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.
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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.
NHRA Texas winners: B. Torrence, Hagan, Anderson, Savoie
Defending NHRA Top Fuel champion Steve Torrence is a proud Texan who hates to lose. But if there’s one person Torrence likely doesn’t mind seeing win if he can’t reach the winner’s circle – particularly if it’s on home turf – it’s father Billy.
Steve was cheering his father on as the latter boosted his own championship hopes Sunday by winning the Top Fuel category in the final eliminations of the 34th annual AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals in the Dallas suburb of Ennis, Texas.
Billy Torrence (3.775 seconds at 319.67 mph) defeated Jordan Vandergriff (4.299 seconds, 246.03 mph in his first career final round) for his fourth win of the season, including his second win in the first four races of the six-race Countdown to the Championship playoffs. With the fifth Top Fuel triumph of his career, the elder Torrence moved into fourth in the Top Fuel standings, just 71 points behind his son with two races remaining in the Countdown.
Even though Billy’s son lost in the opening round Sunday, he still leads the Top Fuel standings, holding a 33-point lead over second-ranked Doug Kalitta and a 46-point lead over third-ranked and the weekend’s No. 1 qualifier, Brittany Force.
Sunday marked the third consecutive win in this year’s playoffs for the father-son combo and their second straight triumph at Dallas (Steve won there last year as part of an unprecedented sweep of the six-race Countdown en route to the championship).
“It’s home turf and we love to race here,” Billy Torrence said after visiting the winner’s circle. “We’ve raced here our whole career and we have a lot of fans here. There’s no better place to race than Dallas, Texas, and we did have the best car today.
“It has been very humbling, and we’ve been very blessed and fortunate to have the success we’ve had. We’ve got a great group of guys on both cars and our success is just a testament to the work these guys do. I think that we’re probably the second-best car in the country, with Steve having the best. We’ve had a stellar season.”
In Funny Car: Matt Hagan (3.909 seconds at 327.59 mph) roared to his third win of the season – as well as his third at the Motorplex – and the 32nd victory of his career, defeating Bob Tasca (3.928 seconds at 323.12 mph). Hagan also moved up to fourth in the standings.
“We had a great race car today,” Hagan said. “Qualifying was pretty tough, but to turn on four win lights was pretty huge. (Tasca) is a great driver and those guys are good, so I’m glad things turned out the way they did.
“We’re just trying to keep some momentum going, keep doing our job and control what we can control. It was a pretty special weekend. We’ve just got to keep digging and keep working. I love this sport and it’s been a big part of my life for 10 years. I knew (crew chief Dickie Venables) was tuned in and you could see he was confident, and that builds confidence in me.”
Robert Hight continues to lead the Funny Car standings, followed by Jack Beckman (70 points back) and No. 1 qualifier John Force (74 points back).
In Pro Stock: Greg Anderson (6.609 seconds at 209.75 mph) defeated longtime rival Jeg Coughlin Jr. (6.610 seconds at 207.56 mph) to earn his third win of the season, fifth of his career at the Motorplex and 94th of his overall Pro Stock career.
It was the 102nd time Anderson and Coughlin, who qualified No. 1 for the weekend, have met each other in a race, including the 21st time in the final round.
“We’ve had so many titanic clashes with so much on the line, and I knew it would be close,” said Anderson, who is seventh in points. “It’s a total team effort and that’s what it takes to win a national event in Pro Stock right now. You’ve got to have perfection every time out there.
“We made a lot of changes this week and we hit on it. It showed it on Saturday and I knew coming into today we had a chance. Now it’s a matter of if I can drive the car well enough. I can’t tell you who’s going to win this thing because everybody right now can beat everybody else.”
Erica Enders held on to her lead in the category, but saw the margin over second-ranked Matt Hartford drop to only 28 points. Coughlin is third (-65 points) and Anderson is seventh (-99 points).
In Pro Stock Motorcycle: Jerry “Alligator Farmer” Savoie (6.881 seconds at 195.90 mph) took a big step towards potentially earning his second PSM championship in the last three seasons, defeating three-time champion Eddie Krawiec (6.901 seconds at 195.62 mph).
