The year of transition for AJ Foyt Racing hasn’t panned out as hoped thus far. But following a test Thursday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, drivers Conor Daly and Carlos Munoz are pointing to brighter days ahead in the final five races of the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season.
Both drivers joined the team owned by Indy car legend A.J. Foyt this year. Through the first 12 races, Munoz has three top-10 finishes (with a best of seventh at Long Beach) in the No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolet and sits 17th in points. Daly, in the No. 4 ABC Supply Chevy, has but one top-10 (seventh at Texas) and is 19th in the standings.
With three of the remaining five races taking place on permanent road courses, Thursday’s test at Mid-Ohio provided the perfect opportunity to gain valuable track time and data to spark a resurgence in the continuing development process with drivers new to the team this year and a change to Chevrolet power and aero kits for 2017.
“We get so few test days during the season,” Daly said, “that it’s vitally important for us to kind of take advantage of this track because we have more road courses than anything the rest of this season – Mid-Ohio, Watkins Glen, Sonoma – some important tracks that we thought that this track would be useful for us to test at.”
Daly and Munoz have each improved their finishes in the three road-course races this season to date, yet the best to show for it was Munoz placing 11th at Road America last month. The team hasn’t tested on a road course since Barber Motorsports Park in March, so Munoz believes there will be immediate benefits when he and Daly return to Mid-Ohio for the beginning of Honda Indy 200 race weekend on July 28.
“This was our first test of the year since almost the beginning of the season on a road course,” the Colombian said. “I think that’s what we were missing. We’d finish a (race) weekend and we said, ‘Oh man, we should have started the car (set up) like this this weekend.’
“Hopefully here (after testing), we can show that we can improve in the practice and then when we show up for the race, we can show that we are a little bit more competitive. It’s good for Conor and I to find some stuff and arrive to the race with a little better package from what we’re used to.”
It’s not like Munoz and Daly haven’t been competitive at Mid-Ohio in the past – even though it was with other teams. Munoz finished third last year and fourth in his rookie season of 2014, both with Andretti Autosport. Daly’s only race on the 2.258-mile permanent circuit came last year, when he led 22 laps before making a late stop for fuel and finishing sixth for Dale Coyne Racing.
“Yeah, I love this track,” Munoz said. “I’ve been really quick here. This track is tough, hard for everyone at the same time. I think if you talk to any driver, they all like this track.”
Both 25-year-old drivers believe the test could establish the framework necessary for a strong finish to the 2017 season and a springboard to a better 2018. Though the development continues longer than they had thought, they remain committed to the process.
“Everything can change in one race,” Daly said. “All of a sudden, you can go from a zero to a hero if you win a race or get a couple good races in a row. For us, we know what we’ve been dealing with. Not a lot of people on the outside really do unless you’ve been close to us. We’re continuing on schedule for our work and hopefully we can turn our year around at Mid-Ohio.”
Munoz concurred with his American teammate.
“I think as a team we want to finish in the high level of the season, considering how tough the season has been for us,” Munoz said. “Starting from here, hopefully our luck turns around a little bit and we can start showing some results.”
Verizon IndyCar Series track activity for the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio begins with a pair of practices on July 28, at 10 a.m. and 2:15 p.m. ET, and a third practice set for 9:55 a.m. July 29. All practice sessions will stream live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com.
Qualifying, consisting of three knockout rounds concluding with the Firestone Fast Six, airs live at 2 p.m. July 29 on NBCSN. Live race coverage starts at 3 p.m. July 30 on CNBC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network, with NBCSN airing an encore telecast at 7 p.m.
Ticket information for the race weekend is available at midohio.com.
For more information about Team Chevy, visit https://www.facebook.com/TeamChevy/.