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Notes & Quotes: Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio

ADAM KOLESAR joined AJ Foyt Racing in late 2023 as the performance engineer on the No. 14 Sexton Properties Chevrolet driven by Santino Ferrucci. Growing up in Pittsburgh, Kolesar did not take the usual route to become an engineer in motorsports but his path gave him a solid foundation in all aspects of the team. Now living in Indianapolis, Kolesar counts winning and finishing third with two cars in the 2020 Indy 500 as his most significant achievement to date. We asked him a few questions...


How did you become interested in motorsports? 

AK: "My family has always had a passion for cars and racing. One day, we drove by a karting track and stopped out of curiosity. I was hooked immediately."


What was the first race you attended? 

AK: "When I was very young, my first exposure to racing was drag racing with my father. The first major event I attended that I can remember was the F1 race at Indianapolis."

Adam at a dirt bike race watching his uncle race.

Have you ever raced cars yourself? 

AK: "I haven't raced cars professionally, but I competed in karting up to the national level until I was 16-17. I'm very thankful to my family for those years, they gave up a lot of time and more than a couple vacations to take me racing. I was fortunate enough to do some track days while attending a mechanic’s training program at Jim Russell’s Driving School in Sonoma, CA. I really enjoyed it and would love to drive more if I had time!"

Kolesar (left) working alongside race engineer James Schnabel.


When did you start your career as a professional motorsports engineer? 

AK: "My entry into motorsport engineering is quite unconventional compared to most in the paddock. I began my career in motorsports as a mechanic for Newman Haas (IndyCar team) immediately after completing a mechanic’s training program at Jim Russell. I intermittently took time off from full-time work to pursue a degree. While working as a mechanic at Rahal Letterman Lanigan, a need arose for a Data Acquisition Engineer. I expressed interest in the position, and fortunately, the team gave me the opportunity.

"I am very grateful to the team for that chance. As a result, I do not have a degree like most engineers in the series. However, I believe this background provides me with a unique understanding of the team, the car, and the mechanics that you cannot acquire without hands-on experience. While this was most likely a more difficult way to arrive where I am, this unconventional route has also given me extra motivation to prove myself among my colleagues."


Which teams/series have you worked in, and what roles did you hold there?

Newman Haas

  • 2008: Sub-Assembly

  • 2009 & 2011: Front-End Mechanic & Air-Jack

  • 2009-2010: Part-Time fly-in work for sports car teams while attending college

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing

  • 2012-2013: Front-End Mechanic & Air-Jack/Inside Front Tire Changer

  • 2014-2017: Data Acquisition Engineer & Inside Front/Inside Rear Tire Changer

  • 2018-2023: Performance Engineer

AJ Foyt Racing

  • Late 2023-Present: Performance Engineer


What is your most significant achievement to date? 

AK: "Finishing 1st and 3rd at the 2020 Indy 500 with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing is arguably my most significant achievement so far."


What are the biggest challenges of working in the INDYCAR Series? 

AK: "The schedule is quite demanding, and it seems to get more so each year. Staying focused and being efficient while at work are key. It’s easy to get burnt out during the most demanding portions of the schedule."


What kind of impact has the hybrid engine had on your workload as a performance engineer? 

AK: "The hybrid system has definitely affected our workload. There isn’t a lot of extra time available, especially at a smaller organization like ours, so priorities get shuffled when something new like this comes along. I enjoy exploring new ways to enhance car and driver performance, so for me, this is a welcomed challenge. It’s difficult to know exactly how big of an impact it will have on the engineering workload until we get a few events into it. Like anything new, it will be about balancing the time and energy going into the hybrid while making sure we don't overlook any other aspects of car performance."

Adam Kolesar with his parents Kevin and Judy and his sister Nicole.


What do you enjoy most about working in the INDYCAR Series? 

AK: "I love the competition and the opportunity to work within a team of equally motivated individuals. Whether it’s designing parts, building engineering tools, or influencing decisions with data, your input often directly influences performance. Extracting performance from these cars, often through minute changes, is incredibly intriguing and fulfilling."


Adam with his girlfriend Carrie Bergman.

Which track is your favorite and why? 

