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Notes & Quotes: Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

Larry Foyt, president of A.J. Foyt Enterprises since 2015, is no stranger to a good challenge and this year has proven to be one of the most challenging seasons to date, not only for his team but for the entire NTT INDYCAR Series. As we approach the 2020 season finale this weekend with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, we asked him a few questions…

On ending the season in St. Petersburg where it was supposed to begin: “I am glad to be back at St. Pete. It is one of my favorite races on the schedule. We typically have shown good speed there as well, which always makes you like a track just a bit more.”

On expectations and goals for this weekend: “First off we need to do our best to execute the entire weekend well with Car 14 and keep the entry in the Leaders Circle. This will be our second race weekend with Sebastien [Bourdais], so continuing to gel more with him will be good for 2021. Charlie [Kimball] likes St. Pete as well, so a good final race is great for off-season momentum building.”

On the 2020 NTT INDYCAR Series season as a whole: “Challenging. Our whole plan was turned upside down, and with new drivers and engineering, this was all exacerbated. The reduced practice time was the last thing we needed as a group.”

Driver meetings in 2020 were conducted virtually as seen at Road America earlier this year. Pictured are (L to R): Dalton Kellett, Larry Foyt, Scott Harner and Charlie Kimball.

On takeaways and surprises from this season: “I think it was interesting that we can get races done without being on the road for such extended lengths of time. I would like to see us get more events done in two days versus three. We should be able to fit ample practice time in that scenario.”

Plans and goals for the off-season: “First off, we have to finalize our driver lineup, which I hope to have done shortly after St. Pete. The engineers have a list of winter improvements, which I will discuss with them and approve budget-wise. The teams are getting a limited number of testing days this off-season, so maximizing these tests are an important goal.”

On opening the Foyt Winery in Texas: “I think it will be open in early 2021. Does anyone really want to be established in 2020? [Why Texas?] I had a friend who lives near Fredericksburg [Texas], and he had been trying to get me to see it for years. When I was there, I fell in love with the area and knew it would be a great place for our tasting room and museum. The Texas wine industry is booming, and I'm looking forward to this new chapter in Foyt Wines history.”

CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 4 Tresiba Chevrolet): “I’m excited for the Firestone

Grand Prix of St Petersburg as we got some good preseason running at Sebring on the street circuit tire, so we have a baseline to evolve heading to Florida. To succeed, we are going to have to maximize that baseline and follow the track as it rubbers in during practice. It’s hard to pass and while qualifying is always important, it becomes critical on a street circuit. Having had experience with the car and me all year, the team at AJ Foyt Racing has been working hard to make sure we finish the year on a high note. Typically, as the first race of the year, St. Pete usually feels a bit like the first day of school, but this year it’s going to be where INDYCAR crowns a Champion and be the last day of school!”

Kimball inserts earplugs prior to donning his helmet.

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 14 Sexton Companies Chevrolet): “Quite excited for the Firestone GP here in St. Pete as it’s always great to run in front of friends and family at home. It’s definitely a race that we’re quite a bit better prepared for than the Harvest Indy GP but still kind of keeping the expectations in check. You never know what comes around the corner. I hope what we learned about the No. 14 Chevrolet at Sebring will transfer well for the St. Pete track. We’re looking forward to a good weekend, the weather’s going to be nice and we’ll keep learning and hope to have some good successes.”

Bourdais's focus is intense in and out of the cockpit.

Past Performance: AJ Foyt Racing’s best start is from pole in 2014 with Takuma Sato. The team’s best finish is sixth, also with Sato. Charlie Kimball’s best start was ninth in 2012 for Chip Ganassi Racing and his best result was eighth for Carlin in 2019. Sebastien Bourdais started on pole in his 2003 CART debut at the Firestone GP. His best finishes came back-to-back in 2017-18 when he won the season openers.

Last Race: At the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Kimball and Dalton Kellett posted their better results in Race 1 of the Harvest Grand Prix doubleheader with 13th and 24th place finishes, respectively. It was Bourdais’ first time back in the No. 14 Chevrolet since pre-season, and his better result came in the second race where he finished 18th.

The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will be broadcast live on NBC, Sunday, Oct. 25th starting at 2:30 PM ET. The season finale weekend kicks off with practice and qualifying on Saturday. Qualifying will air live on NBC Sports Gold at 3:00 PM ET followed by a tape-delayed airing on NBCSN at 8:00 PM ET.

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