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Race Report: Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (March 5, 2023) — Street fight doesn’t begin to describe the Firestone Grand Prix in the streets of St. Petersburg today. For the AJ Foyt Racing team, the fight ended seconds after it started.

Scott Dixon triggered the first of several multi-car crashes when he and Felix Rosenqvist made contact on the first lap which pushed Rosenqvist into the wall in Turn 3. Rosenqvist slowed causing cars to jockey for position as they exited Turn 3. The accordion effect claimed Santino Ferrucci who struck Helio Castroneves from behind. The impact spun Castroneves and chaos ensued mid-pack resulting in five cars sustaining race-ending damage.

Ferrucci’s teammate Benjamin Pedersen was also involved as he hit Devlin DeFrancesco broadside sending the sophomore driver airborne. Rookie Stingray Robb tagged Simon Pagenaud ending his day but Robb was able to make repairs and continue. All drivers were released from the INDYCAR Medical Unit.

Ferrucci who will be scored in 24th, explained, “I’m totally fine but just heartbroken for the AJ Foyt

Racing Sexton Properties 14 team. It’s one of those things where when you have an accordion effect like that, there’s really nothing you can do. It’s not like at the Speedway where you have spotters where everybody’s checking up and [they tell you] — you’re relying on what you see right in front of you. Everybody checked up and I’m on the primary [harder compound] tire compared to everyone in front of me on the alternates [softer compound] tire.

“I just smoked the brakes straight into the back of Helio. We were actually going to be okay because it’s just the front wing but I guess when we came out of the corner, the way he spun, it hit my right rear, and that’s kind of what killed our race. So just really upset for the boys. You know, we’ve been working really hard. We had a fantastic qualifying and yeah, I just would’ve love to log some laps and get some time on our dampers in our [new] program and see where we could have improved from there.”

Ferrucci at speed in a practice session with the marina in the background.

Pedersen, who was the only other driver in the melee on the harder compound tire, explained what happened from his perspective.

“Not the start to my first INDYCAR race that I was hoping for,” said the 23-year-old rookie who placed 27th. “Coming through turn one, everything was very textbook. We were looking pretty decent to be

honest to make progress. Then coming through [Turn] three, I noticed there was a little bit of your typical race flow traffic. As soon as I came through three, which is a blind corner, there was just a pile up of cars. Cars were horizontal [across the track], I slammed on the brakes to do my best to not be involved and looked for a gap but there were just no gaps or holes to squeeze my car into.

“Unfortunately, I hit Devlin straight on at pretty high speed and it was definitely a big hit. Fortunately, I’m totally fine and he is too. Got my hands off the wheel. Devastated for the team. Feel like we didn’t really get a chance today. We got caught out and honestly the car felt really good in warm up. We were doing really well with fuel mileage. So I honestly think we had a very good potential today for the race. I can’t wait to get back to work with the whole team and go testing at Barber soon for another rookie test. We’ll have to wait a little bit but very, very enthusiastic to get back to work and go racing again.”

Pedersen was pleased with the car’s progress over the weekend and disappointed that they didn’t get to display it in the race.

The wildness continued throughout the race as yet another car went airborne when Rinus Veekay hit the tire barrier in Turn 4 on lap 41 and Jack Harvey had nowhere to go and hit Veekay. Kyle Kirkwood hit Harvey, got airborne and sailed over Harvey landing on all fours. Kirkwood rejoined the race after replacing the front wing and tires but lost three laps. Veekay was out and Harvey, listed in stable condition, was taken to the local hospital for further evaluation and later released.

The fireworks continued as Will Power was assessed a penalty for avoidable contact which ended with outside pole sitter Colton Herta in the Turn 8 tire barrier midway through the race. On lap 72, pole winner Romain Grosjean and defending race winner Scott McLaughlin crashed into the Turn 4 tire barrier battling for the lead after the final round of pit stops.

Pato O’Ward took the lead on lap 74 only to lose it to with three laps to go when he slowed coming out onto the main straightaway. Marcus Ericsson zipped past and went on to win his fourth NTT INDYCAR Series race. His teammate Scott Dixon trailed O’Ward. Rounding out the top five were O’Ward’s new teammate Alexander Rossi and sophomore driver Callum Ilott.

The next race on the schedule is the PPG 375 at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday, April 2. It will be broadcast on NBC starting at 12 noon ET.