AK: "Indianapolis Motor Speedway is iconic, and there’s nothing like it on the day of the 500. As far as events, St. Pete and Long Beach are always cool venues. When talking about the actual race tracks, nothing beats Road America."

What interests do you have outside of racing? How do you spend your spare time? 

AK: "Away from racing, I look forward to spending time with my girlfriend Carrie, enjoying time with my dog Jack (a Basenji), and going for a ride on my motorcycle when the weather is nice. I also enjoy music and going to live shows. Visiting breweries and trying new beers is another way I like to relax away from racing."


What are the top three things on your bucket list? 

AK: "I don’t have specific items on my bucket list; as long as there are new places to go and new things to try, my bucket list is pretty much endless."

What advice would you give to young engineers desiring to work in the IndyCar Series? 

AK: "Get involved early and find your passion. If you truly enjoy it, pursue it wholeheartedly from the start. Use success as motivation but don’t get caught up in the team’s overall success. Take pride in your own work, day in and day out. Obviously, the team's results are extremely important, but the true measure of success and motivation for yourself should always be the quality and constant improvement of your own work."

SANTINO FERRUCCI posted his fifth top-10 finish in eight starts this season with his ninth-place finish at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca last month. He is 12th in the NTT INDYCAR Series points standings in the No. 14 Sexton Properties Chevrolet.


Do you like Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course? And if so, why?

SF: "I do like Mid-Ohio. I love it in the rain, because it's super technical. But it's an all right track. Very fun, very technical. I'm excited to go back to see what the repave is like. So that'll be something new for us."


Does it remind you of any other courses that you've run?

SF: "Yeah, it kind of reminds me a little bit of track in Europe called Zandvoort ... It's (M-O) not quite as fun of a track, but it's got some similar characteristics...elevation changes. And some of the corners are off camber - on camber, it has a couple of hairpins, also, it's quite narrow."


Where are the best places to pass?

 SF: "I'd say that you have a couple of options in Mid-Ohio. Passing up into the hairpin, which I believe is turn two is definitely one, passing down the back stretch into [Turn] four. And then it can be quite technical after that. You'd need someone to make a mistake (to pass them). But those would be your two biggest passing zones."


What is the most challenging aspect to Mid-Ohio?

SF: "The most difficult part of the track is the last carousel before the frontstretch by pit lane.

You can take it many different ways so it's kind of dictated by car balance. But it is a very technical part of the track."


When you say technical does that mean if you miss the entry it really messes you up?

SF: "Yeah, that's where I hit the wall last year in practice. I got stuck in the wall."


How will the repave of the track and the heavier car because it's now got the hybrid in it affect you physically in this race?

SF: "Oh, I'm not quite sure. I know that obviously, driving with the hybrid is more of a challenge because there's a lot more going on, which I like. But I'm not sure how physical this race is going to be yet with the repave. I mean compared to the Laguna and Road America, I'm sure it'll be more difficult and faster, but I don't think anybody is sure by how much just yet."


What did you learn from the hybrid test at Iowa and how did it differ from the Milwaukee hybrid test?

SF: "IndyCar has the hybrid relatively turned down on the regen side. So it's not super effective, unfortunately. I think until the series can turn up the system, I don't think it's going to be of much use for us, or much of a game changer."


What are the advantages of having the hybrid?

SF: "It's just another tool to have in the car for drivability and it's helpful for me because I can adapt really well to stuff like this. I'm quite excited to have it as a tool."


Does it also help since the car was basically designed to have the hybrid and then they didn't for the first half of the season, will it help with the balance?  

SF: "Yes and no. It's not great when you make a racecar heavier, but we can use the hybrid to help tune the balance to fit my driving style a little bit better."


Ferrucci Fast Facts: Age 26 (as of May 31, 2024)...Born in Woodbury, CT...Lives in Dallas, Texas...Married Renay Moore in January, 2024...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...made his INDYCAR debut in Detroit in 2018...moved to NTT INDYCAR Series fulltime 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)...Scored career-best finish to date with his 3rd place finish in the 2023 Indianapolis 500 to continue his string of consecutive top-10 finishes in the 500...Competed part-time in NASCAR Xfinity Series in 2021-22.

