(All photos: Benito Santos)
SEBRING, Fla. – He likes it. That is the verdict from Tony Kanaan after his first test Wednesday in the No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolet outfitted with the 2018 INDYCAR universal aero kit.
“It was a good day and nice to be back on the track,” said the 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner. “Happy with the progress and that we were able to put some good laps in. Getting the boys back working together as well as getting to know some of the guys I hadn’t worked with yet made it a good day for the ABC No. 14 team."
Evaluating the new aero kit, he said, “The car is different, it feels a lot quicker on the straightaways which is no surprise. I was happy with the way it came out. It looks really cool; I like the way it looks. You just have to change your driving style a little bit but that was expected as well. It’s hard to tell, I didn’t do a lot of laps to make a solid statement but from what I’ve seen and driven, I’m happy with it.”
Also happy with the one day test was Team President Larry Foyt who called his father A.J. to report that the test went very well.
“I told A.J. the test was very productive,” said Foyt. “We achieved everything we came down to do. With the little time the crew had to prepare, I was impressed with the build of the car and the amount of test items we were able to get through. Tony liked the car right out of the box, so the engineers did a nice job adapting the setup to the new aero. And lastly I told him he’s going to like Tony. Tony is no nonsense and gets after it right out of the pits...A.J.’s style for sure."
Cowdin (left) discusses results with Foyt and Kanaan (right).
Kanaan participated in the final day of testing for the engine manufacturer along with Team Penske at Sebring International Raceway on lucky December 13th. It was the first on-track experience for Kanaan with A.J. Foyt’s team, which had some familiar faces, most importantly, Technical Director Eric Cowdin who will also serve as Kanaan’s race engineer for the season. Having worked with Kanaan during most of Kanaan’s on-track successes, Cowdin joined the team soon after Kanaan signed this past autumn.
Cowdin spoke about the team’s winter program saying, “We are undertaking a very aggressive development program before the start of the season. In the four-week period before the Christmas break we will have done four days on the driver simulator, two days of gearbox development, build a car with the new aero kit and tested it on track. In January, we will continue with the same programs with the addition of our first 7-post test of the season to kick off our damper development. Before the first race we will have had six days of track testing so the drivers will have put in their work as well.”
There are some challenges with the team having two bases of operations. Kanaan’s team (along with Cowdin) will work out of the Speedway, Indiana race shop while teammate Matheus Leist’s team will remain based in the team’s headquarters outside of Houston. Cowdin stressed that communication is key to the success of both teams.
“Having two locations emphasizes the need for communication,” Cowdin said. “We have to be more purposeful with our phone calls and emails so we include all the people that may need to know what we are working on. Beyond the endless emails and phone calls between the shops, we have video conference equipment in both locations which get used several times a day. It is very often more productive to have four or five people involved in a conversation opposed to copying those people on an email chain.”
While Cowdin’s most recent experience was with Ganassi Racing’s four-car team, the Virginia Polytechnic Institute alumnus allowed that there are benefits to working with a two-car team such as Foyt’s.
“Having worked on teams of all sizes, there are definite advantages to working with a smaller group,” said Cowdin who has a Masters in aerospace engineering. “Each person gains experience in several different disciplines, discussions and decisions are made more efficiently and communication is easier to keep everyone on the same page. For me, the key for success with a smaller group is to have very self-motivated individuals and then give them the tools they need to do their best which is what we are trying to do.”
Leist, along with his race engineer Mike Colliver, are working two days in the Chevrolet simulator this week.
Rookie driver Leist, who attended the test as an observer, headed to Charlotte, N.C. last night to spend today and tomorrow in the Chevrolet Simulator based in nearby Huntersville, N.C. Leist will get behind the wheel of his No. 4 ABC Supply Chevrolet in the latter part of January.
The race team’s Christmas holiday starts this weekend and goes through the New Year.