Notes & Quotes: Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach
Notes & Quotes: Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach
CRAIG BROOKS joined AJ Foyt Racing as its Team Manager in October 2022. Brooks's passion for motorsports began with the Pikes Peak Hill Climb, due west of his birthplace, Colorado Springs. A former driver in Formula Ford, F2000, Formula Atlantic and Colorado Hill Climbs, and a crew chief in INDYCAR and INDY NXT, Brooks has extensive experience in all areas of racing. He also owned an award-winning race engine building business and won the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb as an engine builder 12 times. He spent the past 12 years as Technical Director for the Road to Indy ladder program, including the Firestone INDY NXT Series. In addition to his team manager role, he is the race strategist on the No. 55 Chevrolet, working with rookie Benjamin Pedersen. We asked him a few questions…
Q: What was the first race you went to? What was the first INDYCAR race you attended?
CB: "My first race was the Pikes Peak Hill Climb in 1965 when I was four. My first INDYCAR race was at Phoenix in 1977. "
Brooks competed as driver in various forms of motorsports including hill climbs.
Q: Did you think you would have a career in INDYCAR racing? Was it a goal for you?
CB: "I wasn't sure where I would end up but I always knew it would be in racing."
Q: Why did you want to come to AJ Foyt Racing?
CB: "I loved AJ's sprint car back in the 60's. I can remember watching it on television. And who wouldn't want to work for the Legend!"
Craig Brooks (center) oversees the team operations as well as being Benjamin Pedersen's race strategist. Lead engineer Mike Cannon (left) checks screen while race engineer Roberto Garcia (right) looks on.
Q: How do you handle having the team operate out of two different locations?
CB: "Not going to lie, it is difficult. I think to overcome the challenge it’s just going to take better communication which is becoming better."
Q: Describe a day in the life of Craig Brooks...
CB: "Up in the mornings with our two dogs Kona and Huck, off to work where it's mostly managing people and answering emails. I'm learning more every day!"
Q: How does managing a smaller team like Foyt differ from managing one of the larger teams?
CB: "I believe you get to know the team more on a personal level, people don't get lost in the shuffle."
Q: How does the team develop race strategy prior to races?
CB: "We have a basic game plan and strategy going into any given event, a base line if you will, and go from there depending on the conditions."
Brooks is as passionate about mountain biking as he is about racing.
Q: How do you spend your spare time?
CB: "I love mountain biking with a passion. I love to be outdoors, skiing, camping, fishing, anything in the mountains. I'm also an avid fan of Supercross and Motocross. I love to create steel projects including welding and fabrication. My wife Lauren and I like to get back to Colorado as often as possible. Mountain biking in Indiana is a challenge but I’m finding some decent places to go. As far as skiing goes, it’s Colorado."
Brooks with wife Lauren while vacationing in Patagonia in South America.
SANTINO FERRUCCI, driver of the No. 14 Sexton Properties Chevrolet, has one start in the Long Beach Grand Prix. He qualified 13th as a rookie in 2019 but finished two laps down, explaining, "I made a mistake out of the pits and missed Turn 1 and stalled turning around." This race will be his third event with AJ Foyt Racing.
How do you prepare for races like street courses where there is no testing?
SF: "I spend a lot of time on my simulator at home!" How will your street course experience at other tracks (13 starts through this year) help you to adapt to LBGP?
SF: "I think I’m pretty well adapted to street courses since that’s been the majority of races that I’ve competed in the last two years. The LBGP won’t be any different. We just need to keep building off our St. Pete race car so we are competitive." Your team has won at Long Beach and has had pretty good setups in the past, does that give you confidence going into this weekend?
