IndyCar’s A.J. Foyt Racing playing it safe during shutdown

INDYCAR Photo
0 Comments

A.J. Foyt Racing’s IndyCar team has shops located in both Waller, Texas, and on Main Street in Speedway, Indiana. That places the team under the jurisdiction of two state governments.

Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb issued a mandatory “Stay at Home Order” on March 23 that will run through April. Meantime, Texas was advocating “social distancing” that allowed businesses to remain open as long as individuals stayed 6 feet or more apart.

On Wednesday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued a mandatory “Stay at Home Order beginning at 12:01 a.m. Thursday that will run through April 30.

AJ Foyt Racing conceivably could have closed their Indiana shop while continuing to work in Texas.

But the team owned by four-time Indianapolis 500 winning driver AJ Foyt decided to play it safe ever since returning from the aborted Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in mid-March.

Foyt’s son, Larry, is the president of the team. Scott Harner is vice president of operations.

“We told everybody stay with your family and be healthy,” Harner told NBCSports.com. “The No. 1 thing is keep everybody healthy and try to not have anybody in the hospital. The best thing for that is to have everybody stay at home.

“After St. Pete, the trucks came back. Cars got put back in the bays. We have a cleaning service that have come in and done their thing, so that hasn’t been an issue there.

“We are paying everyone throughout, as well, without any salary cuts.

“It is going to be difficult, but the President of the United States (along with the Senate and House of Representatives) has shown they are about making everybody whole to do their best to help the companies get through this. A lot of these companies will get relief and some help. Corporations and individuals should both get help and if they stay the course, that is going to help fill the void and make everybody feel better.

“There are going to be ups and downs, but we should be able to get through this.”

Bruce Martin Photo

The plan for now is to let the employees retain vacation time, though there may be some modifications to the annual “week off” after the season concludes. This year, that would have been at the end of September, but with a revised schedule, the end date is expected to run through October, possibly November if the schedule has to be revised again.

“We haven’t got to that point yet,” Harner said. “The hope is getting back to work by the end of May. I haven’t spoken to Larry Foyt yet about this topic, but we’re going to take our Thanksgiving break and we’re going to take our Christmas break.

“Might we lose the week after the season ends? Absolutely. But everybody understands what we are up against. We’ll just make it work. It’s going to be one of those unique years that whatever is in the handbook is going to go out the window, and we’ll make it all work.”

The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg originally was canceled but is being revived as the potential season-finale sometime in October.

“It’s one of our great events and to get that back on the schedule is going to be big for everybody,” Harner said.


Last Thursday, IndyCar announced a revised schedule that hopefully will begin May 30-31 with the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix doubleheader. That is completely predicated on if the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is under control by then.

The 104th Indianapolis 500 has been moved from May 24 to Aug. 23 when it’s hoped to be safe for large crowds to gather.

“I think it’s great that we got it out sooner than later,” Harner said of last Thursday’s announcement. “We have sponsors that we all have to deal with and answer to and get some clarity. To give them some clarity settles everyone’s nerves. There is light at the end of the tunnel.”

It also will be an extremely busy time ahead if the new schedule goes off as planned. There will be long stretches of the season with racing practically every weekend.

“Is it going to be trying? Sure, it is,” Harner said. “Everybody is in the same boat. They know what we are up against. It’s unprecedented times that no one has ever seen before and hopefully something we never see again. It’s a matter of trying to make it all work. I can’t imagine the amount of time that was spent with Jay Frye (IndyCar President) and the IndyCar group and the NBC group and the tracks to piece it all together and make it all work. I’m sure it was endless hours trying to get it all done.

“It all comes down to the fans and sponsors, and that is the No. 1 thing we have to be cognizant of. If we get 14 races in, that’s great. Eight weeks in a row, it will be eight weeks in a row. If it’s 14 weeks in a row, well that’s what it is.

“We have to make this work, no matter what.

“It would be one thing if it was just us, but every sport out there has canceled everything. There is only so much TV time available and it will be substantially different, for sure.”

When the Hulman-George Family announced the sale of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Indianapolis 500 and IndyCar to Roger Penske on Nov. 4, 2019, it was relinquishing control of the historic facility for the first time since November 1945. Penske officially took control on Jan. 6, 2020.

With Penske leading the series into a new era, IndyCar was riding a wave of momentum.

That has been brought to a screeching halt by an invisible virus that can be fatal to some, devastating to many.

Beating the COVID-19 virus is priority No. 1 across the world. Once that happens, and life returns to whatever “normal” is, will IndyCar be able to get that momentum back?

“I don’t think anybody involved can underestimate the impact of having Roger in place, and what this would look like if he wasn’t,” Harner said. “I don’t think from the ownership level, all the way through this series, anybody would want anyone else in charge to steer us through this or any other issue that might come along. We all knew it was a great thing for him to take over. He is the best guy to be in this position right now.”


Bruce Martin Photo

But once Americans are allowed to leave their houses and return in public, will they want to sit next to complete strangers at large gatherings? Will they feel safe at a public sporting event?

“There will be things that come out of this that will change how we do some parts of our life forever,” Harner said. “Once we get over this hump and it appears it is under control, I think people will be ready to be out and get together and do things.

