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IndyCar Notes: Foyt Racing To Feature Tag Team Of Drivers

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, February 6 2020
Tony Kanaan’s final IndyCar Series season will see him in the cockpit part time for A.J. Foyt Racing. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Martha Fairris)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

AJ Foyt Racing’s iconic No. 14 car is destined to become INDYCAR’s international version of Lyft in 2020.

Popular Brazilian Tony Kanaan announced last week this season will be his last in the NTT IndyCar Series. Kanaan, the 2013 Indianapolis 500 champion, will drive the No. 14 Chevrolet in the schedule’s five oval races beginning with the 104th edition of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 24.

Meantime, four-time Champ Car Series champion Sebastien Bourdais and rookie Dalton Kellett have been added to the driver roster by team founder/owner A.J. Foyt Jr. Frenchman Bourdais will drive the No. 14 in four races, including the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Fla., on March 15. Bourdais also will compete at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala.; the Streets of Long Beach, Calif., and the road-course in Portland, Ore. Bourdais, who spent the last three seasons with Dale Coyne Racing, will be driving with Chevrolet power for the first time since 2016.

Kellett, a native Canadian and graduate of the Mazda Road to Indy Driver development system, will make his INDYCAR debut on the road-course at Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas, on April 26. The 26-year-old also will compete in the GMR Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road-course and Indy 500; both street races on the Raceway at Belle Isle Park in Detroit; Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis.; the Streets of Toronto; Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio and WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif.

Team President Larry Foyt believes the multi-driver roster will help the team regain its footing in the series. Kanaan and Bourdais have combined to win 54 races and 49 poles. Kellett is the organization’s latest attempt to groom a winning driver for the future.

“There will be many familiar faces in the Foyt garages this season, but there will be some new faces as well,” said Larry Foyt, A.J.’s youngest son and team president since 2015. “Coming off a season we were disappointed with, changes were inevitable. I believe adding a multi-time champion like Sebastien Bourdais to our team will help us as we regroup and work to regain a competitive position.

“Being able to retain Indy 500 champion Tony Kanaan is another source of excitement and will serve to push our oval program to a place where we can fight for victories. Dalton Kellett is a young driver who is intelligent and motivated, and with the experience around him, we feel he has the potential to show great things. Altogether, the No. 14 car has an intriguing lineup and I’m excited to see how it plays out.”

Larry Foyt announced last month that INDYCAR veteran Charlie Kimball will drive the team’s No. 4 Chevrolet for the full 17-race schedule in 2020 with backing from longtime sponsor/global healthcare company Novo Nordisk.  Kimball , who drove in only seven races last year for team-owner Trevor Carlin, will mark his 10th consecutive INDYCAR season in 2020 and 12th with Novo Nordisk. Kimball, a 34-year-old native of Camarillo, Calif., was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 2007.

Kanaan, 45, will compete in his 23rd INDYCAR season as a part-timer due to the exit of longtime sponsor ABC Supply Co. after the 2019 campaign. The 2004 series champion with Andretti Green Racing, Kanaan’s final season has been dubbed the “TK Last Lap” and will include the Indy 500 and Saturday night races at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth (June 6), Richmond Raceway (June 27), Iowa Speedway in Newton (July 18) and World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway in Madison, Ill., (Aug. 22).

While Kanaan left open the possibility of returning for a future Indy 500, he is not planning for either another partial or full IndyCar Series season.

“I look back at all these years racing in INDYCAR and the first thing that comes to my mind is how fortunate I’ve been to be in the top level of the sport for this long,” Kanaan said. “I walked into this sport as a 23-year-old with lots of hopes and dreams and I can say, without a doubt, that I accomplished everything I wanted. I’m 45 now; I have fans, wins, podiums, records, a championship and an Indy 500. I feel and know I can still do this for a long time, but like everything else in life there is also a cycle in racing.

“For 2020, my best option was to race the five ovals of the NTT IndyCar Series season, the sport that gave me so much and that I will always love. I’m not done with racing, that’s for sure. I decided that this year I would step back a bit and enjoy these five races, have time for my family (wife Lauren, sons Leonardo, Max and Deco, and daughter Nina) and my fans, and also give back to the sponsors that always stood by me.”

Kanaan has compiled 17 wins, 15 poles and 78 podium finishes in his 377 career starts, which rank second all-time only to the 407 starts by the legendary Mario Andretti. Kanaan also is the “Ironman” of the sport, holding the active record for most consecutive starts at 317 beginning at Portland International Raceway in 2001.

Kanaan won the Indy Racing League’s IndyCar Series championship in 2004 with Andretti Green Racing. He won three races, recorded top-five finishes in 15 of 16 races and completed all 3,305 laps (leading 889) en route to the title.

Kanaan’s most significant career moment occurred in 2013 with KV Racing Technology when he won the Indy 500 in his 12th attempt. The average speed of the race _ 187.433 mph _ remains the fastest Indianapolis 500 in history, and the 68 lead changes also remains a standing record. Kanaan has made 18 Indy 500 starts with one win, pole position (2005), eight top-five finishes and having led 361 laps.

Kanaan has driven for seven teams in his career, beginning with Tasman Motorsports his rookie season in 1998. He followed with Forsythe Racing (1999 when Tasman was sold to Gerald Forsythe), Mo Nunn Racing (2000-02), Andretti Green Racing (2003-10), KV Racing Technology (2011-13), Chip Ganassi Racing (2014-17) and AJ Foyt Racing (2018-present).

