Notes & Quotes: Hy-Vee Doubleheader at Iowa Speedway
CORDELL DURCHOLZ began his work with AJ Foyt Racing as an intern in 2018 while pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI). Graduating in May 2020, Durcholz then started working with the team full-time. He informed, "IUPUI is one of the only colleges with a degree specifically geared towards any engineering career in the motorsports industry." We asked him a few questions...
Where are you from?
CD: "I am from a small town just outside of Jasper, Indiana, called Ireland. Jasper is where I went to
high school with a graduating class around 250 people and a population of around 16,000. The town use to be known for its cabinet making in the first half of the 1900’s. Now it is the home of Jasper Engines and Transmissions as well as businesses like Masterbrand Cabinets and Kimball Electronics. Both of my grandparents settled in the town as farmers, raising livestock and growing crops." [Cordell pictured with his wife Kellie]
What was your first job as an intern working with AJ Foyt Racing?
CD: "My first race for the team was the Indy 500 where I helped the tire guy manage the 33 sets of tires given to each car."
What are your responsibilities with AJ Foyt Racing?
CD: "Starting my career here as an intern, I was not able to attend all of the races due to class. I stepped into a support engineering role focusing on research and development projects from CAD drawings, program coding, wiring, or whatever the team needed help with. I have spent time as a data engineer for various races and currently I am a performance engineer. I started the year focused on the 11 car but have recently focused on supporting the 4 and 14 car and preparing for the 2023 season."
Durcholz is now supporting the engineering on the No. 14 car. Also pictured are race engineer Roberto Garcia (who subbed for Mike Colliver in Toronto) and strategist Scott Harner.
How did you get interested in racing and when did you get your start professionally?
CD: "My interest in racing stared in my early years, watching NASCAR with my parents. I rooted for my
favorite driver, Tony Stewart, whom I met during the 2021 Indy 500. [Tony came to the 500 as A.J.'s guest and honorary owner of the No. 11 entry driven by J.R. Hildebrand]. Ironically, I was not a Jimmie Johnson fan at the time but now I am happy to see him in an Indy car and hope he does well. In high school, I joined a motorsports team where we built and raced small race cars. I decided I liked the motorsports atmosphere, and it would be more interesting than any other career path I was considering at the time, so this drove my decision towards IUPUI and its engineering program."
If you didn’t work in motorsports, what would you do?
CD: "If I did not work in racing, I would likely be working for a military defense contractor. This career path was my first internship during college at a nearby naval base where I supported a submarine program."
What is your career goal?
CD: "My career goal has and always will be to work in a fun and intellectually challenging environment in an engineering role. Naturally, I find that I am willing to do and learn about anything. The motorsports industry has fit this goal of mine perfectly, challenging me every day to find better solutions to different problems every day. The environment is competitive, and I enjoy it every day."
Durcholz receives a hug from Tatiana Calderón after her 15th place finish at the GMR Grand Prix in Indianapolis earlier this year. Durcholz was the performance engineer on the No. 11 car. Race engineer Daniele Cucchiaroni looks on.
What is your favorite track?
CD: "My favorite track is probably Laguna Seca. I think I like this track so much because of the elevation changes throughout the track. The first time I walked the track I stood at the top of the corkscrew and I could not believe that our cars could navigate this portion of the track at the speeds they do. It is one of those times that make you think about the talent all of these drivers have."
What is your favorite race of the season?
CD: "My favorite race of the season is probably Road America. I go camping there every year and I enjoy the track layout a lot. There is always a lot of other series at the track to watch and the fans have always been plentiful."
What is the most memorable moment of your career so far?
CD: "The most memorable moment in my career so far was the 2021 Indy 500. This was the first Indy 500 where I was closely involved in the car setup. I was much more engaged in the car performance, and I learned so much in the two weeks that make up the Indy 500."
What is the hardest part of your job?
CD: "The hardest part of my job is being away from my wife and dog for many weekends during the season."
Cordell and his wife Kellie enjoy the outdoors.
What do you enjoy outside of racing?
CD: "Outside of racing, I enjoy almost anything outdoors. More so when I lived back in Jasper, I rode four-wheelers a lot. I enjoy shooting guns and archery which I have been doing since I was very little. I have a wonderful group of friends back in my home town and we are often doing these things when I make it home to visit. These days, I enjoy snowboarding when I can, and I stay close to my family by going camping nearly every opportunity we have."
