There is little time to waste at an NTT INDYCAR SERIES event, even at Indianapolis Motor Speedway when the days leading up to the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge are double-digit in nature.
That speaks to what has AJ Foyt Racing and its team members excited about their 2021 plans. This group returns a familiar group, something team president Larry Foyt has been striving for in recent years.
“One of our issues has just been … too many changes,” Foyt said in last Thursday’s announcement that Charlie Kimball will return to the team for the two May races at IMS. “We haven’t had consistency in drivers. We haven’t had consistency in engineering. It’s just the way things have played out.”
Three drivers return from last season: In addition to Kimball, Sebastien Bourdais and Dalton Kellett are back for the full season. Foyt also returns its most of its key decision-makers, led by vice president of operations Scott Harner and technical director Mike Colliver.
Kimball was the final piece, announced Thursday to drive the No. 11 Tresiba Chevrolet at the Speedway.
“We really feel like this group we have now is pulling in the same direction,” Larry Foyt said. “It probably has been a long time since we felt that way, (and) there are a lot of positive vibes within the team.”
Kimball drove in all 14 races for Foyt last season, and his pairing with Bourdais late in the year produced a pair of top-eight finishes in the season-ending Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Bourdais finished fourth, Kimball eighth.
Last year’s reshuffling of the INDYCAR schedule left Bourdais with only three races – all with the Foyt team – and Kellett made eight starts.
The combination of Bourdais and Kimball give the Foyt team a load of cockpit experience, and each has had shining moments in the “500.” Bourdais was often the fastest car at the Speedway in recent years with Dale Coyne Racing, and Kimball finished third in the 2015 race for Chip Ganassi Racing. Both are race winners in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES.
Kimball has had several strong runs at Indy, leading 18 laps as part of a pair of top-five finishes (2015 and ’16), plus two other top-10s (eighth in 2012 and ninth in ’13).
“We know he runs great at the Speedway,” Larry Foyt said.
Kimball also will compete in the GMR Grand Prix on the IMS road course on Saturday, May 15. He finished fifth in three consecutive years in the event (2014-16).
Bourdais’ oval record at IMS doesn’t reflect his speed. He was a pole contender in 2017 before an accident in Turn 2 eliminated him from the event. He made the Fast Nine Shootout in 2018 and started fifth, part of his string of three top-10 starts in four attempts.
Kimball will aim for his 11th start in the “500,” Bourdais his ninth. Kellett was a rookie last year.
“I’m really excited to be rolling into Indianapolis with three guys we know,” Larry Foyt said. “I feel like that gives you kind of a bit of a head start because even as much practice as we have there, it tends to go pretty quickly.”
The NTT INDYCAR SERIES season opens Sunday, April 18 with the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park. The 105th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge is Sunday, May 30.