Barber Motorsports Park
By A.J. Foyt
Coming back. It’s what makes the difference between success and failure. Whether you’re coming back from health problems (I’ve had a little experience with that over the years) or from ‘incidents’ at the race track, how quickly you recover, and get back at it, is critical.
I’ve had a lot of comebacks in my career—on and off the track—so I’ve had a lot of practice with them. I thought Vitor Meira and our ABC Supply team did a great job coming back from several problems we had at the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park this weekend.
Yep, my first race of the year had a little bit of everything going on. It was good to be back at the track and a lot of people came up to me and told me they were glad I was back which made me feel good.
We had some problems in practice because the track changed enough from when we tested the ABC Supply car back in March; now it just wasn’t getting around like we’d hoped.
We made some changes to the car before qualifying and they helped but not enough—Vitor qualified 19th! We made some more aggressive changes that afternoon and they made the difference because Vitor really liked the car in the warm-up on race morning.
The race started out with a yellow flag for an accident on the first lap. Vitor gained two spots but the really impressive move was by Tony Kanaan who picked up ten! People were griping that he passed before the start-finish line but hey, if race control doesn’t catch you, more power to you. They call that a Texas flyer and I’ve been known to take a few of those in my day.
In the beginning, Vitor found himself following Kanaan who was actually slower because he was on the harder compound tires. When Kanaan pitted on lap 14 to get rid of his black tires, Vitor, who was on the quicker Firestone red-rimmed tires, picked up over a second a lap but he had lost a lot of track position following Kanaan.
Our first stop was under green and the crew turned it around in under eight seconds. In fact the ABC Supply team had quick, consistent stops the entire race—their last one was just a hair over seven seconds. They did a great job all day.
The race was coming together pretty good for us. Vitor had moved up to eighth and it was looking like a second straight top-10 finish. He was doing a great job on the restarts—up until the last one. With just 26 laps to go, Vitor got the bad end of a slide job by his fellow countryman Helio Castroneves. I told my son Larry Foyt who was on the radio with Vitor to warn him about Castroneves because I figured he’d try something. Larry warned Vitor in his calm, cool way. Me? I get a little more excited on the radio.
Vitor tried to guard against it because he knew it was coming which is probably why he was able to keep the car under control when he got pushed into the grass. Six cars went by before he got back on the track. No one said a word…I think we were all so mad, we couldn’t talk. If it had been me driving, I probably would have taken Castroneves out even if I crashed my car doing it.
That’s where coming back from a bad situation can turn it from failure into success. Once Vitor got his tires cleaned off, he got back up to speed. Larry got on the radio and reminded him that he still had 20 laps to left in the race while I sat there thinking I was glad I was on that strong blood pressure medicine.
Vitor turned his quickest lap of the race during that stint on worn out red tires because he pretty much had the track to himself. He came back to finish 12th with a clean car and stayed in the top-10 in points. I thought my whole team did a great job fighting through the tough situations and coming out the better for it.
But there’s a little voice inside me saying ‘Turnabout is fair play.’