Photo: A.J. Foyt Racing

Kanaan happy with first 2018 car test, Foyt integration at Sebring

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Tony Kanaan got his first day in one of A.J. Foyt Racing’s new 2018 Dallara UAK-18 chassis with Chevrolet power on Wednesday at Sebring International Raceway’s short course, and was pleased with the team and the new common aero kit at its outset.

The release with full details is below.

He likes it. That is the verdict from Tony Kanaan after his first test in the No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolet outfitted with the 2018 aero kit.

“It was a good day and nice to be back on the track,” said the 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner. “Happy with the progress and that we were able to put some good laps in. Getting the boys back working together as well as getting to know some of the guys I hadn’t worked with yet made it a good day for the ABC No. 14 team.”

Evaluating the new aero kit, he said, “The car is different, it feels a lot quicker on the straightaways which is no surprise. I was happy with the way it came out. It looks really cool; I like the way it looks. You just have to change your driving style a little bit but that was expected as well. It’s hard to tell, I didn’t do a lot of laps to make a solid statement but from what I’ve seen and driven, I’m happy with it.”

Also happy with the one day test was Team President Larry Foyt who called his father in Houston to report that the test went very well.

“I told A.J. the test was very productive,” said Foyt. “We achieved everything we came down to do. With the little time the crew had to prepare, I was impressed with the build of the car and the amount of test items we were able to get through. Tony liked the car right out of the box, so the engineers did a nice job adapting the setup to the new aero. And lastly I told him he’s going to like Tony. Tony is no nonsense and gets after it right out of the pits…A.J.’s style for sure. “

Kanaan participated in the final day of testing for the engine manufacturer along with Team Penske at Sebring International Raceway on lucky December 13th. It was the first on-track experience for Kanaan with A.J. Foyt’s team, which had some familiar faces, most importantly, Technical Director Eric Cowdin who will also serve as Kanaan’s race engineer for the season. Having worked with Kanaan during most of Kanaan’s on-track successes, Cowdin joined the team soon after Kanaan signed this past autumn.

Cowdin spoke about the team’s winter program saying, “We are undertaking a very aggressive development program before the start of the season. In the four-week period before the Christmas break we will have done four days on the driver simulator, two days of gearbox development, build a car with the new aero kit and tested it on track. In January, we will continue with the same programs with the addition of our first 7-post test of the season to kick off our damper development. Before the first race we will have had six days of track testing so the drivers will have put in their work as well.”

There are some challenges with the team having two bases of operations. Kanaan’s team (along with Cowdin) will work out of the Speedway, Indiana race shop while teammate Matheus “Matt” Leist’s team will remain based in the team’s headquarters outside of Houston. Cowdin stressed that communication is key to the success of both teams.

“Having two locations emphasizes the need for communication,” Cowdin said. “We have to be more purposeful with our phone calls and emails so we include all the people that may need to know what we are working on. Beyond the endless emails and phone calls between the shops, we have video conference equipment in both locations which get used several times a day. It is very often more productive to have four or five people involved in a conversation opposed to copying those people on an email chain.”

While Cowdin’s most recent experience was with Ganassi Racing’s four-car team, the Virginia Polytechnic Institute alumni allowed that there are benefits to working with a two-car team such as Foyt’s.

“Having worked on teams of all sizes, there are definite advantages to working with a smaller group,” said Cowdin who has a Masters in aerospace engineering. “Each person gains experience in several different disciplines, discussions and decisions are made more efficiently and communication is easier to keep everyone on the same page. For me, the key for success with a smaller group is to have very self-motivated individuals and then give them the tools they need to do their best which is what we are trying to do.”

Rookie IndyCar driver Leist who attended the test as an observer, headed to Charlotte, N.C. last night to spend today and tomorrow in the Chevrolet simulator in nearby Huntersville, N.C. Leist will get behind the wheel of his No. 4 ABC Supply Chevrolet in the latter part of January.

