Eric Cowdin is the Technical Director of AJ Foyt Racing and serves as Tony Kanaan’s race engineer on the No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolet. Following are his thoughts as we head to Iowa Speedway, a banked 7/8-mile oval in Newton, 30 miles east of Des Moines.
ERIC COWDIN ON:
Testing at Iowa Speedway: “We were able to get basic setup information from Matheus running at the test. The 2018 aero package has a lot less downforce so gearing and mechanical setup will be very important.”
How the car will handle in traffic (similar to Phoenix?): “We didn’t have an opportunity to run in traffic at the test. I would hope that the nature of the Iowa Speedway would provide more passing opportunities than Phoenix.”
The biggest challenge with this new car on a track like Iowa Speedway: “The biggest challenge is the lower downforce level for this year. The downforce in the past had created a much higher grip level but a slower top speed. Now the cars have much quicker speed into the corner and a slower mid-corner speed with less grip.”
How much simulator testing shortens the learning curve: “We have primarily used the simulator for road and street course preparation. In general it has helped us be much closer on ride heights, gearing and general setup when we first show up at a race track.”
What is more challenging at Iowa Speedway—the banking or the bumps: “The bumps are the biggest challenge. You can tune the springs and dampers for a particular line the driver is taking but as soon as he drives a different line, you have a whole new set up bumps to deal with. The key is to find the best compromise overall.”
If anything applicable from Phoenix in terms of setup:“The basic short oval package will be similar. There are changes required for the increased load in the banking and the bumps.”
Whether this car is the most difficult car he’s ever had to engineer: “The lower downforce level is something new that we have to deal with at every event we go to. The driver is a lot busier in the cockpit driving the car which I think, in general, they enjoy. As far as engineering the car, we have had to refocus our efforts in different areas of development than in years past.”
Why the team is struggling so much halfway through the season after a strong Indy: “The majority of our focus and efforts were on the Indianapolis 500 up to that point. Now we are reprioritizing our efforts to identify and improve our weaknesses. Because the IndyCar Series is so diverse in the type of tracks we race at, each weekend presents new challenges.”
TONY KANAAN on Iowa Speedway: “Next up we go to Iowa Speedway, a short oval that’s one of my favorite tracks of the year. It’s a place that keeps you on your toes at all times and although it’s just under a mile long it makes for a extremely fast and exciting race. I didn’t test there with the new aero configuration and honestly I don’t know how the car will handle compared to what we used to have downforce wise, but I expect it to be a harder race than usual. Being a short track we’re always running in traffic and hopefully we have a good balance to keep the No. 14 up front and get another trophy for the hardware collection.”
MATHEUS ‘MATT’ LEIST on Iowa Speedway: “Pretty excited and glad to be back in
Iowa—it was a good race for me last year. I started tenth and won the race so it was a fun race. I’m looking forward to the IndyCar race on the short oval which is a pretty cool track. I think our team will do a great job there.”
Last Race: At Road America, Kanaan started 18th and used an alternate pit strategy which didn’t work out because the race ran caution-free for the first time since 2000. He placed 14th. Leist started 20th and finished 15th.
Past Performance at Iowa Speedway: In 11 races, Kanaan’s best start is second (2015) and best finish is winning in 2010 with Andretti Autosport. TK has led 523 laps and has five podiums: a victory, two seconds and two thirds. Leist’s experience here is in Indy Lights; in his only race, he started 10th and won. He figured out the outside line early in the weekend, and on a restart after the race’s only caution, he went from seventh to fourth in one lap and took the lead four laps later and was never headed. AJ Foyt Racing’s best start is 13th in 2016 with Takuma Sato, and its best finish is fifth in 2007 with Darren Manning.
ABC Supply is in its 14th season as primary sponsor of A.J. Foyt’s IndyCar team, making it the longest running team sponsor in the Verizon IndyCar Series. The company was founded in 1982 by Ken and Diane Hendricks with just three stores. The company now has over 700 stores and topped $9 billion in sales in 2017. ABC Supply began sponsoring the AJ Foyt Racing team with the 2005 Indianapolis 500. The company has leveraged its involvement by entertaining over 92,000 associates and customers over the past 13 racing seasons. This weekend the company will entertain over 350 guests.
ABC Supply account Great Plains Roofing, based in Harrisburg, S.D., will be featured on the engine cover of the No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolet. Guests will receive the VIP treatment this weekend along with a Meet and Greet with Tony Kanaan.
ABC Supply roofing customer, Total Construction & Maintenance, based in Eden Prairie, Minn.,won the ‘Your Name Here’ contest. The company name will be on the engine cover of the No. 4 ABC Supply Chevrolet. Guests will receive the VIP treatment plus a Meet and Greet with Matheus “Matt” Leist.
The Iowa Corn 300 will be televised live on NBC Sports Network on Sunday, July 8, starting at 2:00 pm ET. Qualifying be broadcast live on NBCSN Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET.
For more information on the ABC Supply/AJ Foyt Racing program, please check our web site: ajfoytracing.com. To follow us on Twitter: @AJFoytRacing, @TonyKanaan, @MatheusLeist, @LarryFoyt14. On Instagram, @AJFoytRacing, @tkanaan, @matheusleist, @larryfoyt14. On facebook, we have the AJ Foyt Racing fan page.