It was Savoie’s third win of the season and 12th of his career. It’s also his second win in the first four playoff races and fifth straight appearance in the final round at the Motorplex. He’s now third in the PSM standings, 94 points behind five-time champion Andrew Hines.
“It was a great day and we knew we had a good bike coming in,” Savoie said. “We said if we held our composure we could win this thing. For the most part, tracks favor certain riders and we’ve been blessed here. It’s a great place and today was great.
“Bottom line, I want a championship just as bad as anybody else, so whoever is in my way I’m going to do everything I can to try and beat them. I felt good and we’ve got a great team. To me, this win gives you more hope and means a lot. This gives you that window of opportunity where you could win a championship again.”
NOTES: Only two races remain this season: Las Vegas in two weeks (Oct. 31 – Nov. 3) and Pomona, California four weeks from now (Nov. 14 – 17).
TOP FUEL: 1. Billy Torrence; 2. Jordan Vandergriff; 3. Brittany Force; 4. Austin Prock; 5. Leah Pritchett; 6. Antron Brown; 7. Shawn Reed; 8. Lee Callaway; 9. Steve Torrence; 10. Terry McMillen; 11. Doug Kalitta; 12. Kebin Kinsley; 13. Mike Salinas; 14. Cameron Ferre; 15. Clay Millican; 16. Richie Crampton.
FUNNY CAR: 1. Matt Hagan; 2. Bob Tasca III; 3. John Force; 4. Robert Hight; 5. Tommy Johnson Jr.; 6. J.R. Todd; 7. Jack Beckman; 8. Shawn Langdon; 9. Tim Wilkerson; 10. Ron Capps; 11. Paul Lee; 12. Blake Alexander; 13. Cruz Pedregon; 14. Jim Campbell; 15. Jeff Arend; 16. Jonnie Lindberg.
PRO STOCK: 1. Greg Anderson; 2. Jeg Coughlin; 3. Deric Kramer; 4. Matt Hartford; 5. Erica Enders; 6. Chris McGaha; 7. Aaron Stanfield; 8. Bo Butner; 9. Jason Line; 10. Fernando Cuadra Jr.; 11. Val Smeland; 12. Kenny Delco; 13. Shane Tucker; 14. Fernando Cuadra; 15. Alex Laughlin; 16. Richie Stevens.
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: 1. Jerry Savoie; 2. Eddie Krawiec; 3. Angelle Sampey; 4. Andrew Hines; 5. Steve Johnson; 6. Karen Stoffer; 7. Scotty Pollacheck; 8. Matt Smith; 9. Hector Arana; 10. Ryan Oehler; 11. Angie Smith; 12. Hector Arana Jr; 13. Kelly Clontz; 14. Michael Ray; 15. Jianna Salinas.
FUNNY CAR: 1. Robert Hight, 2,437; 2. Jack Beckman, 2,367; 3. John Force, 2,363; 4. Matt Hagan, 2,325; 5. Bob Tasca III, 2,315; 6. Ron Capps, 2,302; 7. J.R. Todd, 2,274; 8. Tommy Johnson Jr., 2,243; 9. Shawn Langdon, 2,239; 10. Tim Wilkerson, 2,188.
PRO STOCK: 1. Erica Enders, 2,395; 2. Matt Hartford, 2,367; 3. Jeg Coughlin, 2,330; 4. Jason Line, 2,327; 5. Deric Kramer, 2,323; 6. Bo Butner, 2,321; 7. Greg Anderson, 2,296; 8. Alex Laughlin, 2,239; 9. Chris McGaha, 2,217; 10. Val Smeland, 2,124.
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: 1. Andrew Hines, 2,464; 2. Karen Stoffer, 2,383; 3. Jerry Savoie, 2,370; 4. Eddie Krawiec, 2,365; 5. Matt Smith, 2,297; 6. Hector Arana Jr, 2,274; 7. Angelle Sampey, 2,248; 8. Angie Smith, 2,181; 9. Ryan Oehler, 2,159; 10. Hector Arana, 2,128.