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Ferrucci “up to the challenge” of pushing Foyt into top 10

IndyCar Series full-time returnee Santino Ferrucci says he can help put the legendary AJ Foyt’s team back into the top half of the grid.

Santino Ferrucci, A. J. Foyt Enterprises Chevrolet

Ferrucci has had a peculiar career since returning to the U.S. following his aborted spell in Formula 2, back in 2018. He impressed on his first outings with Dale Coyne Racing, and was retained by the squad for two years, scoring fourth places at Texas, Pocono, Gateway and in the 2019 Indianapolis 500.

Sporadic outings for Sam Hunt Racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series in 2021 were supplemented by five races for Rahal Letterman Lanigan-Honda, in which he scored two sixth places. He also signed with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing-Chevrolet to run one of its entries in the 2022 Indy 500.

Yet Ferrucci’s first IndyCar outing came a month earlier when he was abruptly called up by RLL mid race weekend in Texas, to substitute for Jack Harvey, who had suffered concussion from a shunt during practice. Despite starting from the back, Ferrucci came through to finish ninth, and went on to claim 10th for DRR in the 500.

When Callum Ilott injured his hand in a crash at the Speedway, Juncos Hollinger Racing called on Ferrucci to sub for him at Detroit, and when Josef Newgarden suffered post-race medical difficulties following his shunt in Iowa, Team Penske had Ferrucci on standby to race in the second Indy road course round.

Now Foyt has signed him for a full season, and at the age of 24 he has effectively become team leader, partnering teammate Benjamin Pedersen, an Indy Lights graduate.

On the subject of switching from open-wheel cars to stockcars at the end of 2020, and now returning to IndyCar fulltime, Ferrucci explained: “When I did that change initially, it was tough with COVID with how my career was going. And with the way that the manufacturers helped me over in Xfinity, it just seemed like a really good place.

“Then I got the ride from RLL, and [I] just kind of went, ‘You know what? I'm still actually really good at this.’ 2022 was a serious gap year because I only raced three times. It was super scarce for me in IndyCar. I think I still had a lot of attention, especially after being named potential backup driver for the #2 at Penske, I think opened everybody's eyes up. They're such a big team, well renowned team, I was shocked I got a phone call, put it that way. … I think that really kind of opened my eyes up to I need to be here.”

Regarding the task ahead, of transforming Foyt’s team into regular top 10 performers, Ferrucci says: “We just needed some organization. I had this chat with Larry [Foyt, team president] a while ago. The team has all the fundamentals to really put a good car out there.

“If you look back at the results, they're really not a reflection of the actual speed of the car, in my opinion. I think that having someone like Michael Cannon [technical director] come onboard to really help organize this team, put them on the right track, give them what he calls Racing 101. We needed some consistency. I think that was the biggest thing. That's what we're hoping to really find.

“I'd like to see this team back inside the top 10 consistently, then go from there. We got to be a little bit realistic. It is tough coming off where the team has finished in the last couple years. We definitely can see a lot of rapid growth hopefully throughout the winter.

Getting the opportunity to work with A.J., to take this team from where it is, build something of my own with Michael and Larry, is going to be nothing short of a challenge. But I'm really looking forward to that. I really think I'm up to that challenge now.

“Yeah, it will be a reflection on all of us how we do this year. It's not just on me, not just on Michael Cannon, not just on our leadership. It's on everybody coming together as a team and making this effort a really good effort.”

Ferrucci admitted, too, that he’s somewhat in awe of the team owner.

“It's amazing to me, I think that I work on the car a lot…,” he said. “Then listening to [A.J.] talking about how he developed things for the car back in the '70s to win races. I'm sitting there like, ‘Wow, I feel not nearly intelligent as you.’

“You have to think about how innovative they were to put the cars on the grid they did. It was free rein back then. It's a testament to his knowledge. It gives you such a different appreciation to he's not just a racecar driver that's won races with a good team behind him. He was the team. He made the cars…

“There's so much of an appreciation being there, talking to him, listening to some of the things they went through.”

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