“This is unprecedented times. People aren’t used to being trapped at home or in their apartment. Human beings and social distancing are things we aren’t used to doing. Once we get beyond this thing, I think getting people to come out won’t be a challenge.”

That is the big picture view. From the team view, Sebastien Bourdais was sharing the No. 14 Chevrolet with rookie Dalton Kellett. Tony Kanaan was scheduled to run that car on the five oval races on the schedule. Charlie Kimball is in the No. 4 entry.

Bourdais’ schedule has been cut because of cancelations to the April contests, but the team is moving forward trying to bring him a full-time ride in 2021.

“I know Larry is working hard at it and Sebastien as well,” Harner said. “When Sebastien became available for us, it was a great opportunity to get him back in the car and help us as an organization find a way. We thought that would be beneficial for us and the new engineering group to get some feedback from him and get his take to where our cars are. We are happy Portland and St. Pete are on the schedule and that will give us the opportunity to get Sebastien in the car.

“None of TK’s oval races have been affected, and that is huge. Tony is pretty amazing on the ovals. As we all know, he is training harder than ever and will be chomping at the bit to get back in the car on the ovals and be ready to go.”

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500 

2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona: Schedule, TV info, start times, entry lists, notable drivers, more

2 Comments

The new year brings the start of a new era for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, which will open the 2023 schedule with the 61st running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

A new premier class for prototypes is the overriding story entering the 24-hour endurance race that unofficially kicks off the major-league racing season.

The new Le Mans Daytona hybrid (LMDh) cars of the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) top category will re-establish a bridge to the 24 Hours of Le Mans while bringing a new layer of engine electrification to IMSA.

With at least a few of the cars on the grid at Daytona also slated to race at Le Mans in June, it’s possible for the first time in decades (since the “Ford vs. Ferrari” battles) to have the same car win the overall title at Daytona and Le Mans.

The GTP category will feature four manufacturers, two of which are new to IMSA’s premier division. Porsche Motorsport (with Team Penske) and BMW (with Rahal Letterman Lanigan) will be fielding LMDh prototypes, joining (now-defunct) DPi category holdovers Acura (Meyer Shank Racing, Wayne Taylor Racing) and Cadillac (Chip Ganassi Racing, Action Express Racing).

Here’s what else you need to know ahead of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season opener Jan. 29-30 at Daytona International Speedway:


NOTABLE DRIVER ADDITIONS 

The Rolex 24 will feature 10 active drivers from the NTT IndyCar Series, including the IMSA debuts of Team Penske drivers Josef Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin, who will be teamed in an LMP2 entry (teammate Will Power unfortunately had to withdraw from this debut).

Colton Herta will move into the GTP category with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud return with Meyer Shank Racing to defend their overall 2022 Rolex 24 victory. Scott Dixon also returns in the premier category with Chip Ganassi Racing for his 20th Rolex 24 start and third consecutive in the No. 01 Cadillac.

Other IndyCar drivers in the field: Romain Grosjean will make his debut in GTD Pro with Iron Lynx Racing (as a precursor to driving a GTP Lamborghini next year); Devlin DeFrancesco (Rick Ware Racing) and Rinus VeeKay (TDS Racing) are in LMP2; and Kyle Kirkwood will return in GTD with Vasser Sullivan.

Daytona 500 winner Austin Cindric also will return, teaming with DeFrancesco in an LMP2 entry for Rick Ware Racing.


CAR COUNT

The Rolex 24 field was capped at 61 cars, matching last year’s field (which was the largest since 2014). The field was capped because of the space limitations for the LMDh cars of GTP in the pits and garages.

Click here for the official 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona entry list.


STARTING LINEUP

Tom Blomqvist captured the first pole position of the GTP era, qualifying defending race winner Meyer Shank Racing in first with the No. 60 ARX-06 Acura that he shares with Colin Braun, Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud.

The No. 7 Porsche 963 of Porsche Penske Motorsports will start second.

Click here for the 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona starting lineup


RACE BROADCAST

The 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona will be streamed across the NBC Sports AppNBCSports.com and Peacock, which will have coverage of the event from flag to flag.

Broadcast coverage of the race coverage will begin Saturday, Jan. 28 at 1:30 p.m. ET on NBC and move to USA Network from 2:30-8 p.m. and then will be exclusively on Peacock and IMSA.TV from 8-10 p.m. Coverage will return to USA Network from 10 p.m. to midnight and then move to Peacock/IMSA.TV until 6 a.m.

From 6 a.m. until noon on Sunday, Jan. 29, Rolex 24 coverage will be available on USA Network. The conclusion of the Rolex 24 will run from noon through 2 p.m. on NBC.

HOW TO WATCH IMSA ON NBC SPORTS: Broadcast schedule for 2023

Other events that will be streamed on Peacock from Daytona during January (all times ET):

Jan. 21: IMSA VP Racing Sports Car Challenge, 2:05 p.m.

Jan. 22: IMSA VP Racing Sports Car Challenge, 12:20 p.m.

Jan. 22: IMSA Rolex 24 qualifying, 1:25 p.m.

