Notes & Quotes: Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg
JUSTIN TAYLOR joined the team in the off season to become the race engineer for Sebastien Bourdais in the No. 14 ROKiT Chevrolet. He started his career as a mechanic in 1999 while pursuing an engineering degree at Colorado State University. He has worked as a data engineer, a performance engineer and finally became a race engineer in 2014. His resume lists stints in IMSA, American LeMans Series, and of course INDYCAR. While working for Audi Sport, he lived in Ingolstadt, Germany, 45min north of Munich. We asked him a few questions…
Q: How did you get interested in racing?
JT: “My dad got the whole family into SCCA racing when I was 10yrs old. I was infatuated immediately.”
Q. What were the first races you attended in person?
JT: “Saturday nights watching the modifieds and late models race at Colorado National Speedway, a 3/8-mile paved oval in Erie, Colorado.”
Q: What other race positions have you held before joining this team (including series and teams and durations)?
JT: “3R Racing – SCCA World Challenge GT – Mechanic 1999-2004; Audi Sport – American Le Mans Series/International Le Mans Cup/World Endurance Championship – Data Engineer 2005-2008, Performance Engineer 2009-2013, Race Engineer 2014-2016; Ed Carpenter Racing – INDYCAR – Race Engineer 2017; Mazda Team Joest – IMSA DPi – Chief Race Engineer 2018;
Oreca/Rebellion Racing – World Endurance Championship – Race Engineer 2018, Chief Race Engineer 2019-2020.”
This photo is from the last race for Audi in LMP1, ending an 18 year stretch with a win in Bahrain. Taylor, pictured above in center with white shirt, was the race engineer.
Q: What is the most significant achievement in your career so far? Did it change your perspective?
JT: “Winning the 24hr of Le Mans 2014… winning once only made the desire to win again even stronger.”
Q: Why did you turn your attention to INDYCAR instead of NASCAR?
JT: “Although I do enjoy oval racing, I'm partial to road/street courses.”
Q: What is the most challenging part of engineering an Indy car?
JT: “Getting the most out of the tires at the right moment requires a lot of knowledge of the track, weather, driving style and precise planning.”
Taylor works with Daniele Cucchiaroni (far left) and Alex Diaz (center) on the engineering stand.
Q: Is it more difficult at the track or coming up with the starting setup for the track?
JT: “Tuning the setup at the track is certainly more difficult than creating a start setup simply because of the shorter timeframe to research and make decisions.”
Q: What do you enjoy about working with Sebastien Bourdais?
JT: “He's always trying to make it less of a job and just enjoy what we are doing.”
Q: From your perspective what are his strengths as a driver?
JT: “His understanding of the tires is fantastic and he can explain his feelings in language that we as engineers can understand.”
Q: How do you deal with the frustrations inherent in racing?
JT: “Not very well! Lol! Seriously, I try my best to treat mistakes and failures as opportunities to learn and improve.”
Q: What is the best part of your job?
JT: “The “team” feeling you get when everything goes to plan and you end up on the top of the podium.”
Q: Since you enjoy traveling, do you have a favorite vacation spot?
JT: “It's hard to put my finger on a favorite place to visit but I am partial to northern Italy: Lake Garda, Cinque Terre, etc.”
Taylor with his wife Elizabeth in Switzerland--just a bit farther north of their favorite places to visit in northern Italy.
Q: Who has been the greatest influence in your life?
JT: “Aside from my Mom and Dad, probably my 8th grade math teacher, Mr. (Howard) Selbst who showed me that it was cool to be excited about math and science.”
Taylor Fast Facts: Age 40…Born in Denver, Colorado…lives in Indianapolis…Married to Elizabeth…Earned his B.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering at Colorado State University in 2005…His interests outside of racing are traveling, snow skiing, fishing, hunting, hiking, biking or “just being outside.”
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS on St. Petersburg: “I’m really excited for Round 2 of the NTT INDYCAR
Series in St. Petersburg. Obviously, a Grand Prix at home is a sweet thing to do –- to race in front of friends and family. It’s a great track where I have some really good memories, so hopefully, we can make some more.”