Qualifying Report Firestone GP

Photo Courtesy of A.J. Foyt Racing

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (March 4, 2023) — Qualifying for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg was as wild as the two practices that preceded it. Not just rookies but seasoned veterans hit walls or tire barriers that line the 1.8-mile, 14-turn street circuit. Only two teams out of 10 did not have on track incidents over the two days of on track activity. Repaved areas of the track which made it slicker, and in one case bumpier, were seen as the main contributors to the accidents.

Santino Ferrucci will start 17th inside Row 9 after posting his quickest lap of the weekend in the No. 14 Sexton Properties Chevrolet. Ferrucci struggled in the two practices but never to the point of losing control of his car. However, he did suffer a hit in the rear from rookie Augustin Canapino, who was switching his fuel map. The team had to replace the right-side underwing gurney in the rear of the No. 14.

“Solid day for us here at AJ Foyt Racing, P-9 nine in qualifying [Group 1], especially coming after what happened in free practice 2 [referring to the Canapino incident]. Just really struggling with the car early on so making leaps and bounds forward and I think we have a great race car, so I’m going by that. We’ll see what we can do tomorrow,” said Ferrucci, who will make his 44th start after driving part-time in the NTT INDYCAR Series for the last two seasons.

Rookie Benjamin Pedersen previewed what many drivers experienced with braking issues yesterday when he locked up the rears and spun incurring light damage to the left front wing in Turn 4. Ferrucci also had braking issues (as did many others in the field) but caught the car in time. The 23-year-old rookie didn’t have any other incidents and made it through qualifying cleanly in the No. 55 Sexton Properties Chevrolet. He will start 27th.

“So first ever qualifying in INDYCAR done and the best-feeling car I’ve had all weekend,” said Pedersen. “We made a lot of progress since yesterday and just focusing on how to get the most out of this car. Like I said, I’ve never driven an Indy car around here on the streets of St. Petersburg and just learning as much as I can. The next focus is the race and everything from fuel saving to pitstops which will be brand new things for me. Trying to embrace everything this weekend and set ourselves up for good success the rest of this year.”

Romain Grosjean won the pole with a speed of 59.55 seconds, pipping his teammate Colton Herta in the final seconds of the Firestone Fast Six qualifying round. Rounding out the top six were Pato O’Ward, Marcus Ericsson, Kyle Kirkwood and Scott McLaughlin. Both Kirkwood and McLaughlin brought out red flags in separate incidents in the final round erasing their lap times, so their positions were determined by their times in practice 2.

The teams will have a final warmup Sunday morning (which can be viewed live on Peacock TV starting at 9 a.m. ET. The 100-lap race will be broadcast live on NBC starting at 12 noon ET with the green flag waving at 12:30 p.m. ET.

Notes & Quotes: Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

Source: Team PR

Benjamin Pedersen will make his NTT INDYCAR Series debut this weekend driving the No. 55 Sexton Properties Chevrolet in the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. The 23-year-old Danish American, who competed in the INDY NXT Series by Firestone last year, finished second in that Series’ race in St. Petersburg after starting fourth. Raised in Seattle from age 4 on, he considers Portland International Raceway his hometown track and he won both the pole and the race. He was signed by Foyt in September. We asked him a few questions…

What are your thoughts on competing at St. Petersburg? What will be the things you need to focus on as a rookie?

BP: “St. Pete is my first IndyCar race but I do have experience at this track running in the INDY NXT

Series last year which is a big help. We had good success last year with a podium here (finished second) and I want to carry that positive energy into this race and just do the best job we can as a team. That said, the big things to accomplish as a rookie are finishing the race, getting the experience of doing a full-distance INDYCAR race, and maximizing the car we have as a team. The most important things for me to focus on are all of the new things I will experience making the jump to INDYCAR including pit stops, the ‘in and out laps’ on pitstops which are new to me, saving fuel, and applying strategy.”

What was your first exposure to racing that you remember?

BP: “Even though I don’t remember it, I was at a race track for the first time ever that my mom took me when I was only six weeks old in Denmark. I always joke that that’s when it started even though I don’t remember it. My dad wasn’t even home, it was to go support a family member.”

Do you remember the first race you attended as a youngster where you knew what was going on?

BP: “It was a Formula 1 race in Silverstone, which is a pretty cool event to go to for your first-ever race experience, I think it was 2012.”

