AJ Foyt Racing team owner Larry Foyt denies having had extensive talks over a 2021 IndyCar seat with Romain Grosjean, while also defending Dalton Kellett amid mild reproof.

After his departure of Haas was announced, Grosjean had been tied to AJ Foyt’s IndyCar seat by reports from various media organisations, and the Frenchman’s comments did little to quell speculation as he remained open to the idea.

Though a horror crash in the Bahrain GP was thought to have possibly made Grosjean question a move to IndyCar (where speeds are higher on ovals) AJ Foyt Racing boss Larry denied, when announcing Kellett as a second full-time driver, that any extensive discussions were held between the IndyCar outfit and the former F1 driver.

“It wasn’t something — I know there was an article about Grosjean, but really there wasn’t a conversation there to be honest other than, you know, kind of a “Hi, how are you, nice-to-meet-you thing’,” said Foyt.

The American goes on to say that AJ Foyt Racing had long had their eyes on Kellett, who drove part-time for the team in 2020. “I think we kind of knew what way we were going with Dalton from the beginning. It was kind of in the plan of doing a part-time, getting him some seat time and then working up to the full deal.

“Darren Manning works a lot with Dalton. He’s obviously a good friend of mine and I really trust and respect his opinion, so before we even put Dalton in a car, I spoke with Darren a lot about how Dalton drives and things like that.

“So this has kind of been the plan, so this will be a really good chance for Dalton to get a full year, get more comfortable, get more seat time and then we can really see what he can do,” said Foyt, whose team was criticized by some for their choice.

Kellett notably finished behind teammate Tony Kannan in the championship, despite having contested two races more than the Brazilian. Foyt, though, says that promising data showed improvement from the Canadian over the course of his seven-race rookie campaign.

“Yeah, well, the thing sometimes you see someone’s body of work in racing as they are coming up through the series and as they jump into the bigger car, you don’t know what to expect, right. You just have to see, okay, how is he going to adapt to the bigger tire, more horsepower, and what we saw was he really adapted well.

“He was great at looking at data, improving himself, going quicker. I think he can really surprise a lot of people and that’s what we see in him and that’s why we wanted to get him full time,” Foyt added at the time of the announcement.

Kellett, meanwhile, says that his results in 2020 did not reflect his performances, as he was unable to make the most of his pace. In 2021, he says, this will be a prime objective with Foyt. “The high point of the year for us was definitely Indy, even though it didn’t end the way we wanted, but just with our pace and teammates and where we were. I was really happy with how that progression went during the month.

“I was definitely happy that we passed that milestone of kind of being comfortable and competitive there. I think Mid-Ohio was kind of a bit of a turning point, like I say, even though the results weren’t quite there.

“There we had chances for some really good performances in qualifying that were kind of curtailed just by circumstances, whether it was seeing when the yellows came out or the rain and all that. But I felt like our race pace was decent there.

“It was more of a question of extracting the potential that was there, which I think is where we kind of missed on this year. So I think that’s going to be sort of the theme this year is putting everything together and kind of making the most out of what we have, and I think having Seb[astien Bourdais] at AJ Foyt has kind of shown that we’re starting off from a point that’s relatively good, so we have a good base to work from,” Kellett said.

AJ Foyt Racing, Dalton Kellett, IndyCar 2021, Romain Grosjean
Copyright: Chris Owens

Here’s scale model of Romain Grosjean’s crash