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Notes & Quotes: XPEL 375 at Texas Motor Speedway

Grant Weaver joined AJ Foyt Racing in January as Team Manager. Born in Atlanta and now living in Indianapolis with his wife Joyce, the 64-year-old has won championships with nearly every team he has worked on. He brings extensive experience to the Foyt team with 41 years in racing. He spent 26 seasons at Chip Ganassi Racing where he won the George Bignotti Chief Mechanic award in 1994 and two years later was named Crew Chief of the Year by Racer Magazine. He was the Senior Team Manager from 2003 through 2019, during his time with the team, they won four Indy 500s, plus 108 more races, 12 IndyCar championships plus a class win in the 24 Hours of LeMans in 2016. As a Boy Scout Leader for 23 years, Weaver helped over 45 boys become Eagle Scouts, including his four sons. We asked him a few questions...

Q: What got you interested in racing and how did you go about pursuing it as a career? What were the first races you attended in person?

GW: "I watched racing on and off but not as a real fan. In June of 1973, I was on a summer trip with my DeMolay group and saw the Monaco Grand Prix on TV. I was hooked. Later that year I went to the SCCA runoffs at Road Atlanta, it was the first racing event that I attended. I wanted to be a driver, but my back pocket was not very deep. So, I thought if I cannot drive them, why not work on them. I hounded John Paul Sr. until he gave in and offered me a job. I did drive Formula Fords for fun after I got married. Until we had kids, then the superfluous money dries up and I have not been in a racecar since 1987. "

Q: What does your job entail in the shop and then during race weekends?

GW: "During the week, I oversee the assembly of the race cars, ensure that we have the parts we need and that the cars are assembled to the engineers' specs, work with Scott (Harner) to put the crew guys in the right positions for success, work with the engineers on current and future goals, and work with the Indy guys and the Texas guys to ensure all cars are assembled the same. During the race event, I work to ensure that we are ready for the event, from the mechanical side to the pits to working with the engineers and chief mechanics to have a successful weekend. During the race I call the strategy for Dalton Kellett in the No. 4 K-Line Chevy."

Grant Weaver (R) is race strategist for Dalton Kellett. Weaver checks out data on race engineer Mike Pawlowski's computer.

Q: What other race positions have you held before joining this team (including series and teams and years there)?

GW: "I started out as gofer (go for this, go for that), truck driver, entry mechanic – JLP Racing – IMSA (1 Year), then worked as a mechanic and truck driver for Cooke Racing in IMSA/LeMans, at Group 44 in IMSA I went from mechanic to car chief to crew chief in five years, spent five years at Cole Performance where I was mechanic then car chief in Formula Atlantic, Indy Lights and CART. In 1994, I went to Chip Ganassi Racing as a chief mechanic, became a sub assembly manager and then team manager working in CART, IRL, IMSA and LeMans. After 26 seasons, I moved to Pratt Miller Engineering as their Operations Manager in 2020 and worked in IMSA and WEC in 2020 and 2021."

In the Team Ganassi shot with Jimmy Vasser, Weaver is to Vasser's right with sunglasses and hat.

Q: What is the most significant achievement in your career so far? Did it change your perspective?

GW: "I have been lucky enough to have been on championship winning teams at most of the places that I have worked. The first two teams there were no championships while I was there. At all the other teams we had championship seasons, I have been a part of over 25 championships in total, plus well over 200 victories. Probably the biggest championship was as chief mechanic for Jimmy Vasser in 1996 in CART. Being named Racer magazine Crew Chief of the Year that year also. Being honored with the George Bignotti Award in 1994, ranks up there also. Winning Le Mans in 2016 for Ford was pretty big. Did it change my perspective, in a word – no, I am as hungry for success today as when I started."

Weaver's collection of championship rings.

Q: What is the most challenging part of your job?

GW: "The most challenging aspect is bringing very competitive, talented individuals together to reach a common goal in a very competitive environment."

Q: What’s your favorite track to race at and why?

GW: "Of course, it is the Indy 500 – Biggest race in the world! Favorite track to go to was Surfers Paradise in Australia – just loved the atmosphere."

Q: What do you enjoy (hobbies) outside of racing?

GW: "Current hobby is traveling around with my wife. It can be a big trip or a small trip, just a lot of fun to see different places with her."

Family Vacation (L to R): Alex, daughter-in-law Susie and her husband Andy, Grant and his wife Joyce, Geoff and Matt.

Q: What’s one thing about you that may surprise people?

GW: "I am pretty black and white, so I do not know if there is much that people do not know about me once they spend some time with me."

Q: What do you enjoy about working with young drivers?

GW: "At my age, all drivers are young!"

Q: How do you deal with the frustrations inherent in racing?

GW: "As Scarlett O’Hara said in the wonderful movie Gone with the Wind, “Tomorrow is another day.” I do not dwell in the past, I look for the success that the future will bring. Learn from the past mistakes and make today better."

Q: What is the best part of your job?

GW: "Winning! I enjoy the feeling from a group pulling together toward the common goal of excellence on the track and off the track, which in the best circumstance puts the car in victory lane."

In this shot from LeMans, Weaver is second back behind drivers on right side.

Q: Who has been the greatest influence in your life?

