Darren Manning has been re-signed by AJ Foyt to drive in next year’s IndyCar season – but any celebrations have been cut short by the untimely death of the owner of his car’s main sponsor.
The Foyt team announced Manning’s return to the No. 14 ABC Supply Dallara/Honda last week, with the man himself back home in Knaresborough for Christmas with his family.
He said: “Last year we came away most weekends wishing we could start the weekend over because we had learned so much about the car and what I want in a car. With the compressed schedule, we were doing most of our development work on race weekends.
“We now have a baseline to work from for all of the tracks which will help tremendously. Last year was my first year working with A.J. and driving the Dallara chassis with Honda power – there was a lot that had to be learned.
“We did learn but the process affected our consistency. I look for all of that to change for the better in 2008.”
But just days later, it was announced that ABC Supply’s founder, chairman and chief executive officer Ken Hendricks had died after falling at a construction site at his home.
The 66-year-old had been a team sponsor since 2005. Despite failing to complete high school, he built the country’s largest, privately-owned roofing supply business, approaching $3 billion annually in sales.
He remained a down-to-earth figure, insisting on being referred to as ‘Ken’ instead of ‘Mr Hendricks’ and looking on his workers as family.
AJ Foyt said: “I am still in shock. Ken was a terrific businessman and a hard worker but much more than that he was a great guy who meant a lot to a lot of people.
“He was a man whose handshake was as good as a 50-page contract. They just don’t make them like that anymore. We had a lot of fun when we were together.”