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Notes & Quotes: Grand Prix of Portland

Rodney Klausmeyer, nicknamed 'Rod Dog', joined AJ Foyt Racing in 2000 as a transporter driver after working as an electrician for A.J. Foyt when Foyt built his race shop in Waller, Texas in 1998. We asked Rodney a few questions, including one about getting his windshield smashed while driving…

Q: How long will it take you to drive to Portland, Ore.?

RK: “It will take 38 hours, it is 2,250 miles from Indianapolis which is where we left from. [Note: the Houston-based team worked out of the Indy shop to change the car over from oval to road course configuration after the race at Gateway Saturday night.]

Rodney took this picture at the Wyoming-Utah state line.

Q: How long is your shift?

RK: “We drive 11-hour shifts and between four to eight hours, we must take a 30-minute break which is monitored electronically. We have an electronic logging device (ELD) which is a tablet that is hooked up to the truck’s computer system so it knows what’s going on. It’s visible to Nancy [Foyt] in Houston because she is the administrator of it so she knows where the trucks are at, and, if there’s any violations going on, she knows about it. PeopleNet is the company we use and they monitor it as well, so basically everything in the truck that you do is out there on the airways so if the federal government wants to look into it they can. It was a mandate to the trucking industry to be installed by December of last year.”

Q: Where are the best places to eat?

RK: “We actually try to pack food with us. We eat wraps, ham or peanut butter/jelly sandwiches just to get us down the road. A lot of times we are pressed for time so we don’t like to stop. When we do, Flying J’s are usually pretty good because they usually have a Denny’s so you know what you’re getting.”

Q: When do you prefer driving?

RK: “I like driving during daylight hours but if I did this constantly for a living, I’d probably prefer night time because it’s less traffic. If I was driving solo, I’d have to stop for 10 hours after my shift is up. A lot of times during the day it’s easier to find a place to park the truck. After 7 o’clock at night all the truck stops are full, all the parking lots are full, so unless you source out a hotel that has truck parking, you’re limited where you can go.”

Q: Do you convoy with other teams?

RK: “Very seldom because of our location [Texas]. Most teams are based out of Indy. A lot of times they’ll just be five or ten minutes from each other and not even know it or see the other truck. On a long trip like this one through eight states we might hook up with one of the guys I’m friends with and run together. And we try to stay together as a team [car 14 transporter drivers] within reason.”

Q: Do you get reactions from fellow motorists?

RK: “We have people pull up beside the truck, slow down and take pictures of it.”

Q: What type of driver do you worry about most on the road?

RK: “People in full automobiles. There are three types of drivers: clampers who drive with both hands on the wheel and are all stiff because they’re nervous, jaw jackers who are people talking on their cell phones, and then people on their cell phones who are texting--they are probably the worst because it takes away from their attention on the road. We all know that.”

Q: What do you worry about most on the road?

RK: “The truck I’m driving, the vehicle’s tires, mechanical issues with the vehicle, things like that. And road hazards, there are so many things on the road—parts of old tires, animals. I hit a large bird after the Pocono test. When it happened, I didn’t know what it was and then I saw a wing on the windshield so I knew it was a bird. All I did was slow down because it distorted my vision because it was right in front of me. It must have flown up off the ground because I never saw it coming. It was daybreak and all of a sudden it was BAM in the windshield and there was glass all over me. It almost came through the windshield.”

Q: Do you think about your cargo that is worth over $1 million?

RK: “Sure, every time I drive out of there. This truck and trailer alone is worth half a million and then you have another million dollars’ worth of stuff inside the trailer. Yeah I’ve thought about it because I’ve already seen two or three race team trucks burn to the ground over the years. One team burned up a truck in Wyoming several years back. They might have gotten the cars out, I can’t remember. They lost all their racing suits and clothing, tools and spare parts. They had a wheel bearing burn up on the trailer. So now in our trailers we have four smoke detectors that are all linked together with one being in the cab of the truck. The other three are inside the trailer so if one starts sensing smoke and goes off, all of them go off including the one in the cab so at least it gives you some warning.”

Q: How often do you service the vehicle?

RK: “As long as nothing is really wrong with the truck, it’s usually every 15,000 miles. We call it a PM for practical maintenance and we get that done. We have a garage in Texas that we use and we also use Housby when we’re near Des Moines which is where they are based. Once a year we take our trailers in to have the brakes checked and check other things because we have to keep everything in top shape.”

Q: After driving the transporter, what else do you do during a race weekend?

RK: “We [with co-driver Phil Long] set up the pits and the hospitality area which is either next to our truck or in the garage, depending on the track. During the race, I operate the “deadman” valve [on/off valve on the fuel tank]. I stopped fueling in 2012, I did it for 12 years.”

Q: How did working on the race team come about?

RK: “I went on the road in 2000. A.J. asked me one day, ‘Did you ever think about working on a race team?’ I said, ‘No.’ He said, ‘Good. That’s the kind of guys I like to hire--ones I can train my way.’ And you know how that is, my way or the highway.”

TONY KANAAN on Portland: “I’m glad that we’re going back to Portland this weekend where I haven’t been since 2002. I believe that INDYCAR is doing the right thing getting some of the old school tracks back in the schedule and adding Portland this year shows that. Portland is a fast, flat and technical road course. It’s good we’re having an extra test day on Thursday and hopefully the No. 14 ABC Supply machine will have a smooth weekend.”

MATHEUS LEIST on Portland: “I’m pretty excited for Portland and hopefully we will

have a great weekend for the AJ Foyt/ABC Supply team. I’ve never been there and INDYCAR is going back after 10 years so I think it is going to be an interesting race. Luckily we have the open test day on Thursday so we can figure out and develop the setup for the track since we’ve been struggling with the permanent road courses the past couple races. I’m glad we’ll have more track time. I’m pretty pumped to be going back to the road courses and definitely looking forward to the last two races on the calendar.”

Last Race: At Gateway Motorsports Park, Kanaan started 15th and finished 13th, having tried an alternate fuel strategy which didn’t work as hoped due to an untimely caution. Leist started 18th and finished 16th.

Past Performance at Portland International Raceway: In four races here, Tony Kanaan’s best start and finish came in 1998: he started fourth and placed eighth. Matheus Leist is making his first start here in the Verizon IndyCar Series, he did not compete here in Indy Lights. In seven starts here, the Foyt team’s best start is 10th with Robby Gordon who also posted the team’s best finish of eighth, both in 1993. A.J. Foyt had the team’s second best finish of 10th in in 1990.

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 McDonald & Wetle Roofing, based in Portland, Ore., 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.

L&W account, Dynamic Drywall of Oregon, Inc., based in Portland, Ore., 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 105-lap Grand Prix of Portland will be televised live on NBC Sports Network on Sunday, Sept. 2, starting at 2:30 p.m. ET. Practices on the 12-turn, 1.964-mile circuit will be live-streamed Friday on and at 1:45 p.m. ET and 5:35 p.m. ET.

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