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.

Hunter McElrea wins Mazda Road to Indy USF2000 Scholarship

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Hunter McElrea bested 18 competitors to win the third annual Road to Indy USF2000 $200,000 Scholarship Shootout on Sunday at Bondurant Racing School in Chandler, Ariz.

The two-day contest featured on-track competition in Formula Mazda cars as well as interview sessions and assessment from a panel of judges.

“I can’t believe it,” McElrea said at IndyCar.com. “This is definitely the most exciting opportunity that I have had in my racing career. I cannot thank Mazda and everyone enough for making this possible for me. The fact that I am going to be on the grid next year thanks to them is a dream come true.

“They have given me the opportunity to prove myself in such a high level that I never even thought I would be able to reach. I have to thank Andersen Promotions, Cooper tires, all of the judges, everyone from Mazda, the Bondurant Racing School and the other competitors, who literally pushed me to the limit.

“I am just so happy. It is still sinking in, but I just can’t wait to get next year started, and I’ll be representing Mazda in that nice Soul Red USF2000 car.”

MORE: Michael Carter wins Mazda Road to 24 shootout

The 19-year-old McElrea was born in California, but reared in Australia.

As a result of winning the award, McElrea will compete in the 2019 season of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship, the first rung of the Mazda Road to Indy development ladder.

McElrea won the Australian Formula Ford Championship this year on the strength of 13 victories in 21 races.

Early competition resulted in a final field of six drivers that included Jake Craig, Michael Eastwell, Braden Eves, Flinn Lazier and Ross Martin. They competed in a qualification session and 30-minute simulated race. McElrea won that race.

“Today was an incredible day,” said Tom Long, Mazda Motorsports factory driver and one of the judges. “There was so much talent here for the shootout. Hunter McElrea just rose to the top when it was time to shine, but our decision was very, very difficult.

“In the end, given all of the circumstances, we were able to make a pretty good decision and we are really, really proud of not only Hunter but our whole team here with Mazda to be able to grant this $200,000 scholarship for his opportunity in USF2000 next year.”