Jan. 27: BMW Endurance Michelin Pilot Challenge, 1:45 p.m.


ROLEX 24 COVERAGE FROM NBC SPORTS

Wayne Taylor Racing takes a step up to the next level with Andretti Autosport

Austin Cindric seeks to join legendary club of Rolex 24-Daytona 500 winners

Helio Castroneves recalls “Days of Thunder” moment in 2022 Rolex 24 victory

The “Bus Bros” tackle the “Bus Stop” for Rolex 24 at Daytona debuts

Romain Grosjean adds Rolex 24 at Daytona to his crown jewel career

Tom Blomqvist beats the clock to win Rolex 24 at Daytona pole position

GTP cars make debut in “Gymkhana”-level traffic

Five things to watch in the new GTP class as a golden era of sports cars returns

Cadillac unveils paint schemes for LMDh cars

Austin Cindric, Devlin DeFrancesco, Pietro Fittipaldi teaming up in LMP2

IndyCar drivers in the 61st Rolex 24


ROLEX 24 DAILY SCHEDULE, START TIMES

Here’s a rundown of everything happening at Daytona International Speedway over the last two weeks in January, starting with the Roar test session. Rolex 24 start times and full schedule:

Wednesday, Jan. 18

7 a.m.: GTP garages open

4 p.m.: Non-GTP garages open

4 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship haulers load-in (park only)

6:30 p.m.: Non-GTP garages close

9:30 p.m.: GTP garages close

Thursday, Jan. 19

7 a.m.: Garages, IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship haulers open

8:30 a.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship safety inspection

10 a.m.: Rolex 24 Media Day

2 p.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge driver and team manager briefing

3 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship driver and team manager briefing

5:15 p.m.: Track walk

7:30 p.m.: Non-GTP garages close

9:30 p.m.: GTP garages close

Friday, Jan. 20

7 a.m.: Garages open

8:45-9:15 a.m.: VP Racing SportsCar Challenge practice

9:30-10:45 a.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge practice

11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

1:45-2:15 p.m.: VP Racing SportsCar Challenge practice

2:30-4 p.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge practice

4:15-6 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice (GTD/LMP3/LMP2 4:15-5:45; 4:30-6: GTD Pro, GTP)

8 p.m.: Non-GTP garages close

9:30 p.m.: GTP garages close

Saturday, Jan. 21

7 a.m.: Garages open

8:40-9:15 a.m.: VP Racing SportsCar Challenge qualifying

9:30-11 a.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge practice

11:15 a.m.-12:45 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

2:05-2:50 p.m.: VP Racing SportsCar Challenge, Race 1 (streaming on Peacock)

3:10 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

4:30-5:30 p.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge practice

6:30-8:30 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

10 p.m.: Garages close

Sunday, Jan. 22

7 a.m.: Garages open

10:15-11:15 a.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge practice

12:20-1:05 p.m.: VP Racing SportsCar Challenge, Race 2 (streaming on Peacock)

1:25-3 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Rolex 24 qualifying (streaming on Peacock)

8:30 p.m.: Garages close

Wednesday, Jan. 25

6 a.m.: Garages open

7:30-10 a.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship safety inspection, non-GTP

8 a.m.: Mazda MX-5 load-in

10-11:30 a.m.: Track walk

10 a.m.-noon: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship car photos

11:30 a.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge team manager briefing

Noon: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship team manager briefing

12:30 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship new driver briefing

Noon-2 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship safety and technical inspection, non-GTP

1:45-2:30 p.m.: Mazda MX-5 practice

2:45-3:45 p.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge practice

2:30-7:30 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship safety inspection, GTP only

4-5:30 p.m.: Track walk

6:45 p.m.: Garages close

Thursday, Jan. 26

7 a.m.: Garages open

9-9:30 a.m.: Mazda MX-5 practice

9:45-10:45 a.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge practice

11:05 a.m.-12:35 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

12:55-1:10 p.m.: Mazda MX-5 qualifying

2:25-3 p.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge qualifying

3:20-5:05 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice (3:20-5:05: GTD, LMP3, LMP2; 3:35-5:05: GTD Pro, GTP)

5:30-6:15 p.m.: Mazda MX-5, Race 1

7:15-9 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

10:15 p.m.: Garages close

Friday, Jan. 27

7 a.m.: Garages open

9:25-9:55 a.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge practice

10:15-11 a.m.: Mazda MX-5, Race 2

10:30 a.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge driver and team manager briefing

11:20 a.m.-12:20 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

1:45-5:45 p.m.: BMW M Endurance Challenge at Daytona (Michelin Pilot Challenge; streaming on Peacock)

8:45 p.m.: Garages close

Saturday, Jan. 28

6:30 a.m.: Garages open

9:45 a.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship driver and team manager briefing

12:30-12:40 p.m.: Rolex 24 engine warmup

1:30-1:40 p.m.: Rolex 24 formation laps

1:40 p.m.: The 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona (starting on NBC; streaming flag to flag on Peacock)

Sunday, Jan. 29

1:40 p.m.: Finish of the 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona

7:30 p.m.: Garages close