AJ Foyt Racing crew member Marty Armstrong is in charge of preparing, building and maintaining the gearboxes for both of the ABC Supply Chevrolets. Growing up in Germany, Armstrong’s interest in racing began as a youth when his father took him to many different types of auto races. When he came to America in 1979, he made motorsports his career goal. He started working on gearboxes in 1987 at Skip Barber Racing School and considers IndyCar racing the pinnacle of U.S. motorsports. He most enjoys the competition and mechanical challenges of his job. We asked him a few questions…
What skills does a gearbox mechanic need to be good at their job? “Good sound mechanical skills are a must, but the need for attention to detail is also paramount. Good organization and cleanliness are as important.”
How has working on gearboxes changed since you started? “The technology has vastly improved over the years. Frankly speaking, they are easier to maintain. The reliability of the gearboxes has greatly improved as well.”
Do you change the gear ratios for each track? “Every track is different, requiring different ratios. Ratios are often changed during the race meetings to optimize the performance of the engine’s power.”
Which track is the most challenging one to optimize the gearing? “I would have to say Indy [Indianapolis Motor Speedway]. Just the changes in the aerodynamics and factoring in the wind, it can be tough.”
What are things a driver needs to do to protect the gearbox? “Not crashing is a good start.... Shifting at the correct time. Our drivers have been great with the gearboxes.”
Is Mid-Ohio tough on gearboxes? “I'd have to say the gearboxes themselves are very durable by design. With Mid-Ohio being a natural road course, it’s not too bad on the gearbox.”
If doing a fuel mileage strategy, do you change gears for that? “For racing purposes, rather than qualifying, the gearing is set up for optimizing both speed and good fuel mileage. There are fuel maps used through the engine management system to best serve the fuel mileage strategy.”
When a race is declared a wet race, how does that affect gearing? “We can optimize the gearing for any situation, but there are more changes done chassis-wise to prepare for wet weather.”
TONY KANAAN on Mid-Ohio: “It’s always great to race in Mid-Ohio. It’s a challenging track but also fun to drive. And there’s always a great crowd there.” On testing there: “Testing went well. I hope we can find a couple more things to be more competitive this weekend.” On why he likes Mid Ohio: “It’s a very technical course with many different types of corners which makes it challenging to set up the car.”
MATHEUS ‘MATT’ LEIST on Mid-Ohio: “Mid-Ohio reminds me of the tracks I used to race
in Europe. It’s a pretty fun track to drive but technical at the same time. When you have a good car I’d say it is one of the best tracks to drive in America.” On testing there: “Testing was pretty good. Last year I had a difficult weekend in Indy Lights so this test was very important and useful for me. I’m feeling much better and more prepared headed to the race weekend.”
Last Race: At Toronto, Kanaan started 15th and finished 6th for his first top-10 since Detroit Race 2; it is his best finish to date this season. Matheus Leist qualified 12th for his best start since Indy (where he started 11th), and he finished 15th after a couple of on-track bumping incidents which required extra pit stops.
Past Performance at Mid-Ohio: Tony Kanaan’s best start (3rd) and finish (4th) came in 2007 with Andretti-Green Racing. Matheus Leist is making his first start here in IndyCar. In Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires, his best start was 12th and his best finish was 10th. The Foyt team’s best start is 7th and best finish is 4th -- both with Ryan Hunter-Reay in 2009. In the CART Series (1987-1995), the team’s best start was 12th (1988-A.J. Foyt, 53) and best finish was 2nd (1993-Robby Gordon, 24).
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 800 guests.
ABC Supply account AnyWeather Roofing, based in Dayton, Ohio, 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, Franciscus, based in Westlake, Ohio, 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 Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio will be televised live on CNBC Network on Sunday, July 29, starting at 3 p.m. ET. There will be a same-day encore presentation at 6:30 p.m. on NBCSN. Qualifying will be broadcast live on NBCSN Saturday at 1:30 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.