When did you know you wanted to race cars for a living?

BP: “I knew that from the time I was 15 when I started going into car racing. I have always had a huge passion for racing and at that time I knew this was where I wanted to make my living. It was a no-brainer for me to make this decision when I got the opportunity to pursue it.”

Although he didn’t know it would be a career at this point, Pedersen’s intro to race cars came early. (Photo Courtesy of A.J. Foyt Racing)

What was the biggest obstacle you faced in reaching this level and how did you overcome it?

BP: “I don’t think there is one thing where I would say this or that was the biggest obstacle, but there have been many instances throughout my career where there are things new to me simply because I had never been exposed to them. Everything from the first race I ever did, to racing overseas, my whole career has exposed me to new things. I don’t really see them as obstacles but more as new challenges that you learn how to handle. They may at first seem like an obstacle but you learn to figure it out.”

How have you prepared in the offseason for your first year competing in INDYCAR?

BP: “It would be a long list of things I have done to prepare and really went in depth. First of all, last year I was with AJ Foyt Racing at every opportunity I had to shadow the team while I was still competing full-time in the INDY NXT Series. So, the preparations had already started a year ago in that regard. I was basically a driver for Foyt but I just didn’t drive the race car last year. I was a part of every meeting and spent as much time with the team as I could. Training has been a big part of my preparation, doing some different forms of training, plus heat training and enduring longer training sessions. I have done a lot of sim (simulator) time. I have also been spending as much time with the team at the shop as possible, whether it has been doing pit stop practice or going through everything we can together to build a foundation for this season. There are so many things that have gone into this year in preparing for the NTT INDYCAR Series.

What surprised you most after getting to know A.J.?

BP: “A.J.’s memory is incredible. You can ask him about any event and he could go on for hours about it from everything to the set-up they ran to what happened in the race. The fact that he can remember every little detail is so impressive.”

What are you most looking forward to this year?

BP: “I am looking forward to working with a brand-new team (to me), seeing how INDYCAR racing works from a strategy perspective, pit stops, just everything about it, and understanding how it plays out compared to any junior formula I have done. Honestly, I’m just looking forward to driving, that is what I love the most.”

Do you set goals for yourself? If so, what are your goals for this year?

BP: “I definitely do set goals. I have short-term goals, slightly longer goals, and very long-term goals. There are a lot of goals for this year, but the big ones are learning as much as I possibly can and not overreaching as a rookie in INDYCAR with the new things I will be exposed to. I want to constantly get better, but not in a way where it jeopardizes our efforts as a team. I want to progress as quickly as possible, but with a calculated approach, while always getting the most out of myself from what I have equipment-wise and driving-wise.”

Being fluent in Danish but living in America since age 4, how do you remain fluent?

BP: “I speak Danish with my parents. We talk every day and that is our way of communication primarily. Growing up with Danish in the household, it was very natural for me to go back and forth between Danish and English without even thinking about it.”

Do you travel to Denmark on a regular basis?

BP: “We don’t get to visit Demark on a regular basis. It has been around three years since I was last there. It’s so hard to get back there due to the condensed schedule the way it has been for the past few years. We try to go whenever there is an opportunity to visit the family.”

What is your favorite Danish food that you’d like to share with or introduce to fans?

BP: “Denmark is well known for pastries. There is one called the Danish Kringle, which is one of my favorite things. It’s like an almond croissant.”

What would be in your favorite trail mix?

BP: “I like just a basic trail mix. I like one they have at Costco that has peanuts, cashews, M&M’s, and raisins.”

What natural event would you like to witness in person?

BP: “I have witnessed the Northern Lights, which was pretty amazing. I’d like to see a volcanic eruption.”

What song always makes you want to dance?

BP: “Even though I love music, I am not one to dance.”

What do you most enjoy doing by yourself?

BP: “I am a very social person, so I don’t really do much by myself. I like spending time with friends whether it be doing pickleball or golf, or anything that is active.”

How do you spend your spare time?

BP: “I enjoy spending my time being active, playing pickleball and golf, sim time, hanging out with friends, and training, even though that’s related to racing I really enjoy my time training. Anything related to action sports or being outside and active, is what I enjoy doing the most.”

What would you do for a living if you weren’t a race driver?

BP: “I really haven’t thought much about what I would do, as being a race driver has always been it to me. I am very happy with the work I have put in and the opportunities that have made this possible. I am grateful that my passion and dream is my reality.”

