By Christopher DeHarde, IndyCar & Road to Indy Writer
SPEEDWAY, Indiana — A.J. Foyt Racing today announced that Tony Kanaan will pilot the No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolet in the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season.
Kanaan leaves Chip Ganassi Racing after four seasons to join the Foyt team after scoring one win and 20 top five finishes. Kanaan will be bringing his engineer Eric Cowdin to the team with which he won the 2013 Indianapolis 500.
Team president Larry Foyt said that the deal came about thanks to where both he and Kanaan’s aims met.
“When we spoke and I said ‘Look, here’s where I want to go with this race team’ and he said ‘Well here’s what I want to do, you know I know I don’t have a ton of years left but this is what I want to with the end of my career,’ and it was like hey, we really need to speak seriously about this and it really came together rather quickly,” said Foyt. “Obviously I think Eric Cowdin for Tony is a big piece of the puzzle and is comfortable with him.
“The first time I sat down with Eric we really just got on really well and again, same goals, he seems like a really practical engineer but knows what he wants to do with the engineering department on the team so it really was good fits all around.”
The No. 14 car will be based in Speedway, Indiana while the 4 car will be based in Houston, a reversal of what was the operation a year ago.
“We have some really talented especially younger engineers that are going to go far and we’ve got some great mechanics on both crews and that’s why we keep the Texas shop going,” Foyt said. “We’ve got some great people down there and we have a good crew up here. We could definitely expand a little bit, we could add a couple of people if the right people came along so we’ll just see where that ends up.”
Kanaan left a four car operation to join a two car team and wanted to embrace a challenge of helping to build a smaller team.
“I think we have a lot to build and I can build something around me and […] when you’re in an organization like I was, you have to share with four guys and you’re always compromising here and there” said Kanaan. “When you come to a place like this you can do something different so to me I think it’s a big challenge for both of us, it’s no secret that we both struggled this year, them as a team and me as a driver so (we have) a lot of work to do but that’s why I accepted the challenge.
“I think things like that after being around for so many years, those are the things that I’d like to be doing and sometimes people have different opinions about that, they’ll say ‘Oh you got to the level that you are, why are you going to accept a challenge like this,’ and the why is because that’s what drives me, that’s what I want to do and who I want to drive for, it’s a name that has been a legend of the Speedway, of IndyCar and it will be forever and I believe in the program and I wanted to drive for him.”
There is a thing as too much information and sometimes scaling down allows for a much more concentrated program.
“When I was at KV we won the 500, it was a two car team but very small, not a big budget,” Kanaan said. “We didn’t have a budget to do half of the stuff that we did when I joined Ganassi, but we’re not going to dominate the series, but if you have the right people in place, the best recent example I can give you is (Sebastien) Bourdais with Coyne. I know exactly who he has there and the people that he brought there because they were half of the people that were with me at KV. So it can be done, especially in IndyCar.”
Team owner A.J. Foyt was glad he was able to get Cowdin to join the team with Kanaan.
“We had a chance to get Tony and his engineer, which I don’t care who the driver or engineer is, it takes a year or two to get them acquainted,” Foyt said. “So that was a big thing, getting both of them together because the engineer knows his type of driver and what he wants and it just makes a lot better package than getting one at a time and I was glad that my son Larry could put the whole deal together. We’ve been friends for quite a few years, Tony and I, and I’m glad it worked out.”
Kanaan’s multi-year contract is not an exclusive contract so Kanaan is free to participate in other forms of racing provided they don’t interfere with the IndyCar commitments.