BECKY BARANOUSKI, originally from Placentia, California, is the team coordinator for A.J. Foyt Enterprises, which is a broad title for someone who handles the team’s travel, has secured sponsorships and created events during her stint which started in 1996. We asked her a few questions…
Q: How did you become interested in racing?
BB: “I dated a man who had a passion for racing. He competed in Club racing and then moved to the Toyota Atlantics that raced as a support series in the Long Beach Grand Prix. He worked for the City of Long Beach and it was his dream to race in the event. I raised enough sponsorship for him to fulfill that dream... and then I was hooked. This is all his fault.”
Q: What was your background before joining the team?
BB: “I worked for Air California aka Air Cal for 13 years changing reservations when there was a flight schedule change, working behind the scenes in reservations and at the end, in Program Development. I was heartbroken when they merged with American Airlines. I turned down a transfer to Texas to work with AA so I could keep my son close to his grandparents in SoCal and took a job planning large convention events and parties. The skills I learned from the airline and event planning has been invaluable in my role at A.J. Foyt Enterprises.”
Q: How many people do you arrange travel for on a race weekend?
BB: “There are 43 people in total. Some from Houston, Florida, Indianapolis, Colorado and New Jersey. Getting them all to the same location at times that work for the track schedule, transportation, etc. is like working on a giant jigsaw puzzle.”
Q: How do you find hotels at new events?
BB: “For our existing events, you form relationships with various hotel properties over the years. It’s nice for the crew to have a sense of familiarity when they pull into town. The challenge comes when there is a new track. Some teams will send their personnel to scout the hotel properties. I rely on various web sites to find the right hotel based on track proximity, traveler reviews and ratings. Location, price and availability are the key factors. Most of the time I get it right. I hear about the ones I don't.”
Q: How many events (including tests) do you arrange travel for?
BB: “Last year we had 67 events - races and tests. I expect we will have the same, if not more, this year.”
Q: Can you quantify last year’s travel?
BB: “All I can tell you is that last year was the hardest I've ever worked for the team. It's not just booking flights, cars and hotels. It's about finding the right product at the right price and utilizing all of their 'specials' for small businesses that you can to save the company money whenever possible. However, I did remind Larry often that when I was hired, there were only six events total.”
Q: You also find sponsorship for the team, do you enjoy that?
BB: “Sponsorship is one of my favorite parts of the job. When your sponsors are happy, then you know you've done a good job for them and for the team. Some of my most memorable sponsors I've brought on board have been Alfe, Harrrah's, Cabo Wabo, and Gibson Guitars. Cabo Wabo was one of my favorites and my way to meet Sammy Hagar…and just to hear A.J. pronounce Cabo Wabo was worth the work. I've made long lasting relationships with many of the sponsors. Seeing the sponsor’s name on the car, the hauler, the crew and knowing you helped make that happen is a rush like I'd never known (before). You brought this to the table, to your boss, your hero and it helps pay the salaries of your co-workers/friends. There is a pride that goes with this part of the job, but it is more than pride…it is gratitude for the opportunity, the trust and support they give you to succeed and to make your own dreams come true.”
Some of the people who attended the celebration of Jack Starne's 50th Anniversary with A.J. Foyt Enterprises are pictured above.
Q: You’ve arranged events for the team—Jack Starne’s 50th Anniversary at Indy...a lot of work went into that. How did you fit it all in?
BB: “A lot of sleepless nights and many after-work sessions with Nancy and Jack's wife Elizabeth. But the Jack Starne event was one of the greatest things I've ever been involved in. It’s not easy to help plan such a surprise event when the man works across the hall from you. It was a good thing his hearing isn't that great. It was really an honor to work on the event for someone like Jack. Once the word got out that he was being honored, we had to turn people away to meet the fire codes of the Foyt Wine Vault in Speedway. The people in that room for his celebration were the Who’s Who of IndyCar and racing. Legends I've heard about for years were there…and if they couldn't attend, they sent videos. People still remark about that night to me...it was truly special. Of all of the events I've planned in my life, this was my favorite--and the only one that went off like clockwork. That will never happen again.”
