After winning two Cooper Tires USF2000 Powered by Mazda events last season, Alex Baron will embark on the full campaign in 2019 with Legacy Autosport. He shared his thoughts with POPULAR OPEN WHEEL prior to the series test at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
POPULAR OPEN WHEEL: What are your thoughts entering the new year?
ALEX BARON: Obviously I am glad that Legacy Autosport and Metalloid Corporation has given me the opportunity to run a full season. I’m thrilled for the opportunity, and I can’t wait to get into the season starting at St. Petersburg. I’m very excited. We’re going to have a lot of fun, and I feel that we will do what we expect in winning races and winning the championship.
POW: I guess the big question everybody is asking, too, would have to be why Legacy Autosport for you in 2019?
ALEX: It’s pretty simple and straight forward. It’s run by the Meyer family. The Meyer family have a long history in motorsports. Take Mike who is one of the chiefs for example. He has done – I wouldn’t be able to tell you how many seasons he’s done in Indy Lights, from Schmidt Motorsports to Belardi Auto Racing and countless seasons prior to that, and he was my chief mechanic last year, too, and we were very successful. I think the combination of the both of us already was a no brainer for me. Then to put some perspective, Butch also has a long history in motorsports. He was involved in IndyCar and taking care of Indy Lights for a couple years. Also, they have such a strong history and know how to run a team and prep a car and have my confidence. In addition to that, having the support of a company like Metalloid Corporation and the Edwards family has made my choice easier. The combination of both parties has a chance to have great success in Motorsport.
Also, we have signed Nathan Toney to be our engineer for next year. He was an engineer at Andretti Autosport and we’ve tried him out on the private test days that we did after the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS), and they went extremely well. I was very pleased with how he responded to the feedback that I gave him and was very communicative with a lot of knowledge. So major asset for the team, for sure.
All of the guys, mechanics have so much experience in racing so we have a very solid foundation to make it work for 2019. The decision was very easy for me to take, actually, with everything in place.
POW: What are your goals and expectations?
ALEX: To win races and win the championship – simple as that. We have the team, we have the car, and it’s just a question of going into the off-season and working and finding the little things that will make a difference for next year.
POW: What track are you most excited to get to?
ALEX: That would be Toronto, IMS, and Laguna Seca, too, which has a special place in my heart because it’s the very first race that I won when I came over here and got involved in US racing in 2013. So those three places are the ones that I am really looking forward to, but actually the whole calendar is very nice. St. Petersburg is nice to go to – really looking forward to that – but my favorite ones would be Toronto, IMS for the history and prestige of going there and being able to. If I would rank it, Toronto would be my first one, and then Laguna Seca, then IMS and St. Petersburg. But Toronto is my number one.
POW: Looking back on the races you ran last year, what are your thoughts?
ALEX: It was a very interesting couple of races that we ran last year because the performance was there, and potentially I should have won the first four races of the season easily. But there were some drawbacks from those events that I wasn’t able to win, but that’s racing; I have no regrets at all. After Indy, things started to get a little out of control basically. I was always try to take the positives out of something, not the negatives, because if something happened it’s for a reason; if it wasn’t meant to be, than that’s that.
What I took from this past year is that I learned I hadn’t lost it and I still enjoy driving, and I’m still fully committed and I still have to improve. I think that’s fair to say because having taken a long period of a break without even driving part-time, I think that’s going to lead to needing to fine tune my skills, too. Lots of positives, I would say.
POW: So trying to keep on that positive note, what’s the biggest thing you learned that will help you moving forward?
ALEX: Self-confidence, I would say because going into St. Pete, I wasn’t sure about what to expect. I’ll be honest with you that after the first session, I started to feel that, ‘Oh, this feels good. I think we can do something here,’ because prior to St. Pete, I only did one and a half tests. After being away from the car and all that stuff, you have doubts. 2017 didn’t really go as well as I thought it would. So it was just a relief that I could be at the top of time sheet and be able to grab the pole a second faster than everybody; it really gave me a boost.
Then it led to Indy, which was a very tricky situation. I wasn’t sure if I was going to make the race, which I wouldn’t I would have been very upset about. I just kept my hopes high and worked very hard with everybody in the team. You have to work hard with those who believe in you as that’s how we were able to deliver the results that we did this year.
POW: How did you get started in racing?
ALEX: I started in go-karts. Originally, my dad was driving go-karts on the national level and then he saw that I showed a lot of interest into it. So I got into my first go-kart when I was five and a half, and he bought my first one when I was seven. It was a fun hobby at first, and then he saw that I was pretty quick and saw I could make a career out of it so he kept pushing and gradually just kept making steps towards single-seaters.
I was always very grateful for everything that everybody did for me, especially looking back now on it. When you’re young, you don’t necessarily realize how much people are doing for you till you look back, so I really appreciate it. That’s how I started – little guy got into go-karts and loved it, and moved my way up.
POW: If you were able to climb the Road to Indy and race in IndyCar one day, what would that mean to you?
ALEX: It would mean the world. If it’s not IndyCar, though, I always set myself the goal that….. I breathe racing, right? Even if it isn’t IndyCar, which I really hopes happens one day, I just want to enjoy driving a racecar at a race track and if I can, make a living off of it. That’s the main fun for me. The dream right now is to go to IndyCar and drive for either Chip Ganassi or Roger Penske, any of those top teams – even Andretti. Those are legendary names, but a lot of work comes before that.
Right now I am not concentrating on the IndyCar stuff, but rather what needs to be done to win the championship in 2019, to make sure everything goes t o plan and get the big cheque at the end.
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