Pedersen Fast Facts: Age 23…Born in Copenhagen, Denmark, moved to Seattle at age 4 and is now living in Indianapolis…Began racing karts at a young age and has competed and won races in the INDY NXT by Firestone Series, British Formula 3, FR Americas Championship, F4 US Championship…Enjoys golf, pickleball, skiing, soccer, snowmobiling, mountain biking, dirt biking.


Goals for St. Pete: “Our goals for our opening weekend would be to have a smooth race with no hiccups and just no mistakes on both driving and pit stops.”

A successful weekend debut: “A successful debut weekend would start with advancing into the second round of qualifying, and it would be awesome to start the year off with a top-10 finish.”

Racing at St. Pete: “It’s great to start the season off in St. Pete, just being in Florida at a street race is very energizing. The track’s fun, it has a really great racing layout and it’s also very good for strategy.”

Ferrucci chats with Larry Foyt during testing at Thermal. (Photo Courtesy of A.J. Foyt Racing)

Ferrucci Fast Facts: Age 24…Born in Woodbury, CT…Lives in Dallas, Texas…Began racing karts at age 5, moved to cars in 2013…Competed in Formula 2000, British Formula 3, GP3 finishing third at Spa Francorchamps as a rookie, was development driver for Haas F1 team for three years (2016-2018), moved to Formula 2 in 2018…moved to NTT INDYCAR Series in 2019 finishing 13th in standings for Dale Coyne and won Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year after finishing seventh…13th in standings again with fourth place finish in the 500…drove part-time in 2021-22 but maintained top-10 streak in Indy 500 with finishes of sixth (RLL Racing) and 10th (Dreyer Reinbold Racing)…Competed part-time in NASCAR Xfinity Series in 2021-22.

A.J. FOYT, who turned 88 on January 16th, will miss this weekend’s race. A close friend and business associate passed away suddenly and Foyt is staying home to attend the funeral.

Foyt Racing Past Performance at St. Petersburg: AJ Foyt Racing’s best start is from pole in 2014 with Takuma Sato. The team’s best finish is fourth with Sebastien Bourdais in 2020. Over the past 18 years, Foyt has fielded 27 entries and racked up 10 top-10s in starting berths including two front row starts (both with Sato). His team has garnered 10 top-10 finishes. In last year’s race, Kyle Kirkwood started 12th and finished 18th. Dalton Kellett started 14th but dropped out with gearbox issues and rookie Tatiana Calderón finished 24th.

NBC streaming and broadcast information: NBC’s Peacock will stream Friday’s practice from 3 – 4:15 p.m. and Saturday’s practice from 10:00 – 11 a.m. Qualifying will be streamed live on Saturday at 2:15 p.m. Peacock will stream the 30-minute warmup Sunday at 9 a.m. The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding will be broadcast live on NBC starting at 12 noon. All times are Eastern.

AJ Foyt Racing Switches to No. 55 for Pedersen

INDIANAPOLIS (Jan. 27, 2023) — After the reveal of the No. 88 livery last week, it was brought to our attention that the combination of our two individually entered numbers carries certain ideologic and symbolic references.

AJ Foyt Racing does not condone nor support any such ideologies or symbols, and to avoid any reprehensible associations, we have changed the entry number from 88 to 55.

The No. 55 Sexton Properties Chevrolet will make its debut in the Series’ Open Test at the Thermal Club outside of Palm Springs, Calif. on February 2nd. The two-day test is the first time at the motor club facility which has five miles of permanent road course tracks. The 17-turn, 2.9-mile track will be a combination of the North and South Palm circuits.

The NTT INDYCAR Series kicks off its 2023 season with the Firestone Grand Prix in St. Petersburg the weekend of March 3-5. The race will be broadcast live on NBC on Sunday, March 5 starting at 12 noon ET.

Benjamin Pedersen to run No. 88 Chevrolet in 2023 NTT INDYCAR Series

INDIANAPOLIS (Jan. 19, 2023) — A.J. Foyt will be reminded of just how old he is every time Benjamin Pedersen takes to the track this year as the racing legend turned 88 which is the number the Danish-American driver chose to run in his rookie campaign in the NTT INDYCAR Series.