What are the top three items on your bucket list?
CD: “The top 3 things on my bucket list are skydiving, riding in a fighter jet, and taking a trip into the wilderness of Alaska. One of these is much less likely to happen than the others.”
What is something that may surprise people?
CD: “As a kid, I was very involved in 4-H. Specifically, I was in a program called shooting sports for 12 years, learning and shooting different guns and bows. One of the activities that a group of my friends enrolled in during the fair was called pig wrestling. This was a timed event in which you run into a very muddy pit with a pig and you have to pick up the pig and place it on a tire in the middle of the ring. We were not fast but it was fun.”
DALTON KELLETT spent a couple of weeks busily promoting his hometown race in Toronto but mechanical woes plagued him in qualifying and the race which led to a disappointing result. He is looking forward to racing at Iowa Speedway where he had some of his best runs in the Indy Lights Series, finishing ninth in 2016, third in 2017 and fifth in 2018. It will be his first start in an Indy car although he did test last month along with his teammate Kyle Kirkwood.
"It's going to be a fun couple of races (and concerts!) at the Hy-Vee IndyCar Weekend! With everything planned, I think it will be a great experience for IndyCar fans. We tested here a few weeks ago - the track is challenging and bumpy with a couple lanes that will open up for the races. Our cars always put on a good show here, so I'm excited for the racing. The doubleheader will be physical and demanding on the teams and drivers, but I'm looking forward to it. After a tough weekend at Toronto for the No. 4 K-Line team, we're all happy to be back at it this weekend!"
Kellett Fast Facts: Age 28…Born in Toronto, Canada and lives in Indianapolis…Became engaged to Nicole Westra and they plan to wed on New Year's Eve...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. For the technically curious, Kellett posts TikTok videos (@dalton_kellett) about the race car labeled "Indy Mondays" with subjects ranging from the steering wheel to the weight jacker to cold tires.
KYLE KIRKWOOD has never raced at Iowa Speedway but he did test at the 7/8-mile banked oval last month along with Kellett. Kirkwood's oval track experience is limited to just five races in the junior formulas (USF 2000, Indy Pro 2000 and Indy Lights) and two races in INDYCAR, both of which were on superspeedways (Texas and Indianapolis).
"After last weekend it's nice to be straight back at it to hopefully redeem ourselves. With it being two races this weekend, I am sure it won't be easy. We tested there about a month ago and felt like we got the car in a pretty good spot by the end of the day. It’s going to be a very physically and mentally demanding weekend, but we are looking forward to it!"
Kirkwood Fast Facts: Age 23...Born in West Palm Beach, and lives in Jupiter, Florida... Only driver to win championships in all three divisions of the Road to Indy ladder system...Began racing karts at age 5...Won the 2018 Cooper Tires USF2000 title (12 wins in 14 races) and won 15 of 17 races to claim the F3 Americas Championship...Won the 2019 Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires with nine victories and five poles in 16 races (RP Motorsports)...Won the 2021 Indy Lights championship with 10 victories and seven poles in 20 races (the 2020 season was canceled due to the pandemic). Enjoys surfing, deep-sea fishing, diving and golf.
Past Performance: AJ Foyt Racing's best start at Iowa Speedway is 13th with Takuma Sato in 2016. Its best finish is fifth in 2007 with Darren Manning; they finished 10th with Tony Kanaan in 2019. This will be the inaugural race at Iowa Speedway for both Kellett and Kirkwood.
Last Race: At Toronto, the team experienced a tough race with both cars. Kellett didn't make a qualifying attempt due to fuel system issues. In the race, the fuel system issues persisted and he finally exited the race after 30 laps with a smoking powerplant. Kirkwood lasted until lap 56 of the 85-lapper when he made contact with Jimmie Johnson and he had to park the car.
Broadcast information: The Hy-Vee doubleheader will be broadcast on NBC-TV with the Hy-VeeDeals.com 250 presented by Door Dash starting at 4 p.m. on Saturday and the Hy-Vee Salute to Farmers 300 presented by Google starting at 3 p.m. on Sunday. All times Eastern. The practice and qualifying session (counting towards both races) will be streamed on Peacock Premium. The INDYCAR Radio Network will broadcast the races, practices and qualifying sessions which can also be heard on Sirius XM 160, www.racecontrol.indycar.com and the INDYCAR App powered by NTT DATA.