Race Report: INDYCAR Grand Prix of Sonoma
SONOMA, Calif.—The Verizon IndyCar Series wrapped up its final race of the season with its final appearance at Sonoma Raceway with the INDYCAR Grand Prix of Sonoma. Scott Dixon finished second in the race to Ryan Hunter-Reay but Dixon won the championship title, the fifth of his career.
Tony Kanaan made his record 300th consecutive IndyCar start and drove with passion and precision in the No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolet making the most of his start from 18th—where he gained five positions on the first lap—and the restarts by passing cars in improbable places. But in a season marked by pitfalls, his top-10 finish turned into a 12th place finish in the final stint due to a miscue on the final pit stop.
“I’m happy with my performance,” the 43-year-old veteran said quietly. “We tried a couple different things this weekend and finally I think we found a direction to work on over the winter to make the cars better. It was a great start [to the race], I had a lot of fun."
“It was a fun weekend celebrating my 300th consecutive start,” he continued. “I was really amazed by how many people came by to congratulate me--even a lot of the drivers I raced against. Coming into the weekend, to be honest, I didn’t really think much about it, I didn’t think it was that much of a big deal but as the weekend progressed I was realizing more and more what it is. It’s one of those things I don’t think I’m going to really realize it until 10 years down the road and you look back with all the names that I mixed with and people that won’t maybe beat that record and it will probably be even more enjoyable."
“You know it was difficult year for us at AJ Foyt Racing but we’re coming back,” he concluded. “We have the whole winter to think about what we did right and what we did wrong, fix it and come back stronger.”
Matheus “Matt” Leist started 23rd in his No. 4 ABC Supply Chevrolet but he was never comfortable with the car throughout the race. He finished 19th.
“I think this race basically sums up our season,” the 20-year-old said afterwards. “It was a pretty tough season for everyone, not just the 4 car but for the 14 car too. Everyone worked very hard and we tried very hard but sometimes we just couldn’t put everything together, we just didn’t have the pace. It’s a shame because all the engineers, the mechanics and the drivers deserve better results. As we’re going to stay together as a team for 2019, we have to concentrate and try to do a better job, try to do a better off-season and figure out what is going to be better for us next year."
“It was a tough race for me,” he continued. “Unfortunately I had a drive-through penalty due to the contact [with Carlos Munoz] on the restart. I think the penalty was not fair – if the leaders go and then they back off, everyone knows what happens when you are running in the back [accordion effect] but I just couldn’t do anything to avoid the crash and I hit Carlos and he spun unfortunately. But we just didn’t have the pace again and we struggled a lot with the old tires."
“We’ll keep working hard and better days will come for sure. Big thanks to my team, my sponsors, ABC Supply, Alfe, Sherwin Williams and also INDYCAR for the great season and I’m looking for a good season in 2019.”
The team had its best performances on the ovals where Kanaan led the Indianapolis 500 for 19 laps before getting a tire puncture and then climbing back to ninth before crashing with less than 10 laps to go. Leist posted one of his best finishes of the season—13th--in the 500. The street courses also showed strength in performance as Leist qualified third in his first IndyCar race in St. Petersburg and Kanaan posted his best finish of the season—seventh-- at Detroit.
“It was a long year,” said Team President Larry Foyt, who shouldered the final half of the season without his father A.J. Foyt trackside. Foyt, 83, contracted a staph infection from a back surgery in July and spent the rest of the season recovering in Houston. He expects to be back in action for the 2019 season.
Assessing this season, Larry put it into perspective saying, “We put a lot of focus on the Indy 500 this year and it showed, we ran well there so that was definitely a high. We had a real chance to win the Indy 500 and that was good. We know we have some weaknesses that we have to work on in the off season, our road course package has been an Achilles heel this year and it’s made this last quarter of the season really frustrating because there were a lot of those types of tracks.
“I think we have a good idea of what our weak areas are and what we need to do to fix them. I’m really happy we will be carrying on with Tony and Matheus and that a lot of our key people are in place and we’ll just work on strengthening some of the weaknesses and looking for a couple more key people to add to the team and strengthen the whole program.”
The ABC Supply team will take this week off but when they return, they will be starting on the winter project list as they focus on turning it around for 2019.