Q: Your personal touch sets you apart—what makes you care so much?
BB: “Awww, thanks! It's simple, my obsessive personality, pride in my job, pride in the team and for the person I work for. If you love your job and the people you work for, doing a good job is important.”
Q: What is the best part of your job?
BB: “Indy. When you can go to an event year after year and still get goosebumps when you drive under the bridge to enter the Indianapolis Motor Speedway... it's special. When you take a moment to give a kid a close up of the race car and see the look on their face, the smile growing bigger and bigger, when you bring in a grown man to meet his hero A.J., and watch that man tear up as he leaves, when you see your sponsor grinning from ear-to-ear after leading the Indy 500, it’s those moments that I cherish.”
Q: What is most challenging part of your job?
BB: “Getting everything done in time and within budget. And trying to keep my personal life active and not obsess so much about work.”
Q: What is your best memory affiliated with the team?
BB: “Hands down the 1999 Indy 500 win with Kenny Brack. I was doing the Timing and Scoring for the No. 14 car in the Pagoda which is located directly above Victory Circle at the Speedway. We were close to the finish of the race when all of the officials in Timing and Scoring were gathered behind me. One of them whispered in my ear, ‘Number 14 is in the lead’. I've never had so much pressure in my life, with so many people watching to be sure I hit that button when Kenny crossed the start-finish line. Watching your team, your co-workers, your boss and your friends in complete excitement through the window above them was such a joy. It was very surreal and unforgettable. I am looking forward to our next Victory Celebration in Indy.”
Q: What is the most important quality you have that helps you the most in this job?
BB: “An obsessive personality—and keeping a good sense of humor. Both get me through the job. I have a great support group in and out of the office.... and wine... always a lot of wine, preferably Foyt Wine!”
Q: Any advice for someone wanting to get involved in a job like yours?
BB: “I think there is no other job like mine. But if you find one... consider yourself lucky.”
TONY KANAAN on Long Beach: “I’m looking forward to Long Beach, it’s a great event. We had a pretty decent car there last year so hopefully we can turn the situation around. We’ve been running in the top-12 pretty strong but we have to qualify better so working on qualifying is going to be my priority for Long Beach and from then on we can go race.”
MATHEUS LEIST on Long Beach: “I’m excited to go to Long Beach. Personally, the street courses are the circuits that attract me the most and are the places where I feel most comfortable driving the car, so I’m happy to get back there. What I like about them is that they are intimidating and you have no room for mistakes. You have to be a hundred percent right and you have to be a hundred percent focused on what you’re doing, you can’t have any distractions. Last year we had a solid race at Long Beach and I think we might have a great set up. Tony qualified in the top 12, so we’ll see if we can keep up the pace from last year and improve a little bit.”
Last Race: At Barber Motorsports Park, Tony Kanaan started 20th and finished 18th after having to make a late race stop for a splash of fuel while running 12th. Matheus Leist started 15th and finished 20th.
Past Performance at Long Beach: Tony Kanaan won the pole here in 1999 driving for Forsythe Racing and posted his best finish of third in 2009 with Andretti-Green Racing. Last year, Matheus Leist started and finished 14th in his inaugural start in the Grand Prix. AJ Foyt Racing’s best start is fourth in 2013 with Takuma Sato who went on to win the race.
ABC Supply is in 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 550 guests.
ABC Supply account Sylvester Roofing Co., Inc., located in Escondido, Calif., 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 Nevell Group, Inc., based in Brea, Calif., 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 Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach will be televised live on NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) on Sunday, April 14, starting at 4:00 p.m. ET. Qualifying will be broadcast live on NBCSN on Saturday starting at 2:45 p.m. ET. All of the practices will be available on NBC’s subscription-based service, INDYCAR Pass on NBC Sports Gold at https://www.nbcsports.com/gold/indycar. Also available on INDYCAR Radio: Sirius 113, XM 209, IndyCar.com, INDYCAR Mobile app, network affiliates (live).