Ferrucci Making A Name For Himself

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, May 28 2023

Santino Ferrucci and his AJ Foyt Racing team are one of the big surprises heading into the 2023 Indianapolis 500. (Photo courtesy of AJ Foyt Racing)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

The INDYCAR driver with the coolest name this side of Mario Andretti is revved-up and reveling in is role as underdog for today’s 107th running of the Indianapolis 500.

Santino Ferrucci brought his self-described “super-excited and high-energy” persona to A.J. Foyt Racing when he joined the Waller, Texas-based organization as teammate to 2023 NTT IndyCar Series rookie Benjamin Pedersen in October.

Fast-forward to the Month of May at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where Ferrucci and Pedersen have returned the Foyt moniker to the front of the 33-car grid.

Ferrucci qualified the No. 14 car synonymous with Anthony Joseph Foyt Jr. fourth via a four-lap/10-mile average of 233.911 mph during last Sunday’s Firestone Fast Six. Ferrucci presented “Super Tex” _ first four-time winner of the Indy 500 _ the team’s highest start on the 2.5-mile IMS oval in 20 years. Earlier in the session, Pedersen emerged as the fastest of four rookie qualifiers in 11th at 232.671 mph in the No. 55 Sexton Properties Chevy. When Foyt qualified as the fastest rookie in 1958, he started 12th.

Ferrucci, Pedersen and Rinus VeeKay of Ed Carpenter Racing are the only drivers among the grid’s top-12 qualifiers _ the race’s first four rows of three _ not fielded by series powerhouses Chip Ganassi Racing or Arrow McLaren or Team Penske.

That said, the SportsBetting.ag website has listed Ferrucci and 2016 Indy 500 champion Alexander Rossi of Arrow McLaren at 12-1 odds to win “The Greatest Spectacle In Racing” on a betting board led by pole-sitter Alex Palou of Chip Ganassi Racing at 6-1. Pedersen, a graduate of the INDY NXT ladder program, will take the green flag today for the traditional flying start at 12:45 p.m. (EDT) as a massive 66-1 dog.

“I think it’s cool to be the underdog,” said Ferrucci, the perpetually smiling native of Woodbury, Conn., who will turn 25 on Wednesday. “For us to be as competitive as we’ve been all week, to know that, I think we’ve opened everybody’s eyes. I think everybody has opened their eyes to the No. 14 car, that we’re here to win this thing.

“I think A.J.’s really happy to see that car up on top. I think he’s more thrilled that both cars are equally competitive. I think he believes in what we’re doing. He believes in the program. It’s just one of those things where he’s ready to see what we can do on Race Day.”

Ferrucci has spent considerable time over the last two years in Sunnyvale, Texas, with fiancée Renay Moore, an associate at Goldman Sachs. The couple plans to be married in January 2024. Sunnyvale is located approximately 52 miles southeast from Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. Sunnyvale’s proximity to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport has facilitated Ferrucci’s frequent in-season commutes to Waller for quality time with Foyt.

“The guy is a living legend,” Ferrucci said. “I mean, there is nothing cooler than going down to the shop once a week and sitting down and talking with him for an hour _the stories from ‘back in the day.’ It makes me feel like so much less of a race car driver because of what they went through. It’s not even the same sport. It’s not even close to the same problems. I mean, it’s so cool and so unique driving for him.
“I’m so honored for that opportunity to be part of this team and I want to make the most of it. I want to bring some wins to the team. I want to bring some hardware (trophies) back to the guys. I feel like we’re working really hard. There’s no reason why this team can’t be winning races. I feel like that can happen.”

Ferrucci finished 10th at IMS last May driving for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, one of three teams he competed with as a super-sub in 2022. “Being a part-time driver over the last two years has been hard for me, personally,” Ferrucci said on the day he was introduced as a Foyt full-timer. “I’m a race car driver and I want to compete. Working with different teams has been exciting, and I’m proud that no matter which car I’ve raced, I’ve always shown speed and consistency.”

