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(Photo: Zach Catanzareti)

2017 INDYCAR Team Review: AJ Foyt Racing

For the second consecutive year, AJ Foyt Racing went separate ways with both of its drivers during the offseason.

The team has signed former champion Tony Kanaan and IndyCar Series rookie Matheus Leist for 2018, leaving Conor Daly and Carlos Munoz to look for opportunities elsewhere.

Munoz and Daly finished the season 16th and 18th in the standings, respectively. It was a minor improvement from the results Takuma Sato and Jack Hawksworth had in 2016 when they finished 17th and 20th in the championship.

Along with the driver changes that occurred prior to this season, the organization switched from Honda to Chevrolet. Before the 2017 campaign, team owner AJ Foyt, who raced Chevrolet-powered cars throughout his career, said, “I’m glad to be back with Chevy. I’ve had a lot of success with them in the past, and I’m looking forward to more success in the future.”

However, the manufacturer change didn’t improve the team’s performance significantly. Daly and Munoz both failed to score a podium during the year. The best finish either driver had was Daly’s fifth-place result, which came at Gateway Motorsports Park in late August.

All statistics aside, Foyt Racing isn’t one of IndyCar’s juggernauts. The Texas-based team doesn’t have the resources that frontrunning organizations such as Team Penske or Chip Ganassi Racing do, so its goal is simply trying to improve its program with each passing season.

Foyt Racing did have a bit more speed late in the year. Both drivers posted three top 10s in the final five races, and Munoz recorded its highest starting position of eighth at Gateway.

It just wasn’t enough for the team to want to retain either wheelman, so it decided to go with an accomplished veteran and a highly touted newcomer instead. Regardless of who’s in the driver’s seat, Foyt Racing must use its late-season momentum and find a way to sustain it for 2018. It won’t put them in winning contention on a weekly basis yet, but it’s a step in the right direction.

With a former series titlist and Indy 500 champion in Kanaan and a three-time winner of the 2017 Indy Lights season coming aboard, there’s reason for Foyt to be optimistic about its future.

Kanaan will be 43 years old when the upcoming season starts and the end of his open-wheel career is getting nearer. He hasn’t won an IndyCar race since the 2014 finale at Auto Club Speedway, and he doesn’t want that to be his last. His goal is to help Super Tex’s team grow, so that’s why the hiring of this seasoned veteran may prove to be beneficial.

Foyt and Kanaan have a common goal: put the team in a position where it could be a contender for the Astor Cup within the next few years. Kanaan could also share his racing wisdom and be a mentor for the 19-year-old Leist.

“We won’t be fighting for a championship right out of the gate,” Kanaan said in an IndyStar story. “We have to build, and that’s going to take time. But that’s why this is a multi-year deal. There are going to be some frustrations along the road, but there will be successes as well. I’m excited for the challenge.”

2018 will be the year that Foyt needs to see progress. It’s had a season to get adjusted with Chevrolet, and it has talented drivers behind the wheel. Will they win a championship this year? No. Will they win a race this year? Maybe. It’s all about seeing improvement and preparing for 2019 and beyond.

About John Haverlin

John Haverlin is Frontstretch's exclusive IndyCar editor and writer. He has covered American auto racing's various forms, including NASCAR Cup, Xfinity, Truck, K&N, Whelen Modified, IndyCar, Mazda Road to Indy, USAC, Modified Touring Series, World of Outlaws, ARCA and ACT Tour. He is a graduate of Arizona State University and currently resides in Long Island, New York.

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