Warren Wilson joined AJ Foyt Racing in 2017 to prepare the shocks on both the No. 4 and No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolets. This season is Wilson’s third stint working with Tony Kanaan and Eric Cowdin. He was the gearbox technician on Kanaan’s team when he won his first IndyCar race at Michigan International Speedway in 1999 and his damper (aka shock absorber) technician when Kanaan won the 2013 Indianapolis 500, which bodes well for AJ Foyt Racing! We asked him a few questions…
Q: How did you get interested in the sport?
WW: “I have always been interested in mechanical things and learning how they worked. My experience working with motorcycles and the similarities between motorcycle and race car transmissions led to my becoming a gearbox tech for Tasman Motorsports in the CART series. When Tasman closed, I moved to Indy and joined the Players Forsythe team as a damper tech. I have been building and developing dampers for quite a while and am still learning new stuff all the time.”
Q: What is your job on the team?
WW: “My job is to support the race engineers with damper development as well as building the dampers for race weekends.”
Q: Which tracks do dampers play an especially important role in the setup and why?
WW: “I would say dampers are important at all the tracks. The dampers are all different depending on the track type and track condition. We focus on different parts of the damper curve depending on track type, but they are all important.”
Q: What is a damper curve?
WW: “The damper curve is a graphical representation of how the damper works as it moves at different speeds and displacements. We use a dyno (dynamometer machine) to simulate the damper movement on track and plot the forces. The graphs are one of the tools engineers use when deciding to make changes.”
Q: How detailed are the graphs showing the shock travel?
WW: “The graphs and analysis of the dampers can be quite in depth. We have an engineer (Daniele Cucchiaroni) who helps develop analysis tools and ways of looking at the dampers. With dampers being one of the only areas of the car where we can build and develop our own parts, it becomes quite important to have a good understanding of what is going on with them.”
Q: Is there a rule of thumb for dampers on road/street courses vs. oval tracks?
WW: “Road and street tracks generally have the same left and right dampers whereas the oval track dampers can be very different side to side as well as different front to rear.”
Q: What is your toughest challenge on race weekends with regard to dampers?
WW: “Keeping up with changes that both cars are making and record-keeping. A lot can happen in a short session on a race weekend and I need to stay on top of where each of the cars’ dampers and springs are adjusted to. With two or three drivers, the dampers will often be adjusted differently to suit each driver and setup.”
Q: Is it difficult building dampers for both cars which may run different setups?
WW: “It is not hard to build dampers, it just takes time and attention to detail. Time is usually what we don't have enough of with the busy schedule and the wide variety of tracks that we race at.”
Q: How many sets of dampers will you prepare for Gateway?
WW: “The oval tracks will have a different damper curve on each corner. For Gateway, I will have 12 damper curves ready for each car/driver. After the first practice, we may change some of the builds based on driver feedback and car performance.”
Q: Do you make suggestions to the engineers based on your past experience with the shocks?
WW: “I do when they ask for it.”
Q: Why do you like your job?
WW: “I like working with this part of the racecar because it bridges the gap between engineering and mechanics. I get to work on the development and theory of what will make the car better and then build parts that go on the car.”
TONY KANAAN on Gateway: “It’s exciting to go back to Gateway. Last year we had such a big crowd coming and this team did pretty well there. We are looking forward to it and big props to the guys at the track. I guess they repaved even more, now that they’ve repaved pit lane. Hopefully we can get our best result of the season [so far] there. It’s a track with two completely different corners, one is banked and the other is flat so you don’t have the car that you want on both ends of the track. You have to pick and choose where you want your car to be good and then you have to hang on in the other corner. For me it’s turn one. I raced there from ’98 until we [CART] stopped going there [2000 was the last CART event]. It’s a short oval [1.25-mile] so traffic will be challenging, especially with the aero package we have now.”
MATHEUS LEIST on Gateway: “Last year was a good race in the Indy Lights [presented by Cooper Tires Series]. I qualified in the back of the grid and made my way forward to third place when I had a puncture. It was a good race until then. Gateway’s a nice track, a pretty smooth track and I’m looking forward to racing IndyCar there now. I think it’s going to be a good one. Hopefully we made some improvements from our short oval package because we struggled a lot in Iowa. [Differences?] Iowa is pretty bumpy and Gateway is pretty smooth and of course there are different corners, so probably Turns 3 and 4 are going to be flat out, and Turns 1 and 2, small lift and downshift. It’s a different track and it’s a track that I personally like. Hopefully we’re gonna have a great time and do a great job as a team.”
Game Time: Casey (née Irsay) and A.J. Foyt IV hosted some members of AJ Foyt Racing at the Indianapolis Colts pre-season football game at Lucas Oil Stadium Monday night. Eight team members were able to take advantage of the invitation, some of them being from the Houston-based team which traveled from Pocono to Indy to prep the No. 4 ABC Supply Chevrolet for Gateway. They will return to Indy to prep the car for the final two events of the season in Portland, Ore. and Sonoma, Calif.
Last Race: At Pocono, Kanaan started 14th and finished 17th, having to drop out after 15 laps with a throttle sensor failure. Matheus Leist qualified 20th and finished 11th for his career best finish in the Verizon IndyCar Series to date.
Past Performance at Gateway Motorsports Park: Tony Kanaan’s best start is 3rd (1998 and 2003). His best finish of 2nd also came in 2003 with Andretti-Green Racing. Matheus Leist is making his first start here in IndyCar. In the Indy Lights Series he started 12th, climbed to 3rd but a tire puncture with just two laps to go dropped him to 10th. The Foyt team’s best start is 8th (2017 w Carlos Munoz) and its best finish is 5th (2017 w Conor Daly).
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 400 guests.
ABC Supply national account Toubl Contracting, Inc., based in Piedmont, Okla., 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 customer, Peoria Home Alliance, based in Washington, Ill., 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 Bommarito Automotive Group 500 will be televised live on NBC Sports Network on Saturday, Aug. 25, starting at 8:00 p.m. ET. Qualifying will be broadcast live on NBCSN Friday at 5:00 p.m. ET. Practices will be live-streamed on racecontrol.IndyCar.com and youtube.com/IndyCar on Friday at 1:15 p.m. ET and 9 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.