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Foyt Hands 14 Car To Bourdais

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, September 16 2020

 

Sebastian Bourdais to team up with A.J. Foyt Racing.

Live from Le Mans, four-time INDYCAR champion Sebastien Bourdais said he is more-than-ready for the challenge of returning A.J. Foyt Racing’s famed No. 14 car to a position of prominence.

Team President Larry Foyt confirmed Tuesday that Bourdais will serve as sole driver of the No. 14 Chevrolet during the 2021 NTT IndyCar Series season. Originally scheduled to drive for legendary team-owner A.J. Foyt Jr. in the first three races of 2020, Bourdais now will wheel the car during the season’s final three events beginning with the Harvest Grand Prix doubleheader on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road-course Oct. 2-3.

Bourdais was scheduled to share the No. 14 this season with 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner Tony Kanaan, who wound down his career with an all-oval schedule, and rookie Dalton Kellett, a graduate of the Road to Indy ladder series.

Bourdais drove the No. 14 car with the new-for-2020 Aeroscreen cockpit safety device at the INDYCAR Open Test at Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas, and at a private test at Sebring (Fla.) International Raceway in February.

Onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, the subsequent realignment of the NTT IndyCar Series schedule and Bourdais’ IMSA sports car commitment prevented the Frenchman from turning a lap during the season’s first 11 INDYCAR races. Bourdais has spent this season driving the No. 5 JDC-Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac Dpi-V.R. in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. 

“Obviously, Seb was a Foyt driver this year. We did some testing together,” Larry Foyt said during a ZOOM news conference that started in Indianapolis. “A lot of our plans were changed with the global pandemic which affected everyone in the world unfortunately. We kept our head down, our supporters were great and stuck with us through this. We were able to put this together.

“We thought it made great sense to get this started now. Not sure what the testing rules are going to look like for next year, so we wanted to get Seb in the car as early as we could. Good to get this done, announce it, looking forward to the end of this year and 2021.

“I guess I’ll throw it to France.”

Bourdais participated via ZOOM from his hometown in France, where he will compete in this weekend’s rescheduled-from-June 24 Hours of Le Mans.

“Quite the day, quite the announcement,” Bourdais said. “Super-happy and excited to be onboard for the journey. I couldn’t be more excited to get things going and get back in the No. 14. This time it will be racing time. So, yeah, I think we got quite a bit of work, but really happy we could announce that and make it happen and get to work.

“Obviously we knew the more we could run, the more we could prove of where the team was at. Getting experience in ’20, that was kind of critical. When the opportunity was denied, it didn’t really stop the plans to try and pursue that avenue. Of course I was disappointed not to be able to race, but I was looking more at the big picture, the long game. Kind of all worked out.”

Kellett originally was scheduled to drive the No. 14 in the Harvest Grand Prix but will move to the No. 41 K-Line Insulators Chevrolet, the number under which he made his debut in this year’s rescheduled Indianapolis 500 in August. The team also will field the No. 4 Tresiba Chevrolet for Charlie Kimball, who is in his first full season with the organization based in Waller, Texas.

Bourdais, 41, brings a wealth of experience to the team via his Champ Car driving titles in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 with Newman-Haas Racing. His résumé includes 37 victories and 34 pole positions. Bourdais most recently drove Honda-powered Indy cars for Dale Coyne Racing from 2017-19.

“Well, any time you look at Sebastien’s résumé, it’s pretty impressive,” said Larry Foyt, A.J.’s son. “What I’ve been impressed by is what he did even going to smaller teams. I think he brought a lot to those teams and helped them. I think we saw that even in testing, that he’s very good at knowing what he wants out of the race car. His feedback was exceptional. The engineers were really impressed. It just seemed to click really well.

“I know he’s trying to temper expectations for the Indy GP. I get it. It’s tough. This is the most competitive I’ve seen INDYCAR in the time that I’ve been around for sure. To say, ‘I’m just going to show up after I haven’t been in a car since February, going to go out there and do amazing things’ is a tall order. We’re not looking at that.

“We wanted to build on next year to give us the best chance to go into 2021 being competitive. I have no doubt he can get the job done. I think our pit stops and our engineering is in a good place, but we’ll continue to work on it to make it better. Whoever his teammate is going to be, I think will benefit from Sebastien being there.”

Larry Foyt said a decision on a fulltime driver for the No. 4 Chevy in 2021 remains in-flux. “We’ll certainly be two cars,” Foyt said. “If the right opportunity came to grow to three, we would do it the right way, we would potentially look at that. We’re talking to all our current guys right now. It’s a bit open at the time. We’re just going to see where that shakes out. This was the first piece that we wanted to get in place, and now we’ll start working on the others.”

