Ferrucci Lands Starring Role At Foyt Racing For 2023

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, October 7 2022

Santino Ferrucci and A.J. Foyt will join forces full time in 2023.

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

INDYCAR’s resident “super-sub” will be gainfully employed by AJ Foyt Racing in 2023.

Santino Ferrucci will contest the full, 17-race NTT IndyCar Series schedule next season in the No. 14 car synonymous with team-owner/open-wheel legend Anthony Joseph Foyt Jr.

Ferrucci, 24, is the latest addition to the organization headquartered in Waller, Texas. Foyt Racing announced last week that Indy Lights graduate Benjamin Pedersen, 23, would make his INDYCAR debut next season in a Chevrolet-powered Dallara fielded out of the team’s Indianapolis race shop.

Kyle Kirkwood, 23, whose rookie INDYCAR campaign with Foyt Racing resulted in a 24th-place point finish while on-loan from Andretti Autosport, has returned to Michael Andretti’s rival Honda-powered organization. Meanwhile, 29-year-old Canadian Dalton Kellett’s status with Foyt Racing in a third car remains undecided. Kellett, who has logged 33 INDYCAR starts since his debut in 2020, finished 25th in the final 2022 standings.

Ferrucci emerged as the series’ “go-to guy” during recent seasons for teams in-need of an experienced substitute driver. Ferrucci has recorded 43 INDYCAR starts with Dale Coyne Racing, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing and Juncos Hollinger Racing.

“Being a part-time driver over the last two years has been hard for me, personally,” Ferrucci said in a team release. “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. I couldn’t be more excited to join AJ Foyt Racing in the No. 14 Chevy. I can’t wait to make the best of it.”

‘Super-sub’ Santino Ferrucci hopes to be super as a full-timer.

Team President Larry Foyt consulted with his 87-year-old father about bringing Ferrucci on-board for the 2023 campaign. “Super Tex” _ first four-time winner of the Indianapolis 500 _ recalled chatting with Ferrucci on several occasions this year and liked his attitude.

“I’m thrilled to welcome Santino to the team,” Larry Foyt said. “He’s shown a knack for getting towards the front of the field, and I think he’s a racer who moves forward on race day. A.J. sees the fire in him and has enjoyed their meetings together. I think Santino’s experience will help his rookie teammate as well, so he’s a great addition to our roster.”

Ferrucci, who began his INDYCAR career in 2018 with Dale Coyne Racing, is looking forward to revitalizing his career and Foyt’s dormant program. Foyt Racing’s 44th and most recent series victory was scored by Japanese star Takuma Sato at the 2013 Long Beach Grand Prix.

“It’s going to be a very unique opportunity to work with both A.J. and Larry closely to build a new program,” said Ferrucci, a native of Woodbury, Conn. “To race for a legend like A.J. Foyt _ it’s a dream come true. I like to think of myself as an ‘old school’ driver who likes loose race cars and gets behind the wheel of anything with four wheels and an engine. So, driving for a guy like A.J., knowing that he drove everything throughout his career, it’s going to be a chance of a lifetime for me.”

Ferrucci’s INDYCAR career began when team-owner Coyne hired him to drive in place of Pietro Fittipaldi, who was injured in a sports car crash. At that point Ferrucci had been focused on Formula One, having moved to Europe at age 14 to compete in various junior formulas. Ferrucci still holds the record for youngest British Formula 3 Series winner at 16, and also raced in the FIA Formula 2 Championship.

Santino was a member of Gene Haas’ American-owned Haas F1 team as a development driver from 2017-2018. 

“INDYCAR became my goal after leaving F1 in 2018,” Ferrucci said. “I finished up my season in Europe and was asked to fill-in for Pietro in the Detroit Grand Prix. I instantly fell in love with the cars, the style of racing and the people. That’s when I knew that INDYCAR needed to be my new home.”

