A. J. Foyt Racing’s position in the Leaders Circle program is under threat after a less-than-ideal 2022 NTT IndyCar Series season.
Kyle Kirkwood and Dalton Kellett’s entries are respectively 24th and 25th in the IndyCar owners points heading into the final race of the season at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. IndyCar pays the top 22 in owner points a sum of approximately a million dollars through the year, contingent on those cars being full-time entries.
A team can have a maximum of three cars entered in the program except for Andretti Autosport who was grandfathered in with four cars eligible for the program since that team has traditionally fielded four cars in IndyCar competition. Currently, Devlin DeFrancesco is 23rd in owner points, but would receive Leaders Circle payments as Jimmie Johnson is in 22nd place but would be Chip Ganassi Racing’s fourth car in the Leaders Circle program.
AJ Foyt Racing Team President Larry Foyt is adamant that there will be two cars from the team on the IndyCar grid in 2023. He also knows what the teams’ objective is for the final race of the 2022 season and the offseason.
“We would have to beat the 29,” Foyt told TobyChristie.com. “But yeah, we’re just having to plan as if we’re not going be in it. That’s just what we have to do. That’s kind of the way I’m already working on budgets for next year is that that’s not there. That is what it is, but we’re not going anywhere. We’re going to still be at least two cars and we’re putting all our plans together. The goal will be to work on getting back in there.
“It’s just hard when you look at a bottom line and what does it equal? You know, unfortunately it equals the good chance that we’ve got two cars falling out of Leaders Circle and we hate that, but that’s where I have to get to work and just continue to raise the money to keep us going to get back in.”
Kellett was 26th in the 2021 IndyCar points standings, but was the final car eligible for Leaders Circle money owing to Johnson being the fourth CGR car (22nd place), the 23rd-placed No. 45 car of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing being a part-time entrant, the 24th-placed entry from Carlin Racing not returning in 2022 and the 25th-placed No. 06 Honda from Meyer Shank Racing not being full-time in 2021.
Kirkwood is 17 points behind DeFrancesco and 26 points behind Johnson. Kirkwood had a 10th place finish at the third race of the year in Long Beach that helped boost his fight for Rookie of the Year, but crashes in Texas, Detroit, Toronto, Iowa, Nashville and a spin at Mid-Ohio dropped the Florida native down in the standings. Meanwhile, Kellett’s best result in 2022 was 17th at Texas Motor Speedway back in March.
That hasn’t made Foyt’s life any easier.
“It’s far and away been the most stressful year I’ve ever been through on this side of things,” Foyt said. “It’s just tough. It was a shame. The year really started with a lot of excitement. You know, we opened up at St. Pete and showed good pace and we were really excited for the season. Unfortunately, the way things played out, the sponsor issues and then we just had so many crashes that you just kind of feel like you get swept up in a bit of a whirlwind there and, and the season just goes so fast when you’re in the middle of it. So, it was a shame because like I said, we really were excited about the year and there was a lot of promise and it just didn’t materialize.”
Live coverage of the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey begins at 2:40 p.m. ET on NBC.