“I am excited to get on track in Thermal (Calif.) in just a few weeks with a livery that is recognizable with the iconic Coyote Red and a new car number to AJ Foyt Racing,” said the 23-year-old rookie. “We wanted to keep with the traditional color and clean look that will resonate with fans of A.J. Foyt, while bringing a fresh new feel with the number 88. It’s also a special week for the 88 as we celebrate A.J.’s 88th birthday!”

Pedersen, who was born in Copenhagen, grew up in Seattle and now lives in Indianapolis, is running the entire INDYCAR circuit this season. He spent two years in the INDY NXT Series where he claimed his first victory and first pole position at Portland (Ore.) International Raceway last September. He began his single seater career in 2016 in the F4 US Championship and contested for three seasons before competing in the British Formula 3 Series in 2019-2020. He also competed in the F3 Americas Championship (2018-2020) and in the 2020 EuroFormula Open.

To date there are four announced drivers who comprise the rookie class of 2023. Pedersen will be joined by Marcus Armstrong, who is driving the road/street courses for Chip Ganassi, Sting Ray Robb (Dale Coyne Racing), Agustin Canapino (Juncos Hollinger Racing).

Pedersen (right) talks with his crew chief Heath Huddleston at the Foyt race shop in Speedway. (Photo Courtesy of A.J. Foyt Racing)

The No. 88 Sexton Chevrolet will make its debut in the Series’ Open Test at the Thermal Club outside of Palm Springs, Calif. on February 2nd. The two-day test is the first time at the motor club facility which has five miles of permanent road course tracks. The 17-turn, 2.9-mile track will be a combination of the North and South Palm circuits.

The NTT INDYCAR Series kicks off its 2023 season with the Firestone Grand Prix in St. Petersburg the weekend of March 3-5. The race will be broadcast live on NBC on Sunday, March 5 starting at 12 noon ET.

Full Steam Ahead for AJ Foyt Racing

Michael Cannon (middle) will lead an engineering group including Roberto Garcia (left) and Daniele Cucchiaroni (left) (Photo Courtesy of A.J. Foyt Racing)

INDIANAPOLIS (January 6, 2023) — AJ Foyt Racing is pushing full steam ahead into 2023. New faces in new places were capped off by highly respected veteran engineer Michael Cannon joining the team this year. Cannon will lead the team’s race engineers Daniele Cucchiaroni and Roberto Garcia along with drivers Santino Ferrucci and rookie Benjamin Pedersen.

“It was an opportunity to do something that interests me,” said Cannon. “I know that Larry has been working hard to move the team up the grid. I saw this opportunity to both help him and Santino and obviously Benjamin Pedersen who’s coming on board. I want to see if I can make a difference here.”

Cannon’s career spans five decades dating back to the early 1980s. “What was supposed to be a summer job when I was 20 years old turned into a career in motor racing,” said Cannon, who was born in Montreal.

Throughout his career, the Canadian worked with an array of exceptional engineers whom he considers his mentors including Lee Dykstra, Bruce Ashmore, and Tony Cicale. Cannon said, “You do pull bits out of every one of those interactions. I’ve been very fortunate to work with some of the best people in the industry.”

Although the driving factor to join Foyt’s team for Cannon was the chance to work with Ferrucci with whom he worked in 2019 when both were at Dale Coyne Racing, there is a loose connection to team owner A.J. Foyt. Cannon’s father John, a renowned driver who made his name in sports cars, teamed with Foyt when they drove for Houstonian oil magnate John Mecom in the 12 Hours of Sebring in 1964. They placed second in class (Grand Sport) behind the duo of Roger Penske and Jim Hall.

Asked if he had met A.J., Cannon laughed and replied, “Not since I was five years old. My mom was born on the exact same day as him, January 16, 1935. I grew up with A.J. in our house!”

In November, Team President Larry Foyt hired Craig Brooks as the Team Manager; Brooks oversees both the Texas and Indiana operations but is based in Indianapolis. Brooks previously worked as the technical director for the Indy Lights Series for the past 13 years and was a technical consultant for the IMSA Series on a part-time basis since 2016.

New A.J. Foyt Racing Team Manager Craig Brooks (Photo Courtesy of A.J. Foyt Racing)

Foyt also hired Chris “Beaker” Sheffer as the shop manager in Indianapolis. Sheffer brings a wealth of experience as he has worked in a variety of management and technical roles in the motorsports industry for the past two decades. Six more mechanics were hired as Foyt beefed up the operation for this year.

