MADISON, Ill. (August 27, 2023) — A turn of fortune. That is what happened to the AJ Foyt Racing team in the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at World Wide Technology Raceway this afternoon.
When qualifications rained out yesterday. INDYCAR moved them to today. Benjamin Pedersen qualified 25th having sustained a technical issue with the weight jacker.
In the Bommarito 500, Pedersen no sooner took the green flag and was heading into Turn 1 when he got punted from behind sending him spinning and into the wall. He escaped injury but his No. 55 Sexton Properties Chevrolet was substantially damaged. It was the second time this season that Pedersen was rear-ended, this time ending his race in Turn 1 of Lap 1.
Pedersen endures another dose of bad luck as he was spun out at the start of the race.
“We had a regular start. The initial launch was good, really good,” Pedersen explained. “And then as usual, people were braking into Turn 1, and I was maintaining the gap. If anything, I was catching the car ahead of me a bit, but before I knew it on the entry I got plowed from behind and spun into the wall. It’s really unfortunate we were out of the race due to someone else’s fault and they’re still in the race. Just pretty unfortunate, but all I can do is to keep positive energy and work as hard as I can. It just really sucks in the moment.”
Ferrucci, who had “a moment” during his qualifying run earlier in the day wherein he had to lift off the throttle to keep from hitting the wall going through Turns 3 and 4, started 26th in the race which featured a three-abreast Indy 500 style parade lap. He had been on pace to qualify his No. 14 Bommarito Chevrolet mid-pack in the 28-car field.
Grabbing a few spots at the start, he ran in the 23rd position until a strategy call just before the halfway point of the 260-lapper proved to be key. Team President Larry Foyt gave Ferrucci the option to pit or stay out during a caution period to gain track position with the caveat he’d have to aggressively save fuel to make it on just one more pit stop.
Ferrucci opted for the track position call and stayed out on track when a large contingent ahead of him pitted under caution. He leap-frogged from 23rd to 10th. On the restart, he then weathered cars inside and outside of him as they barreled down the front-stretch. He emerged out of the threesome and slipped into ninth. Two laps later he was eighth but also out of sequence to the leaders who had pitted earlier. He ran eighth until the next round of pitstops which saw him pit on lap 168.
The 14 crew executed solid pit stops all day.
He dropped to 21st but then climbed to sixth when he made his final pit stop on lap 213, although that position was by virtue of being in the middle of the pit stop cycle. Foyt radioed to his driver that he needed to save more fuel which Ferrucci did. In the final 15 laps, Foyt told his young veteran that he had enough fuel to make it to the end without stopping.
As the different fuel strategies played out, Ferrucci finished 13th on the strength of a gutsy strategy call and solid pit stops by the Bommarito crew. It was the best finish for Ferrucci since claiming third in the Indianapolis 500.
Ferrucci and Foyt share the joy after posting their best finish since May.
“It was the result we needed to get,” said Ferrucci. “The last pit stop, we gambled on the strategy. I honestly think that was more my call than Larry’s (Foyt). Larry wanted to pit and nobody was set up, and everybody in front of us pitted. I figured let’s go for track position. We’d been off sequence since the start of the race. We did have a couple of extra laps in the tank, so maybe we’ll get lucky again. I want to say that it worked in our favor without a doubt. The last set of tires, we had a massive vibration in the front which is very uncommon for Firestone. I actually hit the wall hard enough to bend the rear toe link really good. We finished the last 25 laps without an issue, so I guess it was okay.”
Scott Dixon won his second straight race of the season and 54th in his career. Only runner-up Pato O’Ward and third place David Malukas finished on the lead lap. Rounding out the top five were O’Ward’s teammate Alexander Rossi and pole winner Scott McLaughlin.
The teams will be turning the cars around tonight and loading the cars on the transporters tomorrow as they head straight to Portland, Ore. for the BitNile.com Grand Prix of Portland which will be broadcast on NBC starting at 3 p.m. ET.