Let's Go Racing
The unification of the two top-level open wheel racing series has been talked about ever since the split took place in 1996. I always felt that Tony George held the ace because of the Indianapolis 500 but it was a long, tough battle. Hard lessons were learned on both sides but there were some positives too.
To name a few: driver autograph sessions at every race, seeing the likes of Steve Kinser, Tony Stewart, Sam Hornish and Davey Hamilton wheel an Indy car, IndyCar fan zones, racing at places like Texas and Richmond, 210 mph finishes separated by the blink of an eye. While I am as happy as anyone that there is now one series, there were some memorable moments that wouldn't have happened without the split. And I'm sure there were other memorable moments that could have happened if there wasn't a split.
With the unification in place, there may be more questions than answers, but one question we won't have to answer anymore is, "What's the difference between the two?"
We're all hoping the merger means more fans and more sponsors. And even if we don't see a turnaround immediately (this economy is tough on everyone), we will see it in the long run. And that's why I'm hopeful.
We have our work cut out for us at A.J. Foyt Racing. I don't think the new teams will take that long to adapt, which will probably become pretty evident by our second race, the street race in St. Petersburg.
We have done more testing on track and off and we have more planned. The Open Test in Homestead could have gone better for us but we did learn things that will help us when we return for the race. The Open Test in Sebring went a lot better. We finished up 7th overall (out of a total of 17 cars) and we were just 0.09 seconds out of fourth overall. Darren Manning's strength is on the road courses and that's where the driver can make a big difference.
Over the winter everyone stayed busy. Darren started a workout program and our ABC Supply team has been practicing their pit stops on a daily basis since they returned from the Christmas break. I think the racing, and the finishes, will be closer than ever and all of the little stuff will make a difference. Part of our work over the winter was to study where we lost time on the track and to come up with new strategies and different plans of action. Starting with the Miami race, we may have problems but we won't have the same problems we had last year.
Our sponsors are back on board for another season. Rock star Sammy Hagar and his Cabo Wabo Tequila will be back with us for a third straight year. People always seem to respond well to that press release. I think there are some fans out there who are as passionate about Sammy as they are about racing. Hopefully the Hagar fans will become IndyCar fans and the IndyCar fans will become Hagar fans if they aren't already.
ABC Supply is back as our primary sponsor. While we look forward to this season, we will be missing a good friend in our pits this year — Ken Hendricks, who founded ABC Supply in 1982. Ken died as a result of injuries he sustained in a fall at a construction site in December. It was shocking news that I still find hard to believe. He would call me to get the inside scoop on what was going on in our team. And even when I had tough news — like, we screwed up — he was still very supportive. Ken had a great impact on everyone around him and his death is a loss to us all.
Our team is dedicating this season to his memory. And if we should be fortunate to visit victory lane this year, I feel that he will be with us in spirit.
For the IndyCar Series, this season brings a message of hope and a promise that open wheel racing will get better for the fans, the sponsors and the participants.
Let's go racing!