Canada's Dalton Kellett rookie season as an IndyCar driver didn't go as he expected.
Then again, it didn't go as planned for anyone, with COVID-19 forcing IndyCar to rearrange its schedule, bar spectators, condense its season, and drastically change protocols in garages. But Kellett still sees a lot of positives in his first year and is ready to build on that foundation heading into 2021.
"Some ups and downs for sure with COVID and the situation we all found ourselves in," said Kellett from his home in Indianapolis. "Overall I'm happy with the experience I gained and what I learned."
The 26-year-old from Stouffville, Ont., competed in eight races this season, with his best performance a pair of 20th-place finish at the Road America double-header the last weekend of August. Another milestone was competing in the storied Indianapolis 500 for the first time.
Driving in North America's top-level open-wheel races taught Kellett a lot, especially with veterans like Tony Kaanan, Charlie Kimball and Sebastien Bourdais serving as his teammates on A.J. Foyt Racing.
"The tough challenge this year was we had limited track time without really any testing because of the condensed weekend," said Kellett. "The important thing was figuring out what you wanted out of the car and effectively communicating that to the engineers.
"Seeing what the more experienced guys on the team were focusing on was eye-opening."
Kellett won't be racing at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the IndyCar finale on Oct. 25, but he will still be in attendance to watch and learn from the Foyt team. He plans to be in the engineering room for most of the race so he can see how a race plays out from their perspective.
He also said he's in negotiations to come back to A.J. Foyt Racing next season, hopefully as a full-time driver. Otherwise he has a vacation in Colorado planned with his girlfriend and intends to continue working on his strength-training in the off-season.
Another important winter project for Kellett is being a brand ambassador for the National STEM League, where high school students typically build and race remote control cars. This year, because of COVID-19 regulations, the organization has teamed up with iRacing driving simulators to have students design and build their own simulator steering wheels and pedals at home before racing them online.
"My role was to make an alpha prototype version," said Kellett, who graduated from Queen's University with a degree in engineering physics. "I'll also be doing some guest commentating on the races, YouTube videos, helping them out with their projects."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 6, 2020.
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John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press