AJ Foyt Racing team director Larry Foyt is preparing for his second busiest event of the year as the IndyCar Series gets ready to hold a double-header close to the team's base in Waller, Texas.
With friends, relatives and even casual acquaintances asking for passes to the Shell & Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston, Foyt has been inundated with requests, and amid his efforts to get the No. 14 ABC Supply Honda program ready to race in front of the home crowd, he's also been working on a deal to keep Japanese driver Takuma Sato in the fold for 2014.
“Other than Indy, this is the most hectic event we've had all year with it being right in our backyard,” Foyt told RACER. “We're also trying to get some business done for next year. In that regard, we have not re-signed with Takuma yet, but we're working on it. We're close, but it's not done yet.”
With a victory at Long Beach and a near-win in Brazil, the 36-year-old ex-Formula 1 driver energized the Foyt program prior to the Indy 500, but the team's fortunes have suffered since leaving the Speedway. Engine problems, errors and a knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time has dogged the No. 14 entry since Iowa, leading to seven consecutive finishes of 20th or worse. The most negative impact on the team came at Pocono in early July when Sato clobbered the back of Ryan Hunter-Reay's DHL Chevy while entering pit lane.
Sato was placed on probation for five races by the series, which concluded after Baltimore, and it appeared to influence his driving performances during that period. But with a month to recharge his batteries (and no sanctions hanging over him), he has a prime opportunity to get the Foyt team back on track at Houston.
Despite the harsh midseason stretch, Foyt is confident Sato, his engineer Don Halliday, and the rest of the team can make more progress by continuing for a second season together.
“I think almost every place we've been to, we've been very competitive, even if we haven't always had the results to show for it,” Foyt added. “We've had some issues with reliability and made a few mistakes, but we started the year really strong, won a race, almost won another one and the chemistry has been good. The speed has been there, he's been really great with our sponsors and we feel that's something to continue building on.”