SF: "It’s definitely nice to know the team has won there before. I think if we roll out on Friday with a good car with the new setups we have been developing this winter and through St. Pete, we should be in good shape." Ferrucci Fast Facts: Age 24...Born in Woodbury, CT...Lives in Dallas, Texas...Began racing karts at age 5, moved to cars in 2013...Competed in Formula 2000, British Formula 3, GP3 finishing third at Spa Francorchamps as a rookie, was development driver for Haas F1 team for three years (2016-2018), moved to Formula 2 in 2018...moved to NTT INDYCAR Series in 2019 finishing 13th in standings for Dale Coyne and won Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year after finishing seventh...13th in standings again with fourth place finish in the 500...drove part-time in 2021-22 but maintained top-10 streak in Indy 500 with finishes of sixth (RLL Racing) and 10th (Dreyer Reinbold Racing)...Competed part-time in NASCAR Xfinity Series in 2021-22.
BENJAMIN PEDERSEN, driver of the No. 55 Sexton Properties Chevrolet, will make his first start in the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach this weekend. Pedersen finished 15th in his first ever race at Texas Motor Speedway after qualifying 13th.
Q: Have you ever been to the LBGP—did you shadow the team last year at that race?
BP: "I did attend Long Beach last year shadowing the team, but this year will be my first time driving at Long Beach. Last year it was very fast, it rubbered up quickly, especially due to Formula Drift being there in the last sector of the track. I hear it's quite heavy, there is a lot of grip and the track can also change quite a lot. I have been looking through everything I have access to from the team, onboard wise and data to prepare as much as possible for a track that's new to me."
How do you prepare for a race where you have never tested in an Indy car nor raced at the track in Indy Lights? There are 4 this year: Long Beach, Iowa, Toronto and Nashville.
BP: "As far as preparation for a new track, the biggest thing I can do is a lot of simulator work. The sim model is great for Long Beach, so I have done many hours, probably days of sim work when you add it all up. Also, the onboard videos are very helpful in familiarization of the track. I feel like I have already driven there, even though I haven't, which is a good feeling preparation-wise."
Can you apply your street course experience in INDY NXT to running at LB? How does your INDY NXT experience at a track help you in adapting to the Indy car?
BP: "I can definitely apply everything I have learned from any street course that I have been to whether it's St. Pete or Detroit. The whole topic about being close to the walls, that stays the same regardless of what street course you are at. The experience also helps me to figure out what curbs I can use and anything like that."
What are you most looking forward to at LB?
BP: "I am looking forward to everything at Long Beach from the track to the atmosphere. I am excited to learn the track as quickly as possible and to just push a race car around there. The atmosphere there is special as is the whole feeling of that weekend that I experienced last year shadowing the team. I am really looking forward to racing there."
Pedersen Fast Facts: Age 23...Born in Copenhagen, Denmark, moved to Seattle at age 4 and is now living in Indianapolis...Began racing karts at a young age and has competed and won races in the INDY NXT by Firestone Series, British Formula 3, FR Americas Championship, F4 US Championship...Enjoys golf, pickleball, skiing, soccer, snowmobiling, mountain biking, dirt biking.
Lucy Foyt, wife of A.J. Foyt for nearly 68 years, passed away unexpectedly due to a brief illness on April 5th. Foyt, 88, will not attend a race until May in Indianapolis.
Past Performance at Long Beach: AJ Foyt Racing’s best finish came in 2013 when Takuma Sato won after starting fourth, also the team’s best start. The team has six more top-10 finishes. Ferrucci will be making his second start at Long Beach. He qualified 13th in 2019 and finished 21st. Rookie Pedersen will be making his first start in the 85-lap race around the 11-turn, 1.96-mile street circuit.
Last Race: At Texas Motor Speedway, Pedersen qualified 13th in his first ever start at the 1.5-mile superspeedway and finished 15th. Ferrucci qualified 14th and finished 21st after having a couple of issues which cost him several laps.
NBC Sports will broadcast the live starting at 3 p.m. ET. All practice sessions, qualifying rounds and the race will stream live on Peacock. The race and all practice and qualifying sessions will air live on INDYCAR Radio Network affiliates, SiriusXM INDYCAR Nation 160 and SiriusXM NBC Sports Audio 85 (Race only) and the INDYCAR App powered by NTT DATA.