Ferrucci said he fully expects today’s winner to emerge from among the Fast Six of pole-sitter Palou, of Spain, in CGR’s No. 10 The American Legion Honda; VeeKay of The Netherlands in the No. 21 Bitnile.com Chevrolet fielded by Ed Carpenter Racing; Sweden’s Felix Rosenqvist in the No. 6 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet; Foyt’s No. 14 Chevy; native Mexican Pato O’Ward’s No. 5 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet and 2008 Indy 500 champion and native New Zealander Scott Dixon’s No. 9 PNC Bank CGR Honda.

“Fast Six is where it’s at. That’s all I’m going to say,” Ferrucci said. “My opinion, cars that I’ve already been around and practiced with _ yeah, those guys look good. Like the Fast 12 was tough and it was tight. The Fast Six, man, I mean, some good cars.

“Yeah, we’re definitely one of the best cars. We’re probably one of the best racers. It’s nice I get to start a race and not have to pass a ton of cars, but I’m basically in the same spot that I would have liked to have gotten to by, like lap 50, let’s say. I’m just starting there. Just assuming that I do my job, we have clean pit stops, I don’t speed, I don’t make any mistakes on track, I keep my nose clean and I keep everything calm, cool and collected like I have done for the last four years, we’ll be there in the end.

“My philosophy of this race is it’s just like any other race. You can always come back from somewhere here. It’s not special. You have to finish this one and if you’re there, you are there to win it.
“I’m hoping for a very boring race for myself up until probably the last stint or two.”

Pedersen’s qualifying run broke Indy Racing League poster boy Tony Stewart’s rookie record set in 1996, the initial season of Tony George’s (then) all-oval series. “It’s been very humbling,” Pedersen said, “and I had no idea that we had achieved it until after I got out of the car and was in a press conference or doing the interviews. That is massive to have a record here in anything.”

Pedersen, in fact, is paying homage to his team-owner by wearing an A.J. Foyt tribute fire suit, vintage 1980s. “It has just been a huge favorite this month,” said Pedersen, a 24-year-old native of Copenhagen, Denmark. “Little touches like the suit as a throwback…I tell you, he definitely has woken up a lot and his eyes started to not water, but he got emotional when he saw the suit. His smiles on pit lane when we made it into the Fast 12 were just really special to be a part of something like that.\

“The whole month has just been so special to be a part of. To make it into the Fast 12 for a rookie is a great effort from the whole team. Everything this month has been a first for me. Fast Friday was a first, qualifying was a first, so just taking it one day at a time and embracing every tradition. And I milked a cow out here.”

Ferrucci, meanwhile, used an alternative activity to bond with Team President Larry Foyt _ A.J.’s youngest son and the man responsible for day-to-day decision-making.

“Yeah. This has definitely been…it’s been a very different type of relationship for me and Larry,” Ferrucci said. “We were at the Kentucky Derby to start the month off. It was 72 hours of nothing but alcohol and betting. It was so much fun. It was so cool. I’ve never started off a May like that before, and I will tell you there is no better way to kick off the Month of May than the Derby. I think that’s going to have to start to become tradition, considering how we’re running.”

Larry Foyt, appointed team president in 2015, admitted he was hoping Ferrucci could have wrung a pole-winning run out of the No. 14 Chevy. “But that’s just the racer in you,” said Foyt, 46, a graduate of TCU in Fort Worth who retired as a NASCAR driver to join his father’s organization in 2006. “We knew we had a fast car and the guys did a terrific job, but we weren’t gonna do anything to jeopardize our race car either. We know we have a good race car, we’re in a perfect spot that we can win the race from and that’s the most important thing.”

Other than Ferrucci and Pedersen, the team’s most notable offseason hire was Michael Cannon as lead engineer. A second-generation racer, Cannon has brought 25-years of motorsports experience to the Foyt camp. Cannon works with both drivers and their race engineers _Daniele Cucchiaroni (Ferrucci) and Roberto Garcia (Pedersen).