Kanaan, the 2004 series champion with Andretti Green Racing, began the 2020 season as a farewell tour. The native Brazilian _ still exceptionally fit at age 45 _ since has expressed interest in returning in 2021.

“I talk to T.K. all the time,” Larry Foyt said. “We’re definitely open to continue to work with him. We have a great relationship. I know his plans got thrown kind of askew with all this. He’s such a fan favorite. T.K., he doesn’t want to end his career with no fans (in the stands), for sure. He’s still very motivated. Definitely could see what happens there. Don’t know what other options he has. I’m sure he’s looking at things all around.

“But, yeah, we have a great relationship with T.K. Love working with him. We’ll be working on that as well.”

Larry Foyt reiterated he and A.J. _ first four-time winner of the Indy 500 and the series’ all-time leader in victories with 67 _ believe in the INDYCAR formula.

“Look, everyone knows we’re one of the smaller teams in the paddock,” Larry Foyt said. “Our goal is to grow. This is a big piece of that, a big part of that, to start that. But as well, we know Sebastien can get the job done. This is the toughest INDYCAR field I think I’ve seen. Sometimes you can throw a blanket over the whole field. You see one guy on one doubleheader is up-front, and he struggles the next day because other guys figure something out.

“It’s so tough and so tight. We just have to work together, have to work smart. I think by doing that we’re going to be successful. I’m pretty sure of that.”

Bourdais said the switch from Honda to Chevrolet power, along with addition of the Aeroscreen, will present him with a new set of issues to sort out.

“This year’s car felt heavier (in testing), more inertia and the (Firestone) tires felt different but the setups were very different as well from what I was used to,” Bourdais said. “I think there were many differences from the last three or four seasons. I think you go into the relationship with a clean slate, no preconceived ideas, try to fit in and bring your experience to the table, but also trying to learn as much as you can from what’s there.

“I mean, there’s no denying that showing up into a top team with a car that’s all sorted out and ready to win the championship is nice. The challenge game, let’s face it, was my opportunity to give it another go.

“Obviously, I had no plans on stopping INDYCAR at the end of 2019. When the opportunity came talking to Larry in November and trying to put something together for early 2020, it was always with the mindset to hopefully build something and get another shot at a fulltime ride in 2021. This coming to fruition is obviously a huge deal. I couldn’t be happier to give it another go. Hopefully with all the support that we’re going to receive and the engineering team, we can get that No. 14 car back to where it belongs towards the front.”

A.J. Foyt Jr., 85, has limited his travel to races during the pandemic but plans to attend the Harvest Grand Prix weekend at IMS. Race 1 of the Harvest GP doubleheader will be televised on Friday, Oct. 2, at 3:30 p.m. (EDT) on the USA Network. Race 2 will be broadcast Saturday, Oct. 3, on NBC at 2:30 p.m. (EDT).

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NTT IndyCar Series point standings _ 1, Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing, 456; 2, Josef Newgarden, Team Penske, 384; 3, Pato O’Ward, Arrow McLaren SP, 338; 4, Colton Herta, Andretti Harding Steinbrenner Autosport, 327; 5, Will Power, Team Penske, 306; 6, Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, 301; 7, Takuma Sato, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, 300; 8, Simon Pagenaud, Team Penske, 277; 9, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Andretti Autosport, 260; 10, Santino Ferrucci, Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan, 249.

UPDATED 2020 NTT INDYCAR SERIES SCHEDULE/RACE WINNER

Saturday, June 6 _ Texas Motor Speedway, Fort Worth (Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing)

Saturday, July 4 _ Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road-Course 1 (Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing)

Saturday, July 11 _ Road America Race 1, Elkhart Lake, Wis. (Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing)

Sunday, July 12 _ Road America Race 2, Elkhart Lake, Wis. (Felix Rosenqvist, Chip Ganassi Racing)

Friday, July 17 _Iowa Speedway Race 1, Newton (Simon Pagenaud, Team Penske)

Saturday, July 18 _ Iowa Speedway Race 2, Newton (Josef Newgarden, Team Penske)

Sunday, Aug. 23 _ Indianapolis 500-Mile Race (Takuma Sato, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing)

Saturday, Aug. 29 _ World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway Race 1, Madison, Ill. (Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing)

Sunday, Aug. 30 _ World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway Race 2, Madison, Ill. (Josef Newgarden, Team Penske)

Saturday, Sept. 12 _ Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course Race 1, Lexington, Ohio (Will Power, Team Penske)

Sunday, Sept. 13 _ Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course Race 2, Lexington, Ohio (Colton Herta, Andretti Harding Steinbrenner Autosport)

Friday, Oct. 2 _ Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road-Course Race 1

Saturday, Oct. 3 _ Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road-Course Race 2

Sunday, Oct. 25 _ Streets of St. Petersburg, Fla.

 

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, September 16 2020
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