CHEVROLET RACING IN THE VERIZON INDYCAR SERIES
101ST RUNNING OF THE INDIANAPOLIS 500
INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY
AJ FOYT RACING PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT
MAY 18, 2017
An interview with AJ Foyt Enterprises president Larry Foyt and AJ Foyt Racing drivers Conor Daly, No. 4 ABC Supply Chevrolet, and Carlos Munoz, No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolet:
MODERATOR: Larry, I’ll start with you. It’s been a very interesting early part of the month. We’ve had some heat, we had some incredible wind, all the things that guys that are responsible for making cars go fast and making sure they stay between the fences which they absolutely hate, but it’s what happens during the month of May. Tell us about thus far and your plans for the 500.
LARRY FOYT: Well, so far I think we’ve been pretty under control with our program, which is nice. I mean, obviously, Carlos has a lot of laps around here even as a young guy. So I think we’ve been kind of working on race stuff here so far, and Conor has tried a couple different setups. I think they hit on something that he really liked yesterday a little bit. So we’re just trying to our team being from — you know, seen this race change over many years. A lot of times we’re pretty conservative here, but Carlos is certainly pushing us to make sure we get out and do a lot of traffic running and do what the other guys are doing so that we know what we have come race time. So probably today you’ll see guys start to trim out and look for some more speed by themselves. But we’ve been pretty happy with the car and traffic, and that’s what we’ve been working on.
MODERATOR: Moving to Conor. Conor, you’ve worked really hard to get yourself into a situation where you’ve had the opportunity to compete on a regular basis. You’ve done that. You’ve got to be excited about your prospects for the 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500.
CONOR DALY: Yeah. Yeah. It’s nice to be here again. It’s weird to think it will be my fourth Indy 500, really like a third and a half, I guess. But yeah, we’ve got a great group of guys together. The preparation has been really impressive. You know, we actually really struggled with the test here a couple weeks ago, so it was kind of nice to come back and start immediately in a much better place.
Yeah, it’s just about making progress. We’re learning a lot of new things every day. This aero kit for me has been different, has a different feel and entry that I haven’t really liked yet. But yesterday, as Larry said, we sort of figured something out, and even in the high winds, like the car was really good, and I was begging to run more. So I was happy with that. So hopefully today we can get some more laps and just continue to develop our car and the program.
MODERATOR: Carlos, you’ve got a sparkling record here. Obviously, you’ve been in the position to win. And this racetrack seems to suit you very well. Talk about how it’s gone for you thus far and how you feel you’re set up for the race.
CARLOS MUNOZ: I think the we have gone really fast, you know. Yesterday we had not much running. A little disappointed because of that. I think we need to keep running to get the car much better. I think, like Larry said, we were focusing on the race car the past two days, just race traffic, traffic, having a good car in traffic. I think it was the second in the end when everyone was doing the long runs, and we felt OK, you know. We are not where need to be right now. I think today we’re going to still be working on that testing. I know the main focus is the race, for qualifying. It will be nice for sure to be in the front rows, the fast nine, but I think we just need to focus on the race. It’s been different for me having around a lot of teammates now. Having only two has been different for me, for sure, but I think we’re getting there.
We have a great group of engineers for this month, you know, like my engineer Will (Phillips), and also with Andy (Brown), have been working there quite a lot. So hopefully today we just keep digging and finding a little bit more speed and at the same time a little bit more better setup for traffic.
Q: I have two questions, both for Larry. Number one, you switched from Honda to Chevrolet. Was it necessary to make some configuration to the chassis or is the engine more or less the same size? And the second question, for the third car I think Andy Brown is working with Zach Veach. How did the contact come together? In Europe he’s quite prominent in the race business as an engineer.
FOYT: So with the first question, no, the chassis is very similar. All that stuff is the same. What hasn’t translated has been our base setups. So places that we were typically unloaded very quick, like street courses, just our normal package, the guys haven’t really liked it with this aero configuration.