GW: "Well of course family especially my wife would / should come first. Those that have guided me in my faith. The folks I was privileged to work with during my time as a Boy Scout leader. The folks many years ago that mentored me as I learned this trade."

Scout Leader Grant with his wife Joyce and Eagle Scout sons (L to R): Alex, Andy, Matt and Geoff.

J.R. HILDEBRAND will compete at Texas Motor Speedway for the first time since 2017--

when he finished 12th for Ed Carpenter Racing. His best finish in five starts is fifth in 2012 for Panther Racing. He will run the oval tracks this year in the No. 11 ROKiT Chevrolet as a teammate to Kellett and Kirkwood.

Q: It has been five years since you raced there—how long will it take to get acclimated?

JRH: "With the schedule the way it is, only getting one hour-long practice before qualifying, it’s going to be important to get up to speed right away. It was great to get in the car even if just for a few laps when Kyle did his rookie test a couple weeks ago, so at least I got a bit of a sight picture for the place the way it is now and we have some recent data and video to work from."

Q: Does your IMS experience help or are the tracks too different?

JRH: "Running Indy the last few years in between my races at Texas does definitely help, if only to be familiar with the differences in the car. The last time I ran at Texas we were running the very efficient and high downforce aerokit cars still, which are definitely a different animal compared to today. So I’ve gotten to feel that transition over the past few years at the Speedway, all the way down to some of the little aero bits and pieces we’ll be allowed to play with at Texas this year."

Q: What is your biggest challenge?

JRH: "I think the biggest challenge, at least initially, is going to be understanding where we can operate for qualifying and executing at that trim level. At Indy you get a fair amount of time to gather data, and it’s pretty clear when you’ve over-stepped. In my experience that’s tougher to do at Texas, in part because of how much less time we have to prep."

Q: What are you most looking forward to about your return to TMS?

JRH: "I’m looking forward to it being a grind! It’s a really tough race that requires you to be mentally very engaged the whole time, often dealing with far less than ideal handling characteristics and traffic situations. I'm hopeful that we can find a good balance and make some headway as the race progresses."

Hildebrand Fast Facts: Age 34...Born in Sausalito, California and lives in Boulder, Colorado with his wife Kristin...has competed in 66 IndyCar races with 17 top-10s including seven top-5s. In 11 Indy 500 starts, he has four top-10 starts and four top-10 finishes.

DALTON KELLETT ran in two races at Texas Motor Speedway in 2021 but only finished one

(18th) because he was taken out at the start in the second race along with then teammate Sebastien Bourdais. It will be his third start on the 1.5-mile superspeedway.

DK: "I'm excited to be back racing in Texas, it's the hometown race for the Foyt team! Being the first oval of the year, I'm excited to be back to that type of racing. IndyCar has made a slight downforce increase for this year, so we will have to see how that affects the racing and if it opens up the second lane at all. I think it will still be somewhat difficult to pass, so we are definitely focused on qualifying. Starting with good track position always makes it easier! From there, we'll need a stable and predictable car in race trim to able to make some moves and race for a good finish for the #4 K-Line Chevy."

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.

KYLE KIRKWOOD tested the No. 14 ROKiT Chevrolet at Texas Motor Speedway on March 2nd. It will be his first ever race at Texas Motor Speedway.

KK: “I believe the XPEL 375 will be a great event for us as a team, we have the very experienced addition of J.R. Hildebrand for the ovals and a lot of new people with new ideas on how to get our cars as quick as possible. We’ve been fortunate enough to have one full day on track at Texas Motor Speedway in the past few weeks with the new aero changes and feel we have the car in the right window for the race. Conditions are looking to be the same as the test. So, if everything is still the same, we will have three very competitive cars on the grid.”

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, moved to cars (F4) in 2016 and dominated the F4 U.S. Championship with nine victories and six poles in 20 races...Won the 2017 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 2021 Indy Lights title (2020 season canceled due to pandemic) with 10 victories, seven poles in 20 races.

Fulcrum Technology Solutions returns as an associate sponsor for the race weekend in Texas. Located in Houston, Texas, Fulcrum Technology Solutions is a consulting firm that specializes in managed IT infrastructure and cybersecurity services. While managed Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) and Security Operations Center (SOC) solutions are the fastest growing part of their business, they continue to provide premier professional services and products to their longstanding clients.

A.J. Foyt will be at the race this weekend. Foyt missed the season opener in St. Petersburg while battling a severe cold.

Past Performance at Texas: Foyt’s team won this race with Billy Boat driving in 1997 but after a protest, the race win was awarded to Arie Luyendyk by officials who cited a scoring error. In 1998, Boat started alongside pole winner Tony Stewart and won the race. Boat’s teammate Kenny Brack finished third and went on to win the title that year. J.R. Hildebrand's best finish is fifth in 2012, Dalton Kellett's best finish is 18th in 2021, and Kyle Kirkwood will be making his first start at this track.

Last Race: At the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the race strategy did not work in the team's favor as Kirkwood finished 18th after starting 12th, Kellett started 14th but placed 25th after mechanical issues sidelined him and Calderón placed 24th after starting 25th.

NBC will broadcast the XPEL 375 Sunday afternoon starting at 12:30 p.m. On Saturday, practice and qualifying will be streamed live on Peacock.

Team Manager to Concierge, Weaver can do it all with a sense of humor.


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