We’ve Heard it All Before

geothumbnail
There are several annual rites of spring we are used to – March Madness, Spring Training Baseball games, Sebring, pollen and getting teased about AJ Foyt’s team being on the rise.

Like clockwork, we are being told again how AJ Foyt Enterprises is ready to put their days of being a back-marker behind them and actually challenge for race wins. We heard it again yesterday as the team announced their primary sponsor for the season for the No. 14 car of Sébastien Bourdais. Marketing conglomerate ROKiT will be very predominantly displayed on the car carrying the same number the fiery Texan made famous in two of his four Indianapolis 500 wins.

Normally, I would say that the brand would adorn the sidepods; but in this case it will be plastered on the sidepods, the tub and every other part of the car. Some seem to love it, but I am reserving judgment at this time.

Foyt

If ROKiT sounds familiar to you, they were previously involved with Williams in Formula One for the last couple of seasons. ROKiT co-founder Jonathan Kendrick gushed on Tuesday about how far the team has come in the offseason and how fast Bourdais has been in pre-season testing. Larry Foyt was a little more subdued in his assessment of the strides the team has made. As I went back and read the transcripts of the press conference, I couldn’t help but think to myself that we’ve heard this all before.

My fading memory went back to 2015, when the team expanded to two fulltime cars. Takuma Sato, who had won for the team a couple of years earlier at Long Beach, was going to be joined by promising second-year driver Jack Hawksworth. This was touted as the shot-in-the-arm the team needed to finally get it to the level of the larger teams. Big things were expected, but their two years together ended up being a disaster. Sato finished fourteenth and seventeenth in 2015-16, while Hawksworth ended up seventeenth and twentieth. Sato went on to win the Indianapolis 500 twice, while Hawksworth has never climbed into an IndyCar since then.

For 2017, Foyt brought in Conor Daly and Carlos Muñoz – a pairing that I really thought had potential. Daly appeared to be an up and coming driver that needed a break, while Muñoz had proven to be very fast and had come close to winning the Indianapolis 500 a couple of times while at Andretti Autosport. Things were just as bad with Daly finished the season eighteenth in points, with Muñoz sixteenth. Both were gone after one season, and neither driver has had a fulltime ride since then.

Matheus Leist and Tony Kanaan both struggled for two seasons before longtime sponsor ABC Supply announced they were gone at the end of 2019. The team that had not required drivers to bring major sponsorship was suddenly forced to get creative. Three drivers were in and out of the proud No. 14, while Charlie Kimball drove the No. 4 car for the season. It was hard to watch. Going into the final race of the season, the best the team could muster was Tony Kanaan earning a ninth-place finish at Gateway. But the season finale at St. Petersburg gave the team momentum going into the offseason. Kimball got an eighth-place finish, while Bourdais finished fourth.

This momentum has brought new optimism to the team with arguably the most famous name in racing. Not only is there momentum, there is also stability. Dalton Kellett brings sponsorship from K-Line, which may or may not be his family’s company, but the biggest boost was when Bourdais was announced full-time in the No. 14. Sponsorship was still a question, but there was no question that his presence gave the team immediate credibility on the road and street courses that make up the vast majority of the IndyCar schedule.

Along with Bourdais, the engineering staff has been beefed up. Now that ROKiT is on board with the team, they have the resources to develop what they’ve got.

The cynic in me is very skeptical with all of the optimism surrounding the Foyt team. We’ve heard it all before. But the optimist in me, which admittedly is buried very deep, says that they have reason to be optimistic. I was optimistic when Tony Kanaan joined the team in 2018, but I’m not sure Scott Dixon could have gotten much out of that car in those days. I feel like this time, they might be on to something.

Larry Foyt has been working very hard to get this team out of the doldrums. That work may be finally paying off. The stars may actually be aligning this time, with the staff, the money and the driver all coming together. I hope so for a lot of reasons. Larry Foyt is a good guy, who is probably underrated by most fans. He has toiled in the shadow of his famous father (grandfather), but seems comfortable working in the background. After losing out on most of last season, I would like to see Bourdais have a strong season as he closes in on the finish of a long career. Lastly, it would do my heart good to see the No. 14 in the upper portion of the scoring pylon.

Count me as jumping on board the Foyt pre-season bandwagon – again. I never thought I would be buying what they were selling again, but here I am – swallowing it hook, line and sinker. Hopefully, Lucy doesn’t pull the football away from Charlie Brown again this season and this rite of spring will go away.

George Phillips

5 Responses to “We’ve Heard it All Before”

  1. Oliver W Says:

    Time after time I hear respected INDYCAR commentators mention that a major problem with Foyt Racing is having two shops. One in Waller, Texas the other in Indianapolis. Seems moving everything to Indy would potentially improve things but i guess if Larry or AJ or loyal staff are living in Texas they don’t wish to move. Pity.

    • billytheskink Says:

      I’d be more inclined to agree with that assessment had Foyt’s team not struggled just as much as now before they had two shops. That said, it is surely easier to hire experienced crew in Indy, if Foyt is looking to add or replace crew members.

  2. Normally I wouldn’t be real excited about this but I think Bourdais may have a little magic left. I hope they win the 500! Not for A.J. But for Sebastian!! I’ll be pulling for number 14 this year!!!

  3. billytheskink Says:

    A good bar for Bourdais to reach or surpass at Foyt would be Sato’s accomplishments with the team. A win, some poles, some podiums, some fast six appearances, and a top 15 in the championship. I think Bourdais is capable of achieving 3 of those 5 things immediately, this season.

  4. James T Suel Says:

    I belive the Foyt team may well start to move toward the front this year. I know a lot of us have thought that in past years, but this year I will say they improve noticeabley.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: