Race Report: Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey
MONTEREY, Calif.— That’s a wrap for the NTT IndyCar Series as Josef Newgarden won his second series title and rookie Colton Herta won his second IndyCar race of the season.
Following the 19-year-old rookie across the line were three IndyCar Series champions Will Power, Scott Dixon, Simon Pagenaud and fellow rookie Felix Rosenqvist.
For AJ Foyt Racing, the season finale was bittersweet as ABC Supply made its exit as the team’s full-time sponsor, a partnership that spanned the last 15 seasons. However the company will be back as a sponsor of a third Foyt entry at next year’s Indianapolis 500.
“A big thank you to ABC Supply for 15 wonderful years of red, white and blue race cars out there,” Larry Foyt said. “We’re definitely going to miss all of the ABC associates and customers that we’ve gotten to know over the years. It’s a bit sad today saying goodbye to some of the people here at the track, but hopefully they’ll come to some races next year and see us. We just really appreciate the partnership, it was really great for AJ Foyt Racing and it was great for ABC Supply.”
The Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey was off to a smooth start – so smooth in fact that the race went green for the first 45 laps. With Tony Kanaan starting 21st and Matheus Leist starting 23rd, the chance to advance was hindered by the lack of cautions since passing on the classic 2.258-mile road course is difficult at best.
Throughout the 90-lap race, the drivers made the most of the situation, keeping their cars on track, avoiding the mistakes of others. At one point, Leist was squeezed in the famed Corkscrew set of turns as cars entered three-wide – perhaps a first -- but he managed to maintain control and not lose a position. Both drivers started on the alternate red tires (as did nearly all but three cars in the 24-car field), but on the second fuel stint, Kanaan opted to stay on the alternate tires while Leist switched to the primary black tires. Kanaan found the tire degradation was too much in that stint and switched to the primary tires for the final fuel stint while Leist stayed on the primary tires, too.When the checkered flag dropped, Kanaan finished 16th and Leist placed 17th.
Kanaan won the Hard Charger of the Year Award with 97 passes in competition, 14 more than any other driver.
“It was an okay race for us,” Tony Kanaan said afterwards. “I think we were actually pretty competitive in the beginning. We struggled with the race pace all weekend long so I think by the end of the day we should have been a couple tenths quicker a lap to be able to be more competitive, but we did what we could do. Looking forward to what’s next. I want to thank ABC Supply for all the years that they helped this team. We have a long offseason now, so we have a lot of time to work on the things that we think are going to have to be better. We’ll be back next year, reset and start again.”
Leist, who turned 21 earlier this month, was not quite as happy with his race day ABC Supply Chevrolet as he was with the car he qualified yesterday.
“Overall a difficult race today, I thought we would have a better pace,” the young Brazilian said. “We made some changes after qualifying and I feel like we didn’t go in the right direction today. Our tire degradation was pretty high with both types of tires. Still it was a fun race, I think we were in the mix back there, not where we wanted to be but still in the mix and not so far off the pace. I felt that towards the end of the year we gained some pace with the car and the car setup overall. We’re still far away from where we want to be but we’re going to keep working hard and hopefully we will be back next year.”
Team President Larry Foyt assessed the 2019 season which was one of the most frustrating seasons for both the drivers and the team.
"2019 was a really tough year for us but there were a lot of positives to take out of it,” Foyt said. “For one thing, I’m really proud of our guys to go through this whole season without one DNF (Did Not Finish) mechanically. That shows the quality of the mechanics we have putting these cars together. We just struggled for pace a bit which is what racing is about. It was good to have three top-10s – including a podium finish at Gateway - towards the end of the year but we’re not here to get top-10s, we want to win races. That’s what we have to focus on this winter, what changes we need to do to make it better next year. That starts tomorrow. I’m proud that the crew and drivers and engineers kept their heads down all year, even through the tough times, they gave 110 percent.”
The loss of ABC Supply certainly impacts the team but Foyt was philosophical, saying, “We have to move on to another chapter but I’m looking forward to the future.”