DETROIT – A trying weekend at the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear continued a trying season of transition for AJ Foyt Racing.
Yet, after completing one of its best collective 2017 showings in the second race of the Verizon IndyCar Series weekend doubleheader, the team looks to coax its building wave of momentum into the summer.
Carlos Munoz recovered from starting last to finish 11th in the No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolet, while Conor Daly finished a season-best 12th in the No. 4 ABC Supply Chevrolet. While the results may have been mid-pack in the 22-car field, it gave the Houston-based team renewed optimism heading to the Lone Star State for this week’s race at Texas Motor Speedway and even stronger results throughout the second half of the season.
The season has been an uphill battle for Foyt Racing, which switched to Chevrolet engines and aero kits in the offseason and brought on Munoz and Daly to replace drivers Takuma Sato and Jack Hawksworth. Acclimating to new drivers and equipment is challenging enough, but amid promising pace on track, luck has been anything but kind to the Foyt team in 2017.
Munoz’s first race of the season ended after three corners when he was collected in an incident where he had nowhere to go. The 25-year-old Colombian has managed three top-10 finishes this season – including a quiet 10th-place performance in the Indianapolis 500 – but a crash in qualifying before Sunday’s race at Belle Isle forced the team into scramble mode to repair the car and change the engine in time for the 70-lap finale.
“The crew did a great job to get the car repaired and race-ready,” said team president Larry Foyt. “It was a full team effort. Both ABC Supply crews were helping to get that car done in time.
“We changed engines, we rebuilt half of the car, so thank you to them doing it in two hours’ time before the race. And, you know, (to go) from 22nd to finish 11th wasn’t bad. … Carlos did a good job to bounce back and Conor was in the top 10 for most of the day. It was a shame what happened right at the end that he couldn’t get the top 10.”
Daly finished last in Saturday's weekend opener with a mechanical issue at Belle Isle Park. The 25-year-old from Indiana has struggled in qualifying most of the season, but earned a starting spot of 10th for Sunday’s race on the 2.35-mile temporary street course. He was running ninth on a final restart with two laps to go, but saw his first top-10 finish of the season wiped away by contact with another car.
“Just our luck the yellow comes at the end. We didn’t need that,” Daly said of the caution that came on Lap 66. “I just couldn’t hold my position (on the restart). It was a shame for it to end like it did. This team deserved to be in the top 10.”
Munoz is already looking ahead to this week’s Rainguard Water Sealers 600 at Texas Motor Speedway, where he sat on pole last year for Andretti Autosport.
“We have (three) top-10s,” he said. “We just need to have some good results; some podiums would be very nice. We are getting better, I think.
“There’s more than half of the season to go, so we still have a long way to go. Hopefully we’ll have some good results by the end of this year.”
The Rainguard Water Sealers 600 is the ninth of 17 races on the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule. A single 75-minute practice session begins at 11 a.m. ET Friday and streams live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com. Qualifying begins at 3:15 p.m. Friday, with NBCSN providing coverage beginning at 3:30 p.m.
The race airs live at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.