Bourdais, a 40-year-old native of Le Mans, France, won his Champ Car titles in 2004-07. He was released by team-owner Coyne last fall.

“I am such a lucky man,” Bourdais said in a team release. “Starting my INDYCAR career driving for Paul Newman and Carl Haas, and now I get to drive for A.J. Foyt. I am both honored and thankful for the opportunity Larry and his team have provided me with. Staying in the NTT IndyCar Series seemed like a long shot back in November. My teammates and I will be working very hard to deliver the results this organization deserves, and I can’t wait for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg to come.”

Kellett competed in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship and the Indy Pro 2000 Championship, made a brief showing in the Pro Mazda Series and spent four years in Indy Lights, where he ranked seventh the final two seasons. In addition to Indy Lights in 2019, Kellett made a foray into the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, where he claimed three class victories and one pole in the LMP2 division.

“This season, there will be plenty to learn including the exciting challenge of adapting to an all-new car for me,” Kellett said. ”I am fortunate to be partnered with three series veterans in Kanaan, Kimball and Bourdais. I’m looking forward to working with them and learning from their combined experience to grow as a driver.”

Bourdais, Kellett and Kimball will participate in the series’ Open Test at Circuit of The Americas on Feb. 11-12.

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Reigning Virgin Australia Supercars Champion Scott McLaughlin will make his IndyCar Series debut with Team Penske on Saturday, May 9, in the GMR Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road-course.

“This is an amazing opportunity _ to race against some of the best open-wheel drivers in the world on one of the most historic tracks in motorsports,” said McLaughlin, who drove an open-wheel car for the first time last month during a series rookie evaluation test at Sebring International Raceway in Florida.

McLaughlin, a 26-year-old native of New Zealand, will participate in the series’ Open Test at Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas, Feb. 11-12. The two-time Supercars title-winner will attempt to claim his third consecutive series championship for DJR Team Penske (DJRTP) in 2020.

“I’m excited about the challenge of trying to win a third-consecutive Supercars championship while helping to keep the Shell V-Power Racing Team at the front of the field this season,” McLaughlin said in a team release. “I’m also really looking forward to this new opportunity. It’s a driver’s dream to get a chance to race an Indy car for Team Penske. With the experience I gained at the test in Sebring, I know a little bit more about what to expect when I get back into the car at COTA. I just want to learn as much as I can every time I’m in the car so I can make the most of the opportunity to race with the team at the Grand Prix in Indianapolis.”

McLaughlin will drive the No. 2 Chevrolet during both the COTA test and the GMR Grand Prix in Indianapolis. McLaughlin has compiled 35 wins and 44 poles over the last three seasons while helping DJRTP claim team championships in 2017 and 2019 and winning the driver’s title in each of the last two seasons. McLaughlin also earned his first win in the legendary Bathurst 1000 race in October, with co-driver Alex Premat. On his way to the title last season, McLaughlin established a new single-season Supercars record with 18 victories, along with a series-leading 15 poles and 22 podium finishes.

“Scott has experienced tremendous success in Supercars over the last three seasons with DJR Team Penske and we believe his talent and his drive will continue to shine behind the wheel of an Indy car,” team-owner Roger Penske said. “It will be interesting to see how he continues to develop as we work up to his first race at the Indianapolis Grand Prix. We know Scott will work hard to improve with every lap and he will represent Team Penske well as he gets acclimated to the IndyCar Series.”

 Team Penske has won five of six IndyCar Series races on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road-course since the series began competing on the 2.4-mile track in 2014. Will Power won the Grand Prix in 2015, 2017 and 2018, while Simon Pagenaud captured the checkered flag in 2016 and again in 2019.

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Reigning Indianapolis 500 champion Simon Pagenaud enthusiastically unveiled the ticket for the race’s 104th edition _ a snapshot of the Team Penske star swigging the traditional winner’s bottle of milk last May 26.

Pagenaud said victory on the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval in his eighth start has been a life-altering experience. “I think I’m a new person,” Pagenaud said during recent unveiling ceremonies at the Indianapolis City Market. “If you knew me before, I think you can see it. I think it shows.

“I’m very relieved but also very enthused going forward and very motivated. I desire winning again so much more than I did before. It’s incredible. Now that I know all of the culture, the traditions, even better than I did before, it makes me want to win it even more.” Pagenaud, the series champion in 2016, also won the INDYCAR Grand Prix and Indy 500 pole during a spectacular Month of May in 2019.

The ticket featuring Pagenaud’s image from IMS photographer Chris Owens will be mailed soon to fans in all 50 states and approximately 50 other countries worldwide. The Indy 500 ticket, one of the most coveted keepsakes in sports, is printed on thick stock with spot-raised MVP coating and gold foil stamp. Pagenaud was joined at the unveil by Mark Miles, Penske Entertainment Corp. President & CEO, and IMS President J. Douglas Boles.

“This moment of me drinking the bottle of milk is the moment I realized it happened,” said Pagenaud, a 35-year-old native of Montmorillon, France. “It’s a sweet moment for me. And I didn’t know it was the picture, so it’s pretty cool to see it now and realize that it transpired. People saw it was a very, very, very special moment for me.”

Tickets for the 104th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge and all Month of May activities are on sale at IMS.com. Tickets also are available by calling the IMS Ticket Office at 317-492-6700 or by visiting the Ticket Office at the corner of 16th Street and Georgetown Road.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, February 6 2020
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