The race team’s Christmas holiday starts this weekend and goes through the New Year.

‘Game-changing’ multi-year agreement will take INDYCAR, NBC Sports ‘to the next level’


NEW YORK – As the fourth Nor’easter in three weeks bore down on the Big Apple, it was tough to spot people that were clearly in a good mood.

But Jon Miller, president of programming for NBC Sports and NBCSN, was clearly in a good mood.

On Wednesday morning at 10 am ET, we all found out why: NBC will become the exclusive home of the IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500, starting in 2019.

The new three-year deal not only makes “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” part of the network’s “Championship Season” – its collection of high-profile championship events from May to July – but also reaffirms NBC’s status as the home of motorsports television in the United States.

That status is something Miller doesn’t take for granted.

“It’s important people know that storytelling is in our DNA, and motorsports lends itself very well to storytelling,” Miller said as he, INDYCAR CEO Mark Miles and driver James Hinchcliffe made a snowy trek to the New York Stock Exchange to promote the deal on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street.”

“We’ve had great success with the second half of the entire NASCAR season, and then we’ve had half of the IndyCar package [since 2009] … But we never had the real meat of the series and that didn’t set anybody up for success.

“Having the entire package of IndyCar now – all 17 races, qualifying, practice, you name it – really sets IndyCar on a strong path and solidifies NBC’s position as the home of motorsports. I think it becomes a property much like the Premier League, the NHL, and even the Olympics and the Triple Crown. We have 100 percent of the media opportunity and we can put all those great assets behind it.”

With the storm no doubt keeping some traders home, the floor of the NYSE was relatively subdued. But that made it no less important to be at the heart of Wall Street. Miles and his team are pursuing a new title sponsor for the IndyCar Series to replace Verizon, which will fully focus its efforts in the series with the powerhouse Team Penske going forward in 2019.

The new deal – which includes 8 races per year on the NBC network (with the remaining races going to NBCSN), live streaming of all races, and a direct-to-consumer package with NBC Sports Gold – gave Miles plenty to push for any potential backers. As for Hinchcliffe, he held his own nicely in an interview that also explored IndyCar’s global ambitions, the impact of technology on the sport, and of course, his spin around the ballroom on “Dancing with the Stars.”

On the ride back to 30 Rock, Miles was confident that NBC can play a big role in attracting a sponsor that can help the series keep growing.

“With respect to our work in finding the best title sponsor, it’s really important – and this has not been talked about much – but we expect to work with hand in glove with NBC’s sales,” he explained. “We have the opportunity to create packages which are both broadcast sponsorship and series sponsorship, I think, in a way that doesn’t come along very often.

“Usually, the media deal and the sponsorship deal doesn’t align like this, so we’re really excited about the offering we’ll have and the approach to the market we can take.”

Should the partnership with NBC bear fruit on that front and others, it will only add to the upswing that the IndyCar Series has had in recent years.

Hinchcliffe has been a witness to that. He entered the series in 2011, when it was trying to find its footing after the sport’s reunification three years earlier. After 13 years of CART vs. the Indy Racing League, getting everything back under one roof was not a smooth process.

But fast-forward seven years, and things have changed for the better. TV ratings and digital viewers have gone up. Race scheduling has become more stable and enhanced with the return of traditional open-wheel markets. And this year’s debut of the universal aero kit aims to pump up the action on the track, while also giving the cars a cleaner, meaner look.

Now, with NBC all in, Hinchcliffe is bullish on his sport’s future.

“This is a game-changing thing for us,” he declared. “If you look at the last four or five years, we’ve seen a steady growth in pretty much every measureable metric that there is – in a time where, globally, motorsports is in a bit of a downturn.

“The fact that IndyCar was able to rally against a global dip in motorsports interest, attendance, sponsorship – it speaks volumes to what we have been doing and this is just gonna take us to that next level.”