Notes & Quotes: Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg
A.J. FOYT returns to the track to watch his team compete for the first time since the Kohler Grand Prix at Road America on June 24, 2018. He underwent back surgery in July, after which he incurred his third staph infection, causing him to miss the rest of the season. We asked him a few questions…
Q: How are you feeling?
AJ: “I feel pretty good. I’m gaining every day. I’m not a hundred percent but I’m a good eighty-five or ninety (percent).”
Q: Have you had any close calls in the off season?
AJ: “Oh yeah! (laughs) A couple weeks ago, I was going to get on my 'dozer and move a tree, and another guy said, ‘I’ll do it for you A.J.’ I said okay because I was doing some other stuff. Then I saw that bees attacked him. I was in another tractor with a closed cab and saw them chasing him and he was slapping at them and going backwards to get away. And I thought, Man I’m glad I’m not in that one. He got stung pretty good—his face was swollen and he got a black eye. He was lucky they were honey bees, not killer bees, because he could get away from them. I felt sorry for him.”
Q: Did you go swimming with your bulldozer again?
AJ: “Well, a couple months ago I was digging on the edge of this pond at one of my ranches and the dozer just slipped down. It was real muddy and I tried to go faster to get up and out but the machine just slipped further down. So I stopped before the whole thing went under. I had to have two guys help pull me out because I was in quicksand, I couldn’t climb out myself—and I lost a shoe.”
Foyt awaits help from friends and Highway 290 Wrecker Service.
Q: Switching gears, you made some changes to the team this year?
AJ: “We hired some new people and switched some others around. We’re looking for a big season. Chevrolet made some changes with the motor so that ought to help us a little bit."
Q: Matheus qualified well at St. Pete last year. What are you expecting?
AJ: “I’m hoping he does a little bit better! He learned a lot last season; we can see it in the feedback he’s given the team during testing.”
Q: Do you like the way Tony and Matheus are working together?
AJ: “I think they’re working real good, yeah I’m real happy. If you get something that’s working, you ought to stick with it. That’s what makes it hard to beat Penske, Ganassi and Andretti because those teams have been together and working well for years. It’s like myself when me and (George) Bignotti were together, and then when I went on my own, the people that were working with us went with me so it made me look good. This is a team game. If you have a weak link in a chain, it’s going to break. Same with your pit crew, if you have a weak person, you’ve got to get him out of there. And don’t look back.”
A.J. addresses the crowd of over 1,000 at the recent ABC Supply Annual Managers Meeting.
TONY KANAAN on St. Petersburg: “After a long off-season I can’t wait to get in the No. 14 ABC Supply car for the NTT IndyCar Series season opener in St. Pete this weekend. The whole AJ Foyt Racing guys worked hard during the break and we’re ready as we’re going to be for the first race of 2019. I’m looking forward to getting to the track and showing the fans and our ABC Supply guests a good time and a solid race.”
MATHEUS LEIST on St. Petersburg: “First of all it’s great to get back behind the wheel. I feel like the off-season was a bit too long and I missed being frequently at the track. St. Petersburg is a special place for me, it’s my home track (due to the fact I have lived in Florida since I moved to the USA) and probably my favorite street/road course track on the calendar. Last year we had a great time when we qualified third overall for my first ever IndyCar race. Our team AJ Foyt Racing has been working very hard these past months and we’re all motivated for the beginning of the season, and looking forward to a solid year. Can’t wait to get going on Friday!”
Past Performance at St. Pete: AJ Foyt Racing’s best start is from the pole position in 2014 with Takuma Sato and best finish is sixth in 2016 (Sato). Tony Kanaan’s best start is also from pole position in 2008 and his best finish is second (2005). However, he has 11 top-10 finishes with six of those on the podium! Matheus Leist qualified third in his IndyCar debut at St. Pete last year. Several issues plagued him during the race which he did not finish.
ABC Supply enters its 15th season as primary sponsor of A.J. Foyt’s IndyCar team, making it the longest running team sponsor in the NTT 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 $10.5 billion in sales in 2018. ABC Supply began sponsoring the AJ Foyt Racing team with the 2005 Indianapolis 500. The company has leveraged its involvement by entertaining well over 110,000 associates and customers over the past 14 racing seasons. This weekend the company will entertain over 750 guests.
ABC Supply national account American Building Contractors, based in Burnsville, Minn., 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.
Two ABC local accounts, Affordable Roofing LLC, based in Haines City, Fla. and DR Horton, based in Arlington, Texas, won the ‘Your Name Here’ contest. Each company name will be on one side of 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.
Bryant Heating & Cooling Systems returns as an associate sponsor of the No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolet. The brand has worked with Kanaan for 11 of the last 12 IndyCar Series seasons. Bryant is a part of UTC Climate, Controls & Security, a unit of United Technologies Corp., a leading provider to the aerospace and building systems industries worldwide.
7-Eleven returns as an associate sponsor of the No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolet. The convenience store company has worked with driver Tony Kanaan since 2003.
Browning Chapman LLC returns as an associate sponsor the No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolet. The specialty contracting company is based in Indianapolis and last year marked their first foray into motorsports sponsorship.
K-Air Leasing LLC joins AJ Foyt Racing as an associate sponsor of the No. 4 and No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolets. Kurt Westman, founder of Alfe Heat Treating (which he sold last year), will remain involved with the team with his private charter jet company K-Air Leasing LLC. It will mark Westman’s ninth straight year as a sponsor of the team.
Sexton Companies returns as an associate sponsor of the No. 4 and No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolets. What started as an associate sponsor on the third Foyt Racing entry at the Indianapolis 500 has grown into a season-long sponsorship for this Indianapolis-based company that builds and develops apartment complexes. The company’s current holdings are located in Indiana and Ohio.
Sherwin-Williams Coil Coatings returns as an associate sponsor of the No. 4 and No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolets. The sponsorship originated with Valspar which was acquired by Sherwin-Williams in 2017. Founded in 1866, the Sherwin-Williams Company is a global leader in the manufacture, development, distribution, and sale of paints, coatings and related products to professional, industrial, commercial, and retail customers.
The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will be televised live on NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) on Sunday, March 10, starting at 12:30 p.m. ET. Qualifying will be broadcast live on NBCSN on Saturday starting at 2:30 pm ET. All of the practices will be available on NBC’s subscription-based service, INDYCAR Pass on NBC Sports Gold. The annual price is $49.99. After March 10, the price will be $54.99. There is a discount for INDYCAR Nation members. https://www.nbcsports.com/gold/indycar.
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.