla., won the ‘Your Name Here’ contest for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. The company name will be atop the sidepods of the No. 14 ABC Supply Dallara/Honda. Guests will receive selected merchandise, race tickets, hospitality and garage passes, plus a Meet and Greet with A.J. Foyt.

The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will be shown live at 3:00 p.m. EDT Sunday, March 30 on ABC-TV.

For more information on the ABC Supply/AJ Foyt Racing program, please check our web site: www.foytracing.com.  To follow us on Twitter: @AJFoytRacing, @TakumaSatoRacer, @LarryFoyt14. On Facebook, we have the AJ Foyt Racing fan page.