So trying to figure that out has been — you know, every race I think we’re gaining on it, but we’re just two years behind in that aspect. And with the limited — when our switch came a bit late, we only had three tests available by rules. So, you know, that’s just hard to catch up that quickly. But that being said, obviously we hit on something at Gateway, which was nice. Both cars were pretty quick there. And here I think we’re gaining on it, as well.
So, yeah, that’s been the biggest changes. Our setups just haven’t translated exactly like we’d want them to. But that being said, we definitely enjoy working with Chevy. We like the package. And as soon as we get it figured out, I think we’ll see definitely those benefits of being with Chevrolet.
Actually, the Andy Brown relationship came from the nice — his friendship with Will Phillips, so that was nice. They’ve known each other for a long time, and that helped. Will introduced me to Andy, and we were able to work that out. Certainly a guy who has his experience and success here at the Speedway is nice to have in the engineering group, for sure.
Q: Larry, how much has Conor grown since you got him as a rookie four years ago? And, Conor, same for you. How have you grown within the team second time around with them as compared to where you were as a first timer.
FOYT: 2 inches and 6 pounds.
DALY: Wow, solid.
MUNOZ: More than 6 pounds.
FOYT: Thanks. No, I think when he was a rookie here, obviously you come in and eyes wide open, and you take it all in. And there’s a whole lot of just learning the whole Month of May and what all that is and what the fields are. So for him now, he’s got a lot more seat time. He knows what he’s looking more for out of the race car. So he’s definitely grown up a lot. Yeah, it does seem he’s certainly grown up a lot. It’s only been a few years. But, yeah, it happens quickly.
Q: Carlos, Conor referred to it earlier about the feel of the Chevy aero kit. Obviously you know what it’s like to have a sensationally fast car around here, but obviously it was Honda-powered. How close are you to getting that feel back to, you know, where the Chevy is ultra-quick?
MUNOZ: Yeah, you know, the last few years I had a really good car, you know, back with Andretti. The results shows and everything. The good thing is I have this feeling where it feels to have a good car here. So I know what direction to take. But it’s completely different aero kits, how they work and the setups and what the others — the setup I had at Andretti to Chevy you cannot put it because otherwise they design the car differently.
But it’s getting closer and closer. I think the Chevy package for me, like Conor say, the entry is quite sharp. But, you know, it’s what it is, and it’s not going to change. But for sure the car feels different. We’re trying to get closer to that for the feeling. But, yeah, we’ll see. I think the Hondas are going to be really quick the whole month. Last year they were really quick. I think this year they will still be really quick.
So interesting stuff that Penske is doing to try to catch up the speed, but I think we have to concentrate in our program to make the car really good in traffic. I think we’re getting there, like I said. The second day I felt pretty great, you know, with some good guys out there. But, you know, heading to that direction to make the car good. I think when the car is good on traffic, it is a good qualifying car as well.
Yeah, we’re just pushing Larry to just do group running in traffic and trim because want to go and do the traffic and feel the car. So we’re heading that direction.
Q: Both of you, what is it like to be with A.J. Foyt and the history of him here, you know, one of the greatest drivers ever and you’re driving for him?
DALY: Well, I mean, it makes you want to win for him a lot more because, you know, he’s done everything here. He is the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, almost. And you can tell he totally wants to win. He’s obviously here every day watching, always looking at what we’re doing, looking at how the car might be handling on the TV, or he talks to us about it after every run.
So it will be really cool, and I think a lot of other people will think it’s great to see A.J. Foyt as a team, you know, back in Victory Lane. So I like it. I mean, I think he’s hilarious and awesome. So I would love to be in Victory Lane with him. I think that would be a cool experience. So that’s just kind of what drives us forward even more.
MUNOZ: Same comment as to Conor. You want to win this race really badly, to do a good result because he just loved this place. He spent the whole month here. He’s in the garage at 9 a.m. until late, 7 p.m. you see him in the garage because he loves that, right? I think me at the same age, I would be home in Texas at my ranch.