Foyt summed up saying, “We certainly have many new faces in the team this year, but I can say the feeling is very positive and everyone is pulling in the same direction. We know it will take some time to get where we want to be, but we are looking forward to the challenge and proving that we are heading in the right direction.”

Ferrucci and Pedersen will participate in the NTT INDYCAR Series Open Test in Thermal, Calif. Feb 2-3. A private test is scheduled in mid-February in Sebring, Fla. The series kicks off its 17-race season March 3-5 in St. Petersburg, Fla. 

Santino Ferrucci Joins AJ Foyt Racing for 2023 NTT INDYCAR Series

Santino Ferrucci Joins AJ Foyt Racing for 2023 NTT INDYCAR Series

HOUSTON (Oct. 6, 2022) — Santino Ferrucci is once again a full-time driver in the NTT INDYCAR Series as he has been named to pilot the No. 14 AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet in 2023. Ferrucci is the latest hire for the legendary team, which will field the car from its Waller, Texas headquarters. 

Last week, AJ Foyt Racing announced that Benjamin Pedersen would make his INDYCAR debut in a Chevrolet-powered Dallara fielded out of their Indianapolis race shop.

For the last two years, Ferrucci seemed to be the “go-to” guy when race teams needed a substitute driver. While appreciative to receive the calls, Ferrucci is thrilled he won’t be available for subbing in 2023.

“It’s incredibly exciting to be back in the INDYCAR Series full-time,” said Ferrucci. “Being a part-time driver over the last two years has been hard for me, personally. I’m a racecar 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 14 Chevy. I can’t wait to make the best of it.”

Team President Larry Foyt consulted with his famous father about bringing Ferrucci into the fold for 2023. The senior Foyt had chatted with the curly-haired youngster on several occasions this year and liked his attitude. 

“I am 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 is 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 is a great addition to our roster.”

Ferrucci is equally enthused about the move to AJ Foyt Racing.

“It’s going to be a very unique opportunity to work with both A.J. and Larry closely to build a new program,” he said. “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.”

The Connecticut native made his debut in America’s premier open wheel series in 2018 when Dale Coyne Racing tapped him to drive for Pietro Fittipaldi, who was injured in a sports car crash. Until then, Ferrucci had been focused on driving in Formula 1, having moved to Europe at the age of 14 to compete in various junior formulas. Ferrucci holds the record for the youngest British Formula 3 Series winner at the age of 16 and has also raced in the FIA Formula 2 Championship. He has also driven for the Haas F1 team as a development driver from 2017-2018. 

“INDYCAR became my goal after leaving F1 in 2018,” Ferrucci revealed. “I finished up my season in Europe and was asked to fill in for Pietro (Fittipaldi) 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 Dale Coyne Racing in 2019 and earned Rookie of the Year honors in his first Indianapolis 500 after finishing seventh. Since, he has competed in three additional Indianapolis 500 races, and Ferrucci has never finished outside of the top-10. In 2020, Ferrucci had his best finish of fourth.

When a full season ride didn’t materialize in 2021, Ferrucci found himself in the role of an INDYCAR “supersub” driver. However, Ferrucci didn’t sit idle waiting for the phone to ring. He inked a deal to drive for Sam Hunt in the NASCAR Xfinity Series – making nine starts over the last two years. In just his second start, he had a career- best finish of 13th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. 

Ferrucci participated in the 2021 Chili Bowl Midget Nationals where 300-plus midgets race over the course of six nights on a quarter-mile clay track inside the Tulsa, Okla. Expo Center. Ferrucci didn’t make it to the final 24 car field, but his debut in midgets was memorable enough that he’s interested in doing it again.

When Ferrucci was asked if his varied experience helped him to adapt quickly to the Indy car, he replied, “Yes and no. 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. It’s definitely the type of car where uncomfortable is fast — and it’s very hard to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

Apparently the 24-year-old has figured out how to enjoy being uncomfortably fast, as he added,

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

And that is something his 87-year-old boss can appreciate.

Santino Ferrucci at the Victory Celebration for the 106th Indianapolis 500 Presented By Gainbridge (Photo Courtesy of Penske Entertainment- Joe Skibinski)

Benjamin Pedersen Hired to Drive for AJ Foyt Racing

Benjamin Pedersen gets ready for an Indy Lights race (Photo Courtesy of Penske Entertainment)

INDIANAPOLIS (Sept. 28, 2022) – AJ Foyt Racing Team President Larry Foyt has hired Benjamin Pedersen, the 23-year-old Indy Lights veteran, to drive one of the team’s Chevrolet-powered Indy cars in the 2023 NTT INDYCAR Series.

