AJ Foyt Racing head into their home race at Texas Motor Speedway for the XPEL 375, the opening oval race of the season following a solid season-opener in St Petersburg last month. The team will be aiming to build on this momentum with all three of the cars finishing the race.
The team has brought in J.R Hildebrand to drive the No.11 ROKiT Chevrolet for the oval races of the season starting with this weekend’s race in Texas. The team has undergone a number of big changes over the off-season including adding a third car to their line-up for Tatiana Calderon, road and street course events, and J.R Hildebrand for the oval races.
Grant Weaver joined AJ Foyt Racing as Team Manager in January and looking ahead to this weekend he was asked:
Q: What got you interested in racing and how did you go about pursuing it as a career? What were the first races you attended in person?
GW: “I watched racing on and off but not as a real fan. In June of 1973, I was on a summer trip with my DeMolay group and saw the Monaco Grand Prix on TV. I was hooked. Later that year I went to the SCCA runoffs at Road Atlanta, it was the first racing event that I attended. I wanted to be a driver, but my back pocket was not very deep. So, I thought if I cannot drive them, why not work on them. I hounded John Paul Sr. until he gave in and offered me a job. I did drive Formula Fords for fun after I got married. Until we had kids, then the superfluous money dries up and I have not been in a racecar since 1987. ”
Q: What does your job entail in the shop and then during race weekends?
GW: “During the week, I oversee the assembly of the race cars, ensure that we have the parts we need and that the cars are assembled to the engineers’ specs, work with Scott (Harner) to put the crew guys in the right positions for success, work with the engineers on current and future goals, and work with the Indy guys and the Texas guys to ensure all cars are assembled the same. During the race event, I work to ensure that we are ready for the event, from the mechanical side to the pits to working with the engineers and chief mechanics to have a successful weekend. During the race I call the strategy for Dalton Kellett in the No. 4 K-Line Chevy.”
Q: What other race positions have you held before joining this team (including series and teams and years there)?
GW: “I started out as gofer (go for this, go for that), truck driver, entry mechanic – JLP Racing – IMSA (1 Year), then worked as a mechanic and truck driver for Cooke Racing in IMSA/LeMans, at Group 44 in IMSA I went from mechanic to car chief to crew chief in five years, spent five years at Cole Performance where I was mechanic then car chief in Formula Atlantic, Indy Lights and CART. In 1994, I went to Chip Ganassi Racing as a chief mechanic, became a sub assembly manager and then team manager working in CART, IRL, IMSA and LeMans. After 26 seasons, I moved to Pratt Miller Engineering as their Operations Manager in 2020 and worked in IMSA and WEC in 2020 and 2021.”
Q: What is the most significant achievement in your career so far? Did it change your perspective?
GW: “I have been lucky enough to have been on championship winning teams at most of the places that I have worked. The first two teams there were no championships while I was there. At all the other teams we had championship seasons, I have been a part of over 25 championships in total, plus well over 200 victories. Probably the biggest championship was as chief mechanic for Jimmy Vasser in 1996 in CART. Being named Racer magazine Crew Chief of the Year that year also. Being honored with the George Bignotti Award in 1994, ranks up there also. Winning Le Mans in 2016 for Ford was pretty big. Did it change my perspective, in a word – no, I am as hungry for success today as when I started.”
Q: What is the most challenging part of your job?
GW: “The most challenging aspect is bringing very competitive, talented individuals together to reach a common goal in a very competitive environment.”
Q: What’s your favorite track to race at and why?
GW: “Of course, it is the Indy 500 – Biggest race in the world! Favorite track to go to was Surfers Paradise in Australia – just loved the atmosphere.”
Q: What do you enjoy (hobbies) outside of racing?
GW: “Current hobby is traveling around with my wife. It can be a big trip or a small trip, just a lot of fun to see different places with her.”
Q: What’s one thing about you that may surprise people?
GW: “I am pretty black and white, so I do not know if there is much that people do not know about me once they spend some time with me.”
Q: What do you enjoy about working with young drivers?
GW: “At my age, all drivers are young!”
Q: How do you deal with the frustrations inherent in racing?
GW: “As Scarlett O’Hara said in the wonderful movie Gone with the Wind, “Tomorrow is another day.” I do not dwell in the past, I look for the success that the future will bring. Learn from the past mistakes and make today better.”
Q: What is the best part of your job?
GW: “Winning! I enjoy the feeling from a group pulling together toward the common goal of excellence on the track and off the track, which in the best circumstance puts the car in victory lane.”
Q: Who has been the greatest influence in your life?
GW: “Well of course family especially my wife would / should come first. Those that have guided me in my faith. The folks I was privileged to work with during my time as a Boy Scout leader. The folks many years ago that mentored me as I learned this trade.”