By pairing a young driver entering his first full season in INDYCAR with a driver that has achieved historic status as a four-time Champ Car Series champion, AJ Foyt Racing has the ingredients to return to prominence in 2021.
Dalton Kellett returns for a second season with Foyt, only this time he will be in the No. 4 car for every NTT INDYCAR SERIES race.
“I'm really excited to be back, so same team, different number,” Kellett said. “I learned a lot last year, and that was with limited track time, limited testing. So being full time in the No. 4 car is going to be a great opportunity. I can't wait for the season to get started.”
Kellett ran eight of the 14 races on the schedule in 2020. He ran five races as part of a three-driver rotation in the No. 14 Chevrolet and the other three in the No. 41 Chevrolet, including the Indianapolis 500.
With the financial support of K-Line Insulators USA, Kellett gets a chance at a full-season ride and a chance to work alongside teammate Sebastien Bourdais.
“I think having Seb on board is going to be a great asset to the program,” Kellett said. “I'm really looking forward to working with him. We had a great test earlier in the offseason at Barber Motorsports Park in October and seeing how he works with the engineers and how exacting he is with his feedback and what he wants out of the car was pretty eye-opening. I think he's going to be a great asset and looking forward to working with him.”
Once Bourdais was given the full-season ride in the No. 14 for 2021, the second entry on Foyt’s team became a coveted position for aspiring INDYCAR drivers still looking for rides for next season.
AJ Foyt Racing President Larry Foyt saw promise and potential in the former Indy Lights driver from Canada, even if the COVID-19 pandemic limited the amount of time he had on track.
“(Dalton) really rose to the challenge,” Foyt said. “I think he impressed a lot of people and we were happy we were able to get him full-time. We had already started working together and the relationship was there. When we started it was not meant to be a short-term relationship. We are continuing what we started and really looking forward to watching him progress and see how Seb can help his learning curve in INDYCAR.
“It's huge to have a multi-time champion to be able to learn from in this day and age. I think it's a great opportunity for Dalton.”
Before the 2020 season was dramatically revised because of cancellations and postponements caused by COVID, Bourdais was going to compete on a limited street and road course schedule in the spring. Bourdais finally had a chance to race in the final contest of the season at St. Petersburg, Florida and delivered a stellar fourth-place finish.
Having a prior relationship with Bourdais in 2020 has created a working relationship between the two drivers for next season.
“Working with Seb as a rookie, even though last year was tough, I've been pleased with great teammates and having really experienced teammates,” Kellett said. “That really showed, and it really helped me get up to speed at Indy last year, I think having guys like Tony Kanaan and Charlie Kimball there, that was great.
“Coming on with Seb is going to be a big part of the program. What I've seen from him so far, he is very analytical. He is very demanding, more so than me. I think as a rookie it can be kind of tough to come in with the confident and the kind of this is what I want, and it has to be this way; and justifiably because you're a rookie. You don't quite have the pedigree to kind of say those things.
“Seeing what it is that he is exacting about and kind of tailor in my feedback and kind of my expectations as far as what I want out of the car. I think that's going to be the -- at least one of the first things I'm going to learn from Seb.”
Kellett has a degree in engineering physics from Queens University in Canada. That allows the driver to better understand the communication between driver and the engineering staff.
Bourdais also has a very analytical approach to his ride, making this a very cerebral combination for Foyt’s team.
“In looking at data and from a simulator day and from some time testing at Barber, it seems like we have pretty complementary driving styles,” Kellett said. “We can compare apples-to-apples, do the same change on my car and then replicate that on his car. Our feedback seems to be relatively similar. You don't want -- it can be tough when you have one guy that, say, you make a rear spring change and the feedback is different, that can make it difficult for the engineers. It seems like we have kind of similar driving styles, which I think is going to help.”