“It’s a major factor in tuning these cars,” Cannon said. “The trickiest bit is intelligently using the reams and reams of data that we generate. There’s not much we don’t monitor and track _ which requires eyes on all that data.”

Larry Foyt said he hopes this month’s results prove the team is on an upward trajectory. “Surely a lot of work to still do,” Foyt said, “but this was just a great week because Indy’s still very much our Super Bowl. It’s super-important for us. So, to come here and be competitive, especially for A.J., means a lot.”
Kenny Brack of Sweden presented Foyt his more recent Indy 500 victory as team-owner in 1999. Foyt, of course, forged his resume as a “Legend of The Brickyard” with his Indy 500 wins in 1961, 1964, 1967 and 1977. Foyt, 88, still holds INDYCAR records for most career victories (67), championships (seven) and wins in one season (10).

There truly is no place Foyt would rather be in May than IMS, especially so this year following the recent passing of his wife. Lucy Foyt, 84, died on April 5 in a Houston hospital after a brief illness. She and A.J. were married for nearly 68 years and shared the life experiences of raising four children, along with eight grandchildren and 15 great grandchildren.

The lengthy list of drivers who have driven for A.J. Foyt Racing since 1966 includes Indy 500 winners (with rival organizations) Al Unser Sr. and Jr., Johnny Rutherford, Tony Kanaan, Eddie Cheever, Takuma Sato and Ryan Hunter-Reay, along with lifelong Gasoline Alley veterans Jim McElreath, George Snider, Jim Hurtubise, Joe Leonard and on-and-on. Sato _ fastest driver during Friday’s Miller Lite Carb Day practice in his No. 11 Deloitte CGR Honda _ scored Foyt Racing’s 44th and most recent INDYCAR victory on the Streets of Long Beach in 2013.

No one is more aware of his team’s frustrating mediocrity than A.J. “hisself.”

“We’ve had a lot of bad things happen the last two months,” Foyt noted last weekend at IMS. “I lost my wife and our family has been very upset, so I’m glad to see things start to turn around because it’s been very sad in our home.

“Everyone on the team has worked really hard. I’m glad to see it paid back a little bit and we can enjoy life again.”

Pre-event coverage today will begin at 11 a.m. (EDT) on NBC, Peacock, Telemundo Deportes on Universo and the INDYCAR Radio Network. Additionally, SiriusXM listeners will have access to a live call of the race beginning at 11 a.m. on SiriusXM INDYCAR Nation (SiriusXM Channel 160) and NBC Sports Audio (SiriusXM Channel 85). Both channels are available to subscribers nationwide in their cars and on the SXM App.

Green flag for the traditional flying start is set to wave at 12:45 p.m. Eastern.


Winners (9) _ Helio Castroneves, Takuma Sato, Scott Dixon, Marcus Ericsson, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Tony Kanaan, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, Alexander Rossi.
Rookies (4) _ Agustín Canapino, R.C. Enerson, Benjamin Pedersen, Sting Ray Robb.
U.S. drivers (13) _ Marco Andretti, Ed Carpenter, Conor Daly, R.C. Enerson, Santino Ferrucci, Colton Herta, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Kyle Kirkwood, David Malukas, Josef Newgarden, Graham Rahal, Sting Ray Robb, Alexander Rossi.
International drivers (20 from 14 countries) _ Agustín Canapino, Helio Castroneves, Devlin DeFrancesco, Scott Dixon, Marcus Ericsson, Romain Grosjean, Jack Harvey, Callum Ilott, Tony Kanaan, Katherine Legge, Christian Lundgaard, Scott McLaughlin, Pato O’Ward, Simon Pagenaud, Alex Palou, Benjamin Pedersen, Will Power, Felix Rosenqvist, Takuma Sato, Rinus VeeKay.
Engines (33) _ Honda 16, Chevrolet 17 (all cars use Dallara chassis and Firestone Firehawk tires).
Point Standings (top-15): 1, Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing, 174; 2, Pato O’Ward, Arrow McLaren, 168; 3, Marcus Ericsson, Chip Ganassi Racing, 155; 4, Romain Grosjean, Andretti Autosport, 134; 5, Scott McLaughlin, Team Penske, 133; 6, Josef Newgarden, Team Penske, 131; 7, Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing, 127; 8, Will Power, Team Penske, 122; 9, Christian Lundgaard, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, 111; 10, Alexander Rossi, Arrow McLaren and Kyle Kirkwood, Andretti Autosport, 108; 12, Colton Herta, Andretti Autosport with Curb/Agajanian, 107; 13, Felix Rosenqvist, Arrow McLaren, 97; 14, Callum Ilott, Juncos Hollinger Racing, 92; 15, Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, 86.