He loves this place, that’s why it motivates you. It’s really nice. I think Robin Miller sent a big picture from him, an old picture of him in the newspaper that the mechanic said he was cheating in his car. So he was telling me the story about it, and it’s great, all the stories about the “500” and how big this race is, you know, all the couple of years. He’s the first guy who tells you what you’re doing wrong or to the mechanics or engineers. If you’re not good there, he say, hey, you have to try something different. He’s the first one to push, to be pushing.
Q: This is for Larry. When Quattro (A.J. Foyt IV) brings the gang by, it seems like your shops turns into A.J.’s daycare center. What’s that been like? He has almost an offensive line put together for the Colts.
FOYT: We love it when he’s around and the family. It’s great because I love seeing big A.J. with the grandkids. That’s why Anthony brings around — with them living up in Indy and A.J. is in Texas a lot of times, this is a great time for them to see Grandpa and hang out a little bit.
Q: Aren’t those the great-grandkids?
FOYT: Yes. It’s great. I love seeing Anthony being able to hang around and really enjoy the Speedway. He loves this place, too. I know it was hard for both of you when you run here and you don’t have the success, you want to still hang around. You want to be able to enjoy it. I really see him enjoy it, and we love having him around.
Q: A couple questions for Carlos. First of all, you’ve come very, very close to winning this race a couple times. What would it mean for you to actually finally get that monkey off your back and actually win this race? And, secondly, what would it mean to then win it for A.J. Foyt?
MUNOZ: You know, it would mean a lot for me. I know especially how hard it is to win this race and how badly last year I wanted to win this race, you know. I’m still young. I have four starts. I have two seconds, one third place. So it’s quite a good history.
But I just want to — it would mean a lot, you know, if got times perfect the whole time. So waiting for my perfect time, and it will be even greater if I win it for A.J. Foyt Racing, you know. I think people won’t expect that, to win with A.J. Foyt, but it will be — people would like it even more. But like I said before, I think the time has to be perfect, but I think I can do it. Like I said last year, it was a missed chance, you know, but it’s racing. The nice part about the “500,” about the racing than expected. But I think I have the talent to win this race, and someday I will.
Q: Question again for Larry. I think last week there was a little story in the magazine AutoSport that your company, your race team is also known as a racehorse business. Is this correct? Are you personally involved in that as well?
FOYT: No. A.J. Foyt doesn’t race horses. He is involved in the racing, not A.J. Foyt Racing. But he’s always had racehorses and loves them. His second greatest sporting event outside the Indy 500 is the Kentucky Derby. He had a horse running on Derby Day, which was really fun, and it’s kind of a family tradition. We all go, Anthony, myself and A.J. It’s just kind of our weekend to relax before you come to Indy for the Month of May.
He’s always had horses and done really well with them. So that’s just another — I think anything that goes fast, or even bulldozers, A.J. likes them. (Laughter)
Q: Did your horse win?
FOYT: No, he didn’t win, but obviously it was running against some great Kentucky horses, but great to see him there running. He did have a horse that was picked to win the Derby one year. It was Rare Brick and unfortunately got hurt right before, but won the Arkansas Derby. So he’s had a lot of success with the horses, as well.
Q: During most of the season, you know, the No. 4 is prepared here and the No. 14 is prepared down in Texas. Having the chance to actually run them together, have you seen a greater rate of progress running them out of the same shop this month?
FOYT: Yes, they’re all in the garage, but I really don’t think being in different shops has hurt us. I mean, once we’re at the racetrack, we’re all together, we’re all one team. It’s just where the cars prepped. Logistically it really hasn’t been as bad as I thought it might be. It’s been really nice to have some good experienced guys over on the 4 car now with Dave Higuera leading that group. And it’s still a bunch of new guys, but things have come together well, and it’s crazy. We’re waiting on the luck of the Irish to kick in over there because we just had little gremlins —
Yeah, the team has made a couple mistakes, but it hasn’t been all the team. It’s been weird random stuff, just some teething issues. But I think it’s coming together now. All month I don’t think we’ve had really any issues here. It’s been pretty smooth. So that’s what we’re looking to do and getting both cars out running together and learning from that. So all in all, I think it’s been a positive month.