Foyt team looks to be stronger in ’16 with key front office changes

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While the driver lineup of Takuma Sato and Jack Hawksworth will remain the same in 2016 for A.J. Foyt Racing’s ABC Supply Racing team, there will be two key changes on the administrative side of the organization.

Foyt and his son, team president Larry Foyt, announced Wednesday that in addition to the previously revealed hire of George Klotz to serve as Team Director, Don Halliday will move from Chief Engineer to Technical Director, overseeing the team’s race engineers and the Honda race cars.

“(This is) an important step to bringing some consistency to the team’s performance,” Larry Foyt said in a release. The moves are the next evolution as the team moves forward into its second season as a two-car entry. Prior to 2015, ABC Supply Racing was a one-car team from 2003 through 2014.

We’re happy to have both Takuma and Jack continuing with us next season because we know they have the talent to win races,” Larry Foyt said. “Maintaining that continuity and building on what we started last season should show immediate benefits.

“This winter we are focusing on putting all the pieces in place to not only win, but to be a championship caliber team. The consistency of keeping our nucleus together while strengthening our weak points should give us some very competitive ABC cars in the upcoming season.”

Sato will embark upon his fourth season with the Foyt organization in 2016. In so doing, he becomes the second-longest tenured full-time driver in team history behind founder A.J. Foyt. It is also the longest Sato has been with any team in IndyCar or Formula One.

“It is an absolute honor to be continuously driving for AJ Foyt Racing,” Sato said. “I just appreciate that A.J. and Larry have given me such a fantastic opportunity to drive for this team. I have had great memories with the team and am very happy to add many more.”

Hawksworth, meanwhile, enters his second season with the Foyt operation and his third season in IndyCar.

“We know there is a large amount of work to be done if we are going to compete regularly with the top teams next season,” Hawksworth said. “It’s clear though that the team is already making steps and I’m excited about what George Klotz can bring to the table in 2016.

“It’s far too early to make any predictions but I’m optimistic that if we can have a strong winter program then we’ll certainly put ourselves in a stronger position than this past season.”

Klotz, 54, previously worked for the elder Foyt in 1990-1991 as a mechanic. He will oversee operation of both cars and will evaluate ways to improve overall efficiency and streamline team operations.

“I think they are so close to breaking out, and I think that is the feeling throughout the paddock,” Klotz said of the organization. “All of the elements are there, we just need to get everything aligned and I think I can help Larry with that.

“He’s done a great job to get the team to this point and I’m excited by the possibilities and the guys seem excited too.”

Klotz has worked for a number of teams including Foyt, Hayhoe Cole Racing, Chip Ganassi Racing, Forsythe Racing, Andretti Green Racing and its successor, Andretti Autosport, which he spent the last 15 seasons with as team director.

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New Chip Ganassi driver Marcus Armstrong will team with boyhood idol Scott Dixon

Marcus Armstrong Scott Dixon
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Marcus Armstrong was a Scott Dixon fan his entire life, and when he was 8, the aspiring young racer asked his fellow New Zealander to autograph a helmet visor that he hung on his bedroom wall.

Next year, Armstrong will be Dixon’s teammate.

Armstrong was named Friday as the fourth IndyCar driver in the Chip Ganassi Racing lineup and will pilot the No. 11 next season on road and street courses.

A driver for the five oval races on the 17-race schedule will be named later.

The No. 11 is essentially the No. 48 that seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson drove the last two seasons, with Chip Ganassi making the change to run four cars numbered in sequential order. Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericsson drives the No. 8, six-time champion Dixon drives the No. 9, and 2020 IndyCar champion Alex Palou drives the No. 10.

So just who is the second Kiwi in the Ganassi lineup?

A 22-year-old who spent the past three seasons in Formula One feeder series F2, a Ferrari development driver in 2021, and former roommate of Callum Illot and former teammate of Christian Lundgaard – both of whom just completed their rookie IndyCar seasons.

“I’ve always been attracted to the IndyCar championship because it’s one of those championships that’s been really well televised in New Zealand since I was young, mainly because of Scott and his success,” Armstrong told The Associated Press. “As time progressed, as I got closer to F1 and single-seaters, the attraction to IndyCar grew just because of how competitive the championship is – I like to challenge myself and the level of competition in IndyCar is remarkably high.”

Armstrong, from Christchurch, New Zealand, was set to travel from his current home in London to Indianapolis this weekend to meet his new team. He won’t need an introduction to Dixon, the 42-year-old considered the best IndyCar driver of his generation and Armstrong’s unequivocal childhood hero.

Last season, Dixon earned his 53rd career victory to pass Mario Andretti for second on the all-time list. Dixon has driven for Ganassi in all but 23 of his 345 career starts.

“For a long time I’ve been a Scott Dixon fan. I don’t want to make him cringe with our age difference,” Armstrong told the AP.

Despite the two-decade age difference, Armstrong never considered someday racing with Dixon a fantasy.

He convinced his father after winning five national karting championships to allow him to leave New Zealand for Italy at age 14, where he moved by himself to pursue a racing career. Armstrong said as soon as he’d received parental permission, he’d never look back.

Armstrong was in Formula 4 two years after his move to Italy and won that title in his first season. He won four races and four poles in F3 in the 2018 and 2019 seasons, then collected four wins and eight podiums in three seasons of F2.

“Maybe it’s a strength, or maybe it’s a weakness, but I always thought I was capable of doing great in the sport,” Armstrong told the AP. “I think you probably have to succeed in the sport, you need to believe in yourself. I always pictured myself being in IndyCar.

“As Scott’s teammate? I can’t specifically say I saw that. It’s an extraordinary chain of events.”

Armstrong becomes just the latest driver to leave Europe, where F1 is the pinnacle but has only 20 seats each year. Alexander Rossi began the trend in 2016 when the American left F1 and won the Indianapolis 500 as a rookie. He’s been followed by Ericsson, last season’s Indy 500 winner, Romain Grosjean, Illot, Lundgaard, and on Thursday three-time W Series champion and Williams F1 reserve driver Jamie Chadwick was announced as driver for Andretti Autosport in IndyCar’s second-tier development series.

Armstrong said he could have remained in F2 for a fourth season, but he’d been watching IndyCar for so long, and after conversations with Illot and Lundgaard, he decided to make the move to what he believes is the most balanced racing series in the world. He tested for Dale Coyne Racing at Sebring in October.

He doesn’t know if European racing is done for good, just that he wants to be in IndyCar right now.

“I don’t want to think too far into the future, I’m just grateful for this opportunity that is standing right in front of me,” Armstrong said. “I want to perform as well as I can in the near future and just consolidate myself in the fantastic chance that is IndyCar and just do my best.

“I’m not looking at F1 as a landing spot – I am looking at IndyCar, and that’s exactly why I am here.”