FOYT - Detroit Preview
Thomas Semik II, (pictured above left) is originally from Detroit. He joined AJ Foyt Racing in 2009 as a mechanic. He was named crew chief of the No. 4 ABC Supply Chevrolet (based in Texas) in the middle of the 2017 season. We asked him a few questions…
How did you get involved in racing? Where did it start for you?
I was first exposed to racing as a fan watching the Formula 1 Detroit Grand Prix in the '80s. After graduating from high school, I enrolled in the Jim Russell British Motor Racing School at Donington Park, England. To offset racing expenses and gain more "seat time", I signed up for a Mechanics Training Program (MTP) in California where i learned how to work on the race cars that I raced. Years later, realizing that I didn't have the money or the talent, I turned to the mechanics side of motorsports and worked my way up through the lower formulas to current day Indy car.
What does your job as a crew chief entail?
Basically I'm the communication link between management/engineering and the crew. I provide the mechanics with the info and direction needed to make things run efficiently - at least that the plan.
What do you do on race day?
During pit stops, I'll change the outside front tire in about 5 seconds and execute front wing adjustments if necessary. Once the pit service is complete and safe, I'll send the car.
How long have you been a mechanic and then a crew chief?
Started wrenching full time in 1999. First starting working in ChampCar/IndyCar in 2005. In fact, my first ChampCar event, I worked on a third car entry for Walker Racing in Australia, driven by Will Power, which happened to be his first ChampCar start. I've been with Foyt Racing for a while, starting my 11th season this year. I'm in my second full season in the Crew Chief position.
What does it take (skills needed) to be a good crew chief?
Understanding people. Understanding the crew's strengths. To communicate, to learn how to delegate and coordinate tasks within the crew so they can be efficient. Being organized and detailed-oriented is plus. It's a tough position to master, but I keep learning every day.
Greatest thrill of your career (to date)?
Winning my first ChampCar race with Justin Wilson in Edmonton 2006. And meeting my childhood hero (at Indy this year) who officially inspired me to pursue motorsports - Danny Sullivan.
Tell us something that may surprise people about you.
I'm really not a fan of loud racing engines. Hoping to work as a librarian in my retirement years or in some place super quiet. Also my family makes fun of me because they all say I drive too slow on the highway.
What’s the most challenging aspect of your job?
Last minute change in car setup or trying to resolve an unexpected situation in a timely and safe manner while keeping cool under pressure. Always trying to hit a moving target. Motorsports tends to bring out the extremes of emotions. Just need to keep everything in check.
How do you prepare for a race?
Generally, I go through a bunch of checklists mentally and on paper. Run through my head a bunch of possible scenarios that could happen during the race. More prepared I am, the less stress I'll feel.
What’s your favorite track and why?
Definitely Long Beach Grand Prix. The atmosphere, the restaurants, and of course, 2013 Takuma Sato's first IndyCar Win! Any race venue that has a wide variety of places to eat and see during after work hours.
Do you have a motto/favorite saying?
"Don't sweat the small stuff." and "It's all in the details."
Who has been the greatest influence in your life?
I would have say my Mother and my Girlfriend. They have given me so much support and confidence throughout years in different ways and at different times in my life.
Do you have any hobbies or interests outside of racing?
I enjoying lots of running in my very limited spare time. Plus, I love going on long walks with my girlfriend Sarah and our black lab Cheyenne.
TONY KANAAN on Detroit GP: “I’m looking forward to Detroit,
it’s a race I won in the past and had a few podiums, so extremely excited especially after a good month of May as a team. I hope we can keep the momentum going.”
MATHEUS LEIST on Detroit GP: “Very excited to get back to a street course in INDYCAR. With the good momentum coming out of the month of May, I’m looking forward to having a great time in Detroit with the ABC Supply number 4 team. I had a great time there last year, especially because it’s a track that I love. I think most of the drivers don’t like it as much as I do, but I like all of the street courses. I can’t wait to get out there and do some laps. I’m looking forward to the doubleheader this weekend where we’ll try to get some top-10s and some good points.”
Last Race: At the Indianapolis 500, Tony Kanaan started 16th and finished 9th. Matheus Leist started 24th and finished 15th. In the Indy Grand Prix, Leist scored his career-best finish of fourth after starting 21st. Kanaan started 24th and finished 20th.
Past Performance at Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix: Tony Kanaan’s best start is 4th and his best finish is a win, both in 2007. Matheus Leist‘s best start is 18th and best finish is 14th, both of which he scored in Race 2 of last year as a rookie. AJ Foyt Racing’s best start is from the pole in Race 2 in 2014 with Takuma Sato, Sato also scored the team’s best finish of second in Race 2 in 2015.
ABC Supply is in its 15th season as primary sponsor of A.J. Foyt’s IndyCar team, making it the longest running team sponsor in the NTT IndyCar Series. The company was founded in 1982 by Ken and Diane Hendricks with just three stores. The company now has over 700 stores and topped $10.5 billion in sales in 2018. ABC Supply began sponsoring the AJ Foyt Racing team with the 2005 Indianapolis 500. The company has leveraged its involvement by entertaining well over 110,000 associates and customers over the past 14 racing seasons. This weekend the company will entertain over 350 guests.
ABC Supply account Reasonable Roofing & Remodeling, located in Port Huron, Mich., will be featured on the engine cover of the No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolet. Guests will receive the VIP treatment this weekend along with a Meet and Greet with Tony Kanaan.
L&W account Denn-Co Construction, Inc., based in Detroit, won the ‘Your Name Here’ contest. The company name will be on the engine cover of the No. 4 ABC Supply Chevrolet. Guests will receive the VIP treatment plus a Meet and Greet with Matheus “Matt” Leist.
The Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix doubleheader will be televised live on NBC on Saturday, June 1, and Sunday, June 2, both races starting at 3:00 PM ET. Qualifying for Dual 1 will be broadcast (tape delayed) on NBCSN on Saturday from 12 to 12:30 PM ET. Qualifying for Race 2 will be broadcast live Sunday morning from 10:30 – 11:30 AM ET. All of the practices will be available on NBC’s subscription-based service, INDYCAR Pass on NBC Sports Gold at https://www.nbcsports.com/gold/indycar. Also available on INDYCAR Radio: Sirius 113, XM 209, IndyCar.com, INDYCAR Mobile app, network affiliates (live).
Tom has been a contributor to RIS since 1992, and has covered IndyCar, Formula 1, NASCAR, Grand-Am, ALMS and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. In addition to his RIS work, Tom has been a contributor for General Motors, Nissan, Toyota and the ACO.