Official NTT IndyCar Series entry list for the 107th running of the Indianapolis 500 Presented by Gainbridge at the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday, May 28, with car number in parenthesis, driver, hometown, car name with engine supplier and team entrant:
1. (2) Josef Newgarden, Nashville, Tenn., Shell Powering Progress Team Penske Chevrolet/Team Penske
2. (3) Scott McLaughlin, Christchurch, New Zealand, Pennzoil Team Penske Chevrolet/Team Penske
3. (5) Pato O’Ward, Monterrey, Mexico, Arrow McLaren Chevrolet/Arrow McLaren
4. (06) Helio Castroneves-(W), Sao Paulo, Brazil, AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda/Meyer Shank Racing
5. (6) Felix Rosenqvist, Varnamo, Sweden, Arrow McLaren Chevrolet/Arrow McLaren
6. (7) Alexander Rossi-(W), Nevada City, Calif., Arrow McLaren Chevrolet/Arrow McLaren
7. (8) Marcus Ericsson-(W), Kumla, Sweden, Huski Ice Spritz Chip Ganassi Racing Honda/Chip Ganassi Racing
8. (9) Scott Dixon-(W), Auckland, New Zealand, PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda/Chip Ganassi Racing
9. (10) Alex Palou, Barcelona, Spain, The American Legion Chip Ganassi Racing Honda/Chip Ganassi Racing
10. (11) Takuma Sato-(W), Tokyo, Japan, Deloitte Honda/Chip Ganassi Racing
11. (12) Will Power-(W), Toowoomba, Australia, Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet/Team Penske
12. (14) Santino Ferrucci, Woodbury, Conn., Homes For Our Troops Chevrolet/A.J. Foyt Enterprises
13. (15) Graham Rahal, New Albany, Ohio, United Rentals Honda/Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
14. (18) David Malukas, Chicago, Ill., HMD Trucking Honda/Dale Coyne Racing with HMD
15. (20) Conor Daly, Noblesville, Ind., Bitnile.com Chevrolet/Ed Carpenter Racing
16. (21) Rinus VeeKay, Hoofddorp, The Netherlands, Bitnile.com Chevrolet/Ed Carpenter Racing
17. (23) Ryan Hunter-Reay-(W), Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Chevrolet/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing
18. (24) Stefan Wilson, Sheffield, England, DRR Cusick CareKeepers Chevrolet/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing
19. (26) Colton Herta, Valencia, Calif., Gainbridge Honda/Andretti Autosport with Curb-Agajanian
20. (14) Kyle Kirkwood, Jupiter, Fla., AutoNation Honda/Andretti Autosport
21. (28) Romain Grosjean, Geneva, Switzerland, DHL Honda/Andretti Autosport
22. (29) Devlin DeFrancesco, Toronto, Canada, Sodexo Honda/Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport
23. (30) Jack Harvey, Bassingham, England, Kustom Entertainment Honda/Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
24. (33) Ed Carpenter, Indianapolis, Ind., Bitnile.com Chevrolet/Ed Carpenter Racing
25. (44) Katherine Legge, Guildford, England, Hendrickson Honda/Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
26. (30) Christian Lundgaard, Hedensted, Denmark, Hy-Vee Honda/Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
27. (50) R.C. Enerson-(R), New Port Richey, Fla., Abel Motorsports Chevrolet, Abel Motorsports
28. (51) Sting Ray Robb-(R), Payette, Idaho, biohaven Honda/Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing
29. (55) Benjamin Pedersen-(R), Copenhagen, Denmark, A.J. Foyt Racing/Sexton Properties Chevrolet/A.J. Foyt Enterprises
30. (60) Simon Pagenaud-(W), Montmorillon, France, AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda/Meyer Shank Racing
31. (66) Tony Kanaan-(W), Salvador, Brazil, Arrow McLaren Chevrolet/Arrow McLaren
32. (77) Callum Ilott, Cambridge, England, Juncos Hollinger Racing Chevrolet/Juncos Hollinger Racing
33. (78) Agustin Canapino-(R), Arrecifes, Argentina, Juncos Hollinger Chevrolet/Juncos Hollinger Racing
34. (98) Marco Andretti, Nazareth, Pa., KULR/Curb Honda/Andretti Herta with Marco & Curb-Agajanian
Note _ All cars use the fourth generation NTT IndyCar Series chassis (Dallara IR-12) with universal IR-18 aerodynamic bodywork, Chevrolet or Honda twin-turbocharged V-6 engines and Firestone Firehawk tires.
(W) _Denotes Indianapolis 500 winner
(R) _ Denotes Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year candidate

