ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.—A.J. Foyt’s ABC Supply team started the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg with high hopes and rightly so with rookie Matheus Leist starting third and Tony Kanaan starting 10th in the 24-car Verizon IndyCar Series field.
However, when Kanaan was hit on the opening lap by rookie Zach Veach, and subsequently spun, the exuberance was tamped down. Leist, who started third, got off to a good start, narrowly missing second place starter Will Power who spun going through Turn 2 and brushed the wall, but still was able to continue. Leist held third position through the first six laps. He ran fourth for the next seven laps but lost speed on lap 14.
He radioed in that he couldn’t shift either up or down from third gear, even after an emergency reset while on track, so he made his way to the pits. His mechanics descended on the car and replaced the gear stack as they began to troubleshoot the problem.
Meanwhile Kanaan, who pitted on lap 1 after his incident to change his flat-spotted tires (from the spin), was making his way through the field from 23rd. By the time Leist’s trouble began to appear, Kanaan had slipped into 11th.
The No. 4 crew spent 10 laps getting the issue fixed and sent Leist on his way, however another problem occurred and Leist was asked to return to the pits to serve a drive-through penalty due to “Leaving with equipment attached.” It was on this exit that his day went from bad to worse as he lost traction entering Turn 3 and hit the wall, ending his race after just 16 laps in the books.
“Today was just unfortunate that we ended up like this,” the 19-year-old rookie said.