AJ Foyt embarrassed by team's performance Sunday UPDATE Here is Paul Tracy's take on things....
06/01/09 Embarrassing. That is the only word (well the only word fit for print) to describe my team’s performance in the ABC Supply/AJ Foyt 225 Indy car race at the Milwaukee Mile this weekend. Making things worse is that the race is named in honor of me and sponsored by our team sponsor who brought in over 600 guests to cheer us on.
We hired Paul Tracy to fill in for our driver Vitor Meira who was hurt at Indy. Paul has won four times at Milwaukee so he knows how to get around that race track, a flat one mile oval that can be very tricky. We knew it was a tough position for any driver to step into so we hired the best guy available. But not even the best driver can get around a track when the car is handling as bad as our car was this past weekend.
|Paul Tracy talks to Chief Engineer Adam Schaechter (L) and AJ Foyt (R)|
With the short amount of track time you get (two hours in our case) the car better be in the ballpark set-up wise. Our car wasn’t and we fuddled around with it for two practice sessions. For qualifying we went in a totally different direction. Hey, I figured we couldn’t get any worse and we might find something. We did because Paul ran his four quickest laps in qualifying with a set-up he hadn’t tried until that qualifying run.
We made a few more changes to the car for the race but you no longer get a race warm-up after qualifying so we really didn’t know how it would handle on long runs. When he went from 16th to 12th on the start, I thought it might turn out to be a happy ending for our ABC Supply team after all.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
We found out pretty quick the No. 14 didn’t handle worth a damn after a few laps. Paul’s lap speeds dropped as quick as he dropped from 12th to last. He radioed in that it was too loose which meant that the back end wiggled so much that he felt like it was going to snap around on him any second. He had to tiptoe it into and around the turns.
|Paul Tracy hangs onto the No. 14|
I told him to hang on and we’d fix it on the first stop. Of course you never get a yellow when you need one and the way things were going, I was afraid we were going to be the first yellow. But Paul did a great job hanging on. He worked his butt off to do it.
We were going to take three turns of front wing out so that the front end wouldn’t stick so much and help balance out the car. We finally got the yellow when rookie Mike Conway brushed the wall in turn four on lap 56. Just about when you think things can’t get worse, our left front tire changer went the wrong way with the front wing adjustment; instead of three turns out, he put three turns in.
Lucky for us, my grandson Anthony (who was timing the pit stop) and my team manager Craig noticed the screw-up and we called Paul back into the pits and corrected the mistake before the race went green. If they hadn’t, he would have been the next yellow.
The car was better but it was still too loose so on the next stop which came on lap 126, we took out two more turns of front wing and finally Paul said the car was better. That is a huge adjustment to make so it shows just how far off the car was in the beginning. He ran his quickest lap after that stint but by then he was four laps down to the leader so he was focusing on staying out of the way. It’s a tough pill to swallow for a guy who is used to being the guy that others move over for.
He kept asking how many laps to go and he didn’t like what he heard. He was as ready as I was for this race to be over.
I give him a lot of credit though; he stuck it out and brought it home in one piece. It’s the first race we finished this year where we didn’t get taken out by someone but it was the worst race of the year for us. This may be tough to understand, especially considering how expensive these cars are, but I’d rather crash going to the front than watch my car run around like we did at Milwaukee. That was torture.
Don’t get me wrong, Paul Tracy did a helluva job keeping it off the fence. I’m just really disappointed for him and our sponsor ABC Supply that we didn’t give him the car he deserved. It’s my team and I take full blame.
This week we head to Texas Motor Speedway - my home track. We will be doing some things differently because I won’t be embarrassed like that again. The Bombardier Learjet 550 will be televised on Versus this Saturday night starting at 9pm Eastern time."