Sunday, March 5 _ Streets of St. Petersburg, Fla.: Marcus Ericsson, Chip Ganassi Racing
Sunday, April 2 _ Texas Motor Speedway, Fort Worth: Josef Newgarden, Team Penske
Sunday, April 16 _ Streets of Long Beach: Kyle Kirkwood, Andretti Autosport
Sunday, April 30 _ Barber Motorsports Park, Birmingham, Ala.: Scott McLaughlin, Team Penske
Saturday, May 13 _ Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road-Course: Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing
Sunday, May 28 _ Indianapolis Motor Speedway Oval, NBC/Peacock
Sunday, June 4 _ Streets of Detroit, NBC/Peacock
Sunday, June 18 _ Road America, Elkhart Lake, Wis., USA Network/Peacock
Sunday, July 2 _ Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Lexington, Ohio. USA Network/Peacock
Sunday, July 16 _ Streets of Toronto, Peacock
Saturday, July 22 _ Iowa Speedway, Newton, NBC/Peacock
Sunday, July 23 _ Iowa Speedway, Newton, NBC/Peacock
Sunday, Aug. 6 _ Streets of Nashville, NBC/Peacock
Saturday, Aug. 12 _ Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road-Course, USA Network/Peacock
Sunday, Aug. 27 _World Wide Technology Raceway, Madison, Ill., NBC/Peacock
Sunday, Sept. 3 _ Portland (Ore.) International Raceway, NBC/Peacock
Sunday, Sept. 10 _ WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, Monterey, Calif., NBC/Peacock
Editor’s Note: John Sturbin is a Texas-based journalist specializing in motorsports. During a near 30-year career with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, he won the Bloys Britt Award for top motorsports story of the year (1991) as judged by The Associated Press; received the National Hot Rod Association’s Media Award (1995) and several in-house Star-Telegram honors. He also was inaugural recipient of the Texas Motor Speedway Excellence in Journalism Award (2009). His list of freelance clients includes Texas Motor Speedway, the Dallas Morning News, New York Newsday, Rome (N.Y.) Daily Sentinel, Corpus Christi (Texas) Caller Times, NASCAR Wire Service, Ford Racing and Used Car Dealer magazine).

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, May 28 2023
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