The agreement spans multiple seasons as the team plans to develop the young rookie and is aligned to a longer-term plan for AJ Foyt Racing.

“I’m super excited to get going with the team,” said Pedersen, a dual citizen (Danish and American) who was born in Copenhagen, Denmark, raised in Seattle, Wash. and is currently 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 and 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.”

Foyt’s interest in the young rookie began early in the season when a trusted colleague suggested Pedersen to him. Pedersen and Foyt met, and Pedersen began shadowing the team early in the season.

“We are really looking forward to having Benjamin as part of the team,” Foyt said. “His enthusiasm is infectious, and he is 100% 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 is 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 earlier this month. Having stood on the podium 11 times over the past two seasons, the young Dane spoke about the benefits of having participated in the top rung of the Road to Indy ladder series.

“The Indy Lights Series and car serves as the ultimate transition into INDYCAR,” he offered. “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 firsthand 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, who tested an Indy car for another team a couple months ago, noted the differences between the two formulas.

“When I had my debut Indy car test a few months ago, it was a very successful day topping the time charts and I found it very natural to transition into the Indy car,” said Pedersen, whose car will operate out of Foyt’s Speedway, Ind. shop. “The biggest differences were the brakes, dampers, tires, and aero. 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, and they allow you to brake so late and hard, and when 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 really rewards attacking the brakes and also asking a lot of the tire laterally (side to side).”

The team will begin testing in January as they prepare for the 2023 season which will open on the Streets of St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, March 5th.

Race Report: Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey

MONTEREY, Calif. (Sept. 11, 2022) — The final race of the season is in the record books as Alex Palou won the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey and Will Power won the NTT INDYCAR Series championship title.

Kyle Kirkwood loses his rookie stripes after finishing 21st in the No. 14 Sexton Properties Chevrolet. Kirkwood started 17th and flirted around the top-15 but after being pushed wide by another competitor while exiting the pits after the final pit stop, he missed the pit out timing loop. He received a drive-through penalty as a result.

The No. 14 Sexton Properties crew executed great stops all day.

“So last race done here in Laguna Seca, not the race that we that we really wanted,” said Kirkwood.

“We were actually on for a pretty decent finish — it seemed like probably I think p 14 or p 15. And then I drove off going down the pit lane exit and then ultimately, we got a drive through [penalty] so that’s super unfortunate. We didn’t have the pace to do what Alex Palou and Power did on a similar strategy to me, so that wasn’t absolutely perfect. But overall, it’s been a huge learning curve for me throughout the season. We’ve had a ton of fun. The team’s learned a lot. I’ve learned a lot. So hopefully we can just take everything that we’ve done this season and even this race weekend and transfer it into something for next year even though I won’t be part of the team. The team will be able to do it and I’ll be able to do it as well.”

Starting 24th in the No. 4 K-Line Insulators USA Chevrolet, Dalton Kellett jumped up to p22 on the start but then was hit by Jimmie Johnson in the Corkscrew a few laps later causing Kellett to spin. He was able to keep the engine running and rejoined the race but lost quite a bit of track position as a result.

“Not exactly how we wanted to wrap up the 2022 IndyCar season, a tough day out there for the No. 4 crew,” said Kellett, who finished 25th. “I got spun early after a good start where we made some good positions. But I don’t feel like we really had the pace to hang on to those gains on the reds, we just seemed to really struggle there. So, I was driving pretty defensively. And Jimmie got into the back of me, and when I looped around and then just lit the tires up trying to get it turned back the right way and just roasted the rear tires. That was like lap three or four. So for the remainder of that red stint, the rears were just gone. And that pretty much put us a lap down right away. And then there was kind of no recovering from that.

“We were okay on blacks,” Kellett continued. “I thought our pace was acceptable. But just on reds we really were lacking. And yeah, I think a big factor was just cooking the rears on that spin. In just lost track position which took us out of contention for any possible gain. So not how we wanted it to end but just I can thank AJ Foyt crew enough for this year. You know, it was up and down. We definitely had some great highlights and lots of stuff that we would have liked to have gone better and done better. Like from my side and the team side, just a little bit of a lack of consistency. I think overall we’re probably not satisfied with how things ended up this year. But definitely lots to learn and lots of information for everyone to digest and use to improve going forward.”