STING RAY ROBB and company showed extraordinary effort in the last race when Robb's No. 41 Goodheart/ Chevrolet sustained significant damage in a crash in the race morning warmup. With his car repaired in under two hours, Robb lost radio communication with his pit just a lap or two under green (although he could hear them on the front straight). He managed to bring his car home 20th and remains 23rd in the standings with his best finish being 16th in the Indy 500.


Do you like Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, and if so, why?

SRR: "Yes, a lot! Mid-Ohio is the first place I won at in the Road to Indy. Some of my best results have come there. I think it is because I have enjoyed the layout so much. The elevation changes, variety of corners, and unique lines make it a fun place to drive. I think Mid-O is one of the great American tracks that we need more of on the calendar."


Does it remind you of any other courses you’ve run?

SRR: "Yes, a few. The elevation changes make me think a little about Watkins Glen, Laguna Seca, and even a little of Road America. It has a different style than all of those tracks, as it all flows together much more closely. The Turn 5 through to the Thunder Valley section is all connected and that makes it critical to be good everywhere. The other tracks mentioned can have a little give and take so that you can be really good in one section and be okay in another in order to still be competitive."

Where are the best places to pass?

SRR: "The run down to Turn 2 is probably one of the best as well as the run down the longest straight-away to Turn 4. There are always other opportunities if the racing is close and the pack backs up the cars in front. However, it is probably the hardest road course we go to for passing."


What is the most challenging aspect of M-O?

SRR: "It is high commitment but also you have to have great understanding of the lateral grip the car can take through longer radius corners at low speeds. This makes it difficult because you can't compromise one style over the other. You have to be the best everywhere to be the best at Mid-Ohio. Also, the passing, as mentioned, is quite difficult."


How will the re-pave of the track and the heavier car (now equipped with the hybrid) affect you physically in this race?

SRR: "I'm sure it will make it more physically demanding as we have seen for other tracks, such as Laguna Seca and Road America with the repave at both of those. We really won't know until we arrive. There was no testing on the new surface for us and because we are a smaller team, we were very limited in hybrid testing compared to the teams that carried much of the testing load (now they carry the advantage)."


What did you learn from the hybrid test at Iowa and how did it differ from the Milwaukee hybrid test?

SRR: "They are very two different tracks despite both being short ovals. The Milwaukee Mile suits the Hybrid a little more because minimum corner speeds are so slow, that it allows regen to work through the turn rather than having to manually regen at full throttle before entering the turn. The Iowa test was surprising because with the repave there, the speeds of the car were much higher than anticipated. This made it difficult to regen efficiently since the lifts off the throttle were so small."


What are the advantages of having the hybrid?

SRR: "It should make passing and defending more interesting, if we are allowed to use its full capability. In a sense, it can be used like a mini-P2P (push-to-pass). The only difference is that it is pretty much a renewal resource in comparison to the overtake button. I think it will be of critical use in the race in order to stay ahead of the cars around."


Sting Ray Fast Facts: Age 22...Grew up in Payette, ID....Lives in Indianapolis...Engaged to Molly Mitchell...Began racing karts at age 5 winning several national titles over the next 10 years. His transition to cars began at the Skip Barber Karts to Cars Shootout where he won the Bryan Herta Scholarship which put him on the Road to Indy and into the NTT INDYCAR Series at age 21. In his rookie season, he scored a career best finish of 12th in the season finale in Monterey, Calif. A devout Christian, Robb will be active as a spokesman for his sponsor this season. Off track, Robb enjoys mountain biking, skiing, hiking, hunting, fishing, rock-climbing, golf, tennis, pickleball and basketball.


 Past Performance at Mid-Ohio: Santino Ferrucci's best finish at Mid-Ohio is ninth (2021 for RLL Racing) and his best start is second (2020 for Dale Coyne with Vasser-Sullivan Racing). In Sting Ray Robb's only start at Mid-Ohio as a rookie in the NTT INDYCAR Series last year, he started and finished 22nd. The Foyt team’s best start is 7th and best finish is 4th -- both with Ryan Hunter-Reay in 2009. In the CART Series (1987-1995), the team’s best start was 12th (1988-A.J. Foyt, age 53) and best finish was 2nd (1993-Robby Gordon, age 24).


The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio will be broadcast on NBC Sunday, July 7 starting at 1:30 p.m. ET. The practices, qualifying (and the race) will be streamed on Peacock.


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