MADISON, Ill. – We needed that.
“That” was a podium finish – third place—for A.J. Foyt’s ABC Supply Racing team at the hands of veteran Tony Kanaan here at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway Saturday night.
“Great night,” Kanaan said. “We knew we had a strong car Friday night (in final practice). Obviously we missed in qualifying so I was a little frustrated but once we got to the front (tonight), the car was fast. We played the strategy right, we got a little bit of luck on our side – finally – and once we got to the front, we showed them that we belong there. It wasn’t like, ah they got lucky. When we restarted there were over 40 laps to go, and nobody could touch us. It was an awesome result for us.”
It is the best finish for both Kanaan and Foyt’s team since joining forces last year. It is the team’s best finish since Takuma Sato placed second at Detroit in 2015. Kanaan’s last podium –second at Texas—came in 2017.
It was Sato whom Kanaan chased since lap 190 before relinquishing second place to Ed Carpenter with four laps to go in the 248-lap race. Sato claimed the victory by barely edging out Carpenter who closed to within half a car length under the waving checkered flag.
For the first time this season, there was a timely yellow for Kanaan’s team: it came out for Sebastien Bourdais’s contact in Turn 4 on lap 192. Kanaan was one of four cars yet to pit. When he did pit under caution, his ABC Supply team performed the pivotal pit stop well by getting him out in eight seconds—fast enough to maintain his second place position when he rejoined the field.
The race went green after 13 laps of caution, and although Kanaan tried to go for the lead on the restart, Sato pulled away. As they came upon traffic, it appeared Kanaan might have something for Sato but instead he found himself trying to fend off Carpenter whose car got faster on long runs.
Kanaan, who started 20th, admitted letting Carpenter pass, saying, “I had a couple of really good restarts and I was trying to go for Sato, but I didn't have it. So on days like this, sometimes you have to evaluate what you've got and what you want to do. A podium - that is what I was aiming for. Ed (Carpenter) got extremely strong at the end and I couldn't hold him off, so I actually opted to let him go.”
The disappointment was brief as Kanaan held off a hard-charging Santino Ferrucci, who had led the most laps at 97, on the final lap to claim the podium. Simon Pagenaud rounded out the top five. Five cautions on the 1.25-mile egg-shaped oval slowed the race for a total of 49 laps. No drivers were injured in the mostly single car accidents.
For Kanaan’s teammate Matheus Leist, the race was a different story. Leist never benefited from a timely caution as he had made his pit stops under green before the cautions came out. He placed 17th.
“Tough race for us, we got all the yellows at the wrong time,” the 20-year-old said. “Nothing worked out for us but the good thing is that Tony did an awesome job. He’s probably one of the best oval drivers ever and I’m very proud of him finishing third. That’s a huge accomplishment for the team after such a difficult year. That was the good side of our race and we’ll celebrate it and then focus on next week at Portland.”
Team President Larry Foyt received a call from his father A.J. who was watching from home due to some recurring trouble with his back. Larry passed the phone to Kanaan to hear Foyt’s congratulations on the top-three finish. Larry, too, was pleased with the effort put forth this evening.
“I’m really proud of the whole team, this was a much needed result,” Foyt said. “We know it’s been a tough year for us but I think we’ve shown that we haven’t given up. These last two weeks of having a top-10 and a podium finish shows the amount of effort that our entire ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing team puts in. I’m looking forward to these last two races and keeping the momentum of the past two races going.”
The teams head to Portland this week for the Grand Prix of Portland which will be broadcast live on NBC Sports Network on Sunday, Sept. 1 starting at 3 p.m. ET.