Team President Larry Foyt pointed out that the final race of the season was a microcosm of a less than stellar year for the team.

“This last race just sums up our year unfortunately,” Foyt said. “It wasn’t a great year for us and just had some bad luck in the race. The 14 car was moving up but a penalty on pit road ended up costing us a drive through penalty and it ended any progress we made. The team did a great job, pit stops were great, and the driver drove hard but it just sums up our year. We’re already looking to the winter, all the improvements, and moving on from there. Also looks like the 4 car had some trouble early, he got turned around and unfortunately this is a hard place to pass. I know he drove hard to try to get up there but it’s just hard when you lose that much track position. The guys did a good job. The team’s committed to the future and making it better over the winter and that’s what we’re going to work on. And it starts right now.”

Palou led 67 laps to win his first race of the season and fourth of his INDYCAR career. Josef Newgarden finished second after starting last; he also finished second in the final standings. Power finished third after starting from his record-setting 68th pole position. Rounding out the top five were Felix Rosenqvist and rookie Christian Lundgaard.

Qualifying Report: Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey

MONTEREY, Calif. (Sept. 10) — Kyle Kirkwood will start 17th and Dalton Kellett will line up 24th on the grid for the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

It appeared Kirkwood might catch a lucky break in his session as his No. 14 Sexton Properties Chevrolet was sitting atop his group when the red flag came out for Josef Newgarden’s spin in the Corkscrew. However, the AMR safety crew was able to successfully remove Newgarden before the session ended allowing everyone to get in a single solid timed lap. Kirkwood was quicker on his second run but not quick enough to transfer into Round 2.

“We were one of the few to do red-red (Firestone alternate tires) and it almost paid off for us,” explained Kirkwood. “We were in the lead for the first half of qualifying and with the red flag coming out we almost got super lucky there, but ultimately we qualified P9 in our group. So not exactly where we wanted to be but I think we found some pace between practice 1, practice 2 and qualifying so we’re constantly progressing. We’ll go into the final practice tomorrow morning hopefully with a good race car. The big thing here is making the tires last, so if we can do that – we’ve got a lot of people starting around us that should be up front as well – hopefully we can just move forward from there.”

Kirkwood testing Firestone’s alternative compound tires in practice.

Kellett was hampered by having to do a drive-through midway through the session due to exceeding the pit lane speed limit during qualifying. However, he noted that the team made gains from where they started the weekend with the No. 4 K-Line Insulators Chevrolet.

“Not quite where we wanted to end up but overall, I think we had decent pace at the end of practice on

new blacks and we banked on going red – reds, but then with everybody kind of checking up the first time, we didn’t really get a clean run initially,” Kellett said. “Then on the second stint, got out and with it just being so tight coming into pit lane because we’re in the first box, so it’s kind of a like hand-over-hand awkward getting in there. Just missed getting on the pit lane speed limiter, which was fine coming in because we’re so slow for that first box, but when I left for my second run, it wasn’t latched on. So, I accelerated over the pit lane speed, and that’s how we got a penalty there. So that’s just the flow of getting in there and just got to make sure I get on that button before turning for that tight pit in. So having to do that half a lap and a bit and then drive through was just not good for the edge of the tires. But I think from where we were last year and started the weekend, we’ve tightened the gap on new tires. We’ll have to see tomorrow how we progress over the length of the long run. That’s the key here — keeping the tires under you and trying to make the average stint pace as fast as possible. It’s tough because the surface is so abrasive. So, we’ll see what we have for warm up and kind of go from there for the race.”

Kellett navigates the Corkscrew during practice.

Will Power won the pole to become the all-time leader in pole positions with 68. He also lengthened his points lead over closest rival and teammate Josef Newgarden who will start last after having his two quickest laps removed due to bringing out the red flag in his session. Power became the all-time leader in pole positionsRookie Callum Ilott will start outside pole. Rounding out the Firestone Fast 6 are: Alexander Rossi, Romain Grosjean, Alex Palou and Pato O’Ward.

After tomorrow morning’s 30-minute warmup, NBC will start its pre-race coverage at 2:40 p.m. ET with the green flag set to drop at 3:30 p.m. ET.

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