IndyCar: Foyt expands to 2 cars, adds Hawksworth alongside Sato

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A.J. Foyt Enterprises confirmed Wednesday its long-rumored expansion to two full-time cars in the Verizon IndyCar Series, which marks the first time for the team to do so since 2000.

Jack Hawksworth will shift over from one Honda-powered team to the other, and take the reins of the No. 41 ABC Supply Co. Honda, while Takuma Sato will return to the team for his third season, and sixth overall in IndyCar, in 2015. As he has the last two seasons, he’ll continue in the No. 14 ABC Supply Co. Honda.

Additionally, ABC Supply Co. has extended its current contract with the Foyt camp through the 2016 season.

“Running two cars is nothing new for me but it’s been a while,” said the four-time Indianapolis 500 champion in a statement. “I always said we wouldn’t do it again unless we had the proper people and support to do it right.

“We’ve got two drivers who love winning – almost as much as I do – and our sponsor ABC Supply, whose support is only outdone by their loyalty. I’m looking forward to next year being the best one yet.”

Hawksworth was a bit of a revelation in his rookie season at Bryan Herta Autosport in 2014, with several Firestone Fast Six appearances and his first career podium at Houston race two (third).

“This is a great opportunity for me,” Hawksworth said. “Ultimately, I want to win races and I feel that this is the place I can do that. We’ve got everything in place, a great sponsor in ABC, and good people who build quick cars, so we have the potential to build something really special.

“That’s what excites me. It’s a growing project and I want to grow with it, be a part of it and be a part of its success.”

Sato scored two pole positions and a best finish of fourth (Sonoma) in the 2014 season, and finished 18th in points, just one spot behind Hawksworth. It was a season where bad luck frequently got the better of him and prevented him from producing more standout results.

The former F1 pilot acknowledged that “we need more improvement” but feels the expansion to two cars will help in that regard.

“That is just the nature of racing,” he said. “So as a two-car team, it should boost these things massively. The track time is very limited nowadays but there are always tons of things to try. That will be especially true with the new bodywork that’s coming.

“To have quality testing and maximized running time to evaluate the car is essential. I am very much looking forward to starting winter testing right away.”

As for team director Larry Foyt, he touched on the team’s expansion and addition of Hawksworth. The team recently added a new shop in Indianapolis to go along with its long standing one in Houston.

“It’s hard to express in words how thrilling it is to be expanding our operation,” said Foyt. “It has been a goal of mine for years, and to finally see it become reality … All I can say is that it has already been a special and busy offseason. I can’t give enough gratitude to ABC Supply for their continued support of the ABC Supply/AJ Foyt Racing program.

“How quickly 10 years goes by. There have been many ups and downs, but they have stuck with us and helped us grow into a team that will be a force to be reckoned with next year.”

With the partnership between Sato and engineer Don Halliday providing continuity, plus Hawksworth’s commitment to the team (which includes his own move to the Foyt team’s home base in Texas), Larry is naturally optimistic about the team’s chances next IndyCar season.

Soon, it will be time to try and put it all together. The boss won’t stand for anything less.

“Now we have to put the finishing pieces in place and produce because you know with A.J., only one thing matters – winning,” Larry said in closing.

Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Formula One embrace the United States

Verstappen Perez United States
Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
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Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed its new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with Ford Motor Co. in an event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and team principal Christian Horner.

It’s the first Formula 1 team to launch in the United States for 2023, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.

“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Sergio Perez finished fourth in the Unites States Grand Prix, but he was first with the fans.  – Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.

With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.

In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.

By the time Formula arrived in Austin, Texas, for Round 20 of 23, Verstappen already had wrapped up his second consecutive championship.

“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.

“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”

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Max Verstappen United States Grand Prix win was one of 15 for the drivers and 17 for Red Bull.
(Gongora / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Now Verstappen’s thoughts inevitably will turn to establishing a dynasty, and America will again play a pivotal role.

“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said.  “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”

Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his chief rival for the championship.

“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.

“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”

Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.