Ferrucci signed a full-season deal with DCR in 2019 and earned Rookie of the Year honors in his first Indianapolis 500 after finishing seventh. He since has competed in three additional Indy 500s, never finishing outside the top-10. In 2020, Ferrucci recorded his best finish of fourth.

When a full INDYCAR ride did not materialize in 2021, Ferrucci reverted to the role of “super-sub.” In the interim, he also signed to drive for Sam Hunt in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, making nine starts over the last two years. In his second start, Ferrucci posted a career-best finish of 13th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. 

Ferrucci participated in the 2021 Chili Bowl Midget Nationals over the course of six nights on a quarter-mile clay track inside the Tulsa, Okla., Expo Center.

“I’ve driven everything from dirt cars to stock cars to go-karts to Indy cars to F1 cars, and driving Indy cars demands a very unique driving style,” Ferrucci said. “It’s definitely the type of car where ‘uncomfortable’ is fast _ and it’s very hard to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.

“There’s nothing like being on a short oval ripping through the gears three-wide at a place like Iowa Speedway or going 240 mph at Indy. There’s just nothing like that in existence anywhere else in motorsports. Bring on 2023.”

Pederson’s hire was announced on Sept. 28. His agreement spans multiple seasons as the team plans to develop the rookie via a long-term program.

Pederson is a citizen of Denmark and the United States. He was born in Copenhagen, Denmark, raised in Seattle, Wash., and currently is living in Indianapolis.

“I’ve spent a lot of time this season with AJ Foyt Racing learning the ins-and-outs of making the jump to INDYCAR,” Pederson said. “It’s been really nice to do that in conjunction with my Indy Lights season. INDYCAR has been my target goal since I started open-wheel racing in 2016. The racing, atmosphere, fans, events, tracks, etc., are all awesome.”

Larry Foyt’s interest in Pederson began early in the season through a trusted industry colleague. Pedersen and Foyt met and Pedersen started shadowing the team, which included standing on the No. 14 pit box, monitoring radio and intercom communication during practices and races plus sitting-in on team meetings.

“We’re really looking forward to having Benjamin as part of the team,” Foyt said. “His enthusiasm is infectious, and he’s 100 per cent committed to INDYCAR, AJ Foyt Racing and doing the best he can to win races. It’s been great to have him embedded with the team this past season, and everyone is excited to hit the ground running when testing begins. It’s also great to have a multi-year program in-place, which will help him and the team grow together.”

Pedersen moves to INDYCAR after two seasons in the Indy Lights Series, where he claimed his first pole and victory at Portland (Ore.) International Raceway in September. Pederson has recorded 11 podium results during the past two seasons in the top rung of the Road to Indy ladder series.

Pedersen finished fifth in the final 2022 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires point standings topped by Linus Lundqvist of Sweden. 

“The Indy Lights Series and car serves as the ultimate transition into INDYCAR,” Pederson said. “From a series perspective, Indy Lights goes to the INDYCAR events, so we share the same weekend format, points, rules, race director, etc. This makes the transition very natural to INDYCAR as all of these things will stay the same.

“From a car perspective, I can say first-hand that the Indy Lights car is a great car to transition from since it really rewards pushing to a high limit and almost over-driving a bit on the peak of the tire.”

Pedersen tested an Indy car for a rival series team several months ago and noted the differences between the two formulas.

“The biggest differences were the brakes, dampers, tires and aero,” Pedersen said. “You have a much higher sensation of grip compared to the Indy Lights car and I actually felt the Indy car was a bit easier to drive in many regards. The carbon brakes are the biggest difference _ they allow you to brake so late and hard _ and combined with all the other things mentioned above, it’s nearly impossible to lock the brakes on the initial brake phase due to how much grip there is.

“It’s just a really enjoyable car to drive that rewards attacking the brakes and also asking a lot of the tire laterally (side-to-side).”

AJ Foyt Racing’s revised lineup will begin testing in January for a 2023 season which will open on the Streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., on Sunday, March 5th.

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 Friday, October 7 2022
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