IRL: Darren Manning’s borrowed nose (and other stories)

By Andy Darley

CalendarWednesday, May 28th, 2008

 
 

Darren Manning’s career-best ninth place in the Indianapolis 500 was achieved despite a slow puncture and a nose borrowed from a rival team, according to team owner AJ Foyt.

Writing in his “Foyt Files” column in USA Today, the veteran team boss and four-time Indy500 winner said that race day’s warm weather had forced teams to guess the best car set-up, as most practice had been done in the cold and wet.

“Some nailed it, some didn’t. Scott Dixon’s team did. Dixon drove a flawless race to win his first Indy 500 and he did it from the pole — something I never did. Congratulations to Chip Ganassi and his team.

“It took us most of the month to find the sweet spots in our No. 14 and 41 ABC Supply Dallara/Hondas. Our chief engineer Mike Colliver worked closely with our drivers Darren Manning and Jeff Simmons and myself. It became frustrating at times but it all came together on race day.”

The AJ Foyt Enterprises drivers had made it up to ninth and 13th when Simmons lost his front wing after a pitlane knock from Alex Lloyd. The team replaced it, but the car’s performance suffered.

And the replacement was their only spare.

Manning was running sixth when he took his second stop. Foyt takes up the story:

“His stop went fine, but my son Larry Foyt (who was calling Darren’s race) told him it would be close with the cars pitting around him. As Darren was leaving, Larry yelled to him to stop but Darren thought he could make it past Lloyd (not again!) and Darren did. But he didn’t make it past Buddy Rice, turning into his pit and sending the right front endplate flying off the No. 14.

“We’d used Darren’s spare nose for Jeff so Craig Baranouski got one from my grandson A.J. IV’s team. It worked pretty good even though Mike had to compensate for a very different configuration of the endplates. A.J. IV, who was 24 on race day, had his own problems with a pit fire on his first stop; luckily he didn’t get hurt. That boy has had a really tough month.

Manning had better luck with his repairs than Simmons, who lost control of his loose-running car and crashed out of the race. The Englishman, 24th after his repairs were completed, made progress through the field and into the top 10.

“Darren was happy with his car. He battled back up to ninth, making some good restarts and passing cars down the front straight — where the ABC Supply guests could appreciate it from their suite.

“He might have gotten Buddy Rice for eighth but the tire sensors showed Darren had a left-rear tire going down — probably from something he picked up on the track.

“With cars crashing like they were, there is always some debris on the track. He was lucky that the race didn’t go another four or five laps.”

Most encouragingly for Manning and his team, the race marked the second time he’d worked directly with Larry Foyt as his caller, and both races resulted in top 10 finishes.

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