Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Wednesday Wrap-Up: A.J. Foyt Racing's 2015 Season

The third Verizon IndyCar Series team that will be reviewed is A.J. Foyt Racing. The Houston-based team expanded their operation to two cars in 2015; however, double the cars did not improve the results.

Takuma Sato hit a milestone in 2015
Takuma Sato
The Japanese driver began his sixth IndyCar season coming off consecutive top ten finishes to close out the 2014 season. However, those results didn't really translate to the start of the 2015 IndyCar season. He started fifth at St. Petersburg but faded to 13th. He retired at NOLA and failed to finish in the top fifteen at Long Beach and Barber.

The Grand Prix of Indianapolis was a step in the right direction with a ninth place finish despite starting 22nd. In the Indianapolis 500, Sato took out Sage Karam on a ridiculous move but finished 13th after his car repaired his car and somehow made up laps. Belle Isle was Sato's best weekend. He started fourth in race one but he damaged two front wings and didn't have a third. In the second race he went from 15th to second by stretching his final stint to 30 laps. He finished tenth at Toronto after keeping his nose clean but he would have retirements in three of the next four races and his lone finish in that span was 14th at Milwaukee. At Mid-Ohio, Sato made his 100th IndyCar start but his race ended after 60 laps.

At Pocono, Sato started ninth and was toward the front all race. He was leading with seven to go but fell to sixth. The season finale went from 18th to eighth and for the second consecutive season, Sato ended the season with consecutive top ten finishes.

Takuma Sato's 2015 Statistics
Championship Positions: 14th (323 points)
Wins: 0
Podiums: 1
Top Fives: 1
Top Tens: 5
Laps Led: 46
Poles: 0
Fast Sixes: 2
Fast Twelves: 3
Average Start: 14
Average Finish: 13.75

Jack Hawksworth's first season with Foyt could have been better
Jack Hawksworth
The 2014 IndyCar Rookie of the Year moved over to AJ Foyt Racing's #41 ABC Supply Co. Honda and in his first race with the team, Hawksworth finished eighth at St. Petersburg from 21st on the grid. He would then go on to struggle through the month of May. He was caught up in an accident with James Jakes at NOLA, he didn't have good cars at Long Beach and Barber. At the Grand Prix of Indianapolis, he couldn't overcome being apart of a first turn incident and in the Indianapolis 500 he got caught up in an accident with Sebastián Saavedra and Stefano Coletti.

Like Sato, Hawskworth had his best weekend at Belle Isle. Tire strategy worked in his favor in race one and he went from 14th to seventh. In race two, Hawksworth overcame two spins and nearly having his race ruined by Sage Karam to finish seventh again. He would struggle in the next three races but would finish tenth at Fontana just by surviving the race. At the short tracks of Milwaukee and Iowa, Hawksworth struggled but he would turn it around at Mid-Ohio with an eighth place finish after qualifying 11th.

Pocono was a disaster. A loose wheel nut caused him to lose a tire and cause a caution and then he had an accident with Charlie Kimball, which was the knockout punch for his day. At Sonoma, he had a mechanical failure in qualifying force him to start last and he could never get his race going and settled for 19th.

Jack Hawksworth's 2015 Statistics
Championship Positions: 17th (256 points)
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Top Fives: 0
Top Tens: 5
Laps Led: 16
Poles: 0
Fast Sixes: 0
Fast Twelves: 2
Average Start: 17.785
Average Finish: 15.875

The first year with two cars wasn't a step in the right direction for A.J. Foyt Racing. Takuma Sato is never going to break his inconsistent ways. Jack Hawksworth's sophomore season wasn't a smash and he was beat by his former team, Bryan Herta Autosport, but Hawksworth has shown potential. The one thing holding the young Brit back has been his lack of a good teammate to help develop him. Learning from Sato is a mistake for any young driver. Foyt showed the cars had pace in qualifying as Sato made the Fast Six twice, a barrier that was difficult for Honda to break all season.

While Hawksworth would benefit from a veteran teammate such as Oriol Servià or Ryan Briscoe, perhaps more young blood could be good for the team. Spencer Pigot is coming off the Indy Lights championship and has $1 million in scholarship money in his back pocket. Max Chilton finished fifth in Indy Lights with four podiums in five races, including an emotional victory at Iowa the day after the passing of Jules Bianchi and has Formula One experience, just like Sato, except Chilton was known for bringing the car home in one piece. Of course, Foyt could always go big game hunting and try to bring Clint Bowyer to IndyCar.