Bourdais is a two-time winner of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg having won in 2017 and 2018. His 2018 victory was particularly sweet having come back from serious injuries sustained in qualifying for the 2017 Indianapolis 500. Bourdais won the 12 Hours of Sebring in March so he will be aiming for another victory in his “home” state of Florida.
Bourdais won the pole in his first career INDYCAR race in 2003 at St. Petersburg driving for Newman-Haas, the team with whom he won his record four straight championship titles. In his past 11 Firestone Grands Prix, Bourdais has started in the top-10 four times and finished in the top-10 four times, including his two victories. In 2020, he finished fourth driving for AJ Foyt Racing, thus securing the team’s berth in the lucrative INDYCAR Leaders Club program for 2021, prompting the team to dub him “The Million Dollar Man.”
Bourdais Fast Facts: Age 42…Born in LeMans, France…lives in St. Petersburg, Fla…Married to Claire, has two children, Emma and Alex…Ranks sixth on INDYCAR’s All-time Wins list with 37 victories and ranks seventh in career poles with 34…Ex-Formula One driver (2008-09)…Won 12 Hours of Sebring this year; has won Rolex 24 at Daytona overall (2014) and Petit LeMans…Finished second overall in 24 Hours of LeMans and won in the GTE class with Ford in 2016.
DALTON KELLETT on St. Petersburg: “Really looking forward to heading into St. Pete. It’s going to
be a great weekend heading down to Florida where it all began last year so looking forward to actually getting on track. It’ll be fun to see the fans out there being safe, social distancing, wearing their masks, it’s going to be a fun event. Looking forward to getting on track, it’s a cool circuit, really intense, street circuits are always a lot of fun and the racing’s going to be great. I can’t wait to get down there in the sun and the K-Line Insulators USA Chevy.”
Kellett will be making his first start at the 1.8-mile, 14-turn street course in an Indy car this weekend. His previous experience was in Indy Lights. His best start at St. Petersburg in that division was third in 2017 and his best finish was sixth the following year.
Kellett Fast Facts: Age 27…Born in Stouffville, Canada…lives in Indianapolis…Graduated from Queens University with a degree in Engineering Physics…Brand spokesman for Ten80 Education’s National STEM League…Enjoys rock climbing, backcountry skiing, camping, playing guitar, cooking and golf.
A.J. FOYT on Indianapolis 500 Fan Attendance: “It’s really great because the Indianapolis 500 is
the greatest race in the world, I’ve always said that. I’m just glad the Indiana officials were able to open it up to 40% of capacity. I want to thank Governor Holcomb and everyone else who made this possible. I know they worked very hard to get this done and I’m very happy about it and I know a lot of fans will be too.”
Foyt Racing Past Performance at St. Petersburg: AJ Foyt Racing’s best start is from pole in 2014 with Takuma Sato. The team’s best finish is fourth with Bourdais in 2020. Over the past 16 years, Foyt has fielded 22 entries and racked up nine top-10s in starting berths including two front row starts (both with Sato). His team has garnered nine top-10 finishes. Last year was the first time the team posted two cars in the top-10. In addition to Bourdais’ fourth place finish, Charlie Kimball placed eighth.
Last Race: At the season opener at Barber Motorsport Park, Bourdais qualified 16th and finished fifth, giving him two consecutive top-five finishes for AJ Foyt Racing, counting his fourth place finish in the 2020 season finale in St. Petersburg in October. Kellett started 23rd, and finished 18th, his best finish to date. Both drivers sustained some damage to their cars when collected in the first lap multi-car crash in the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.
NBC streaming and broadcast information: NBC's new streaming channel Peacock will stream Friday’s practice from 4:15 - 5 p.m. and Saturday’s practice from 9:45 – 10:30 a.m. Qualifying will be streamed live at 1:45 p.m. and a delayed broadcast airs on NBCSN Saturday night from 10 - 11 p.m. On Sunday, the morning warmup will be streamed live at 9:35 a.m. The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will be broadcast live on NBC starting at 12 noon. All times are Eastern Daylight Time.