By David Morgan, Associate Editor
INDIANPOLIS – A.J Foyt is a name synonymous with Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with “Super Tex” being the first driver to win four times in the Indianapolis 500.
Now the team that bears his name is hoping to deliver their boss another win in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.
Throughout the Month of May, the Chevrolets fielded by the team and piloted by Santino Ferrucci and rookie Benjamin Pedersen have made it known that they’re here to play, with constant showings near the top of the speed charts.
On qualifying weekend especially, both drivers posted some eye-opening runs, with Ferrucci nearly snagging the pole, but eventually timing in fourth – his best career start ever at Indianapolis. Pedersen was not far behind as he starts 11th.
Ferrucci has always had a knack for racing at Indianapolis, never finishing outside the top-10, with his best finish coming with a fourth-place result in 2020.
With his first front row starting spot, the Woodbury, Connecticut native explained that his game plan for the race remains the same going into Sunday.
“I don’t think it changes at all,” Ferrucci said. “I think it’s one of those things to where it’s nice that 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’ve liked to have gotten to by like, lap 50, let’s say.
“I’m just starting there, so all I have to do is just kind of maintain and just run around. I’m hoping for a very boring race for myself. Up to probably the last stint or two.”
As far as where the AJ Foyt Racing cars stack up against the competition, Ferrucci noted that there are a half-dozen cars that could win this year’s 500, it just depends on how the race plays out over the course of the afternoon.
“I’d say right now there’s six cars that can probably win this race if everything goes the correct way. Now the order of which those six finish, I mean, if you take a look at last year’s race, you have a man that never makes a mistake, made a mistake. What I’ve probably never seen is worse circumstances for yellow, timely yellow. So, just anything. I’m expecting something to happen to us, as I am everybody else. That’s what 500 miles does.
“You know, there’s no way that you could be the fastest car on track. And I think my boss has proved this the best in the seventies. You know, he probably finished second, third and second, you know, it’s just you could have this race won all day long and still not win this race.”
Ferrucci expanded further pointing to the drivers and teams that qualified in the top-six as the ones to watch on race day, which includes his No. 14 AJ Foyt Racing team. The others on that list are Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou and Scott Dixon, Rinus VeeKay from Ed Carpenter Racing, and two Arrow McLaren entries in Felix Rosenqvist and Pato O’Ward.
“My opinion of 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 even in race trim though. Even in race trim. Some good cars.”
He added that the speed is there for his team to be able to fly under the radar a bit and take it to the bigger teams on Sunday.
“We’re definitely one of the best cars,” Ferrucci said. “We’re probably one of the best racers. Just assuming that I do my job, you know, we have clean pit stops. I don’t speed, I don’t make any mistakes on track. I keep my nose clean. 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 at this race is it’s just like any other race. You can always come back from somewhere here. You have to finish this one and if you’re there, you are there to win it.”
After being a journeyman driver, bouncing around between different teams during his IndyCar career, Ferrucci noted that he has found a home at AJ Foyt Racing this season, which has not only helped him get into a better frame of mind, but also allows the team to gel and in turn improve their performance going into this year’s 500.
“Last year was a very different position because I was kind of fighting for my life and career to survive. This year, I’m just not in that position,” Ferrucci said. “You know, I feel really comfortable with where I’m at. I feel comfortable with where my career’s heading and the direction. Especially with this team, the pressure is different.
“It’s not the same type of pressure, if you know what I mean. It’s one of those that’s fight or flight. So, you have to make smart decisions and you have to finish. Versus here you have to make smart decisions yet you can actually go for it winning this race.”
Given the speed that he has had all month, Ferrucci isn’t afraid to make some moves on Sunday, especially if a win in the biggest race of his career is on the line. If it doesn’t work out, that’s fine by him, but he’s still going to give it a shot if the opportunity presents itself.
“If we’re second going into the last lap and I make an attempt for the lead and we don’t make it, I’m gonna sleep just fine Sunday night. Because there’s nothing worse than finishing second not knowing that there was a gap that you didn’t go for. That’d crush me and I think it’d crush our team.
“I think that Sunday, if we’re in that position, if you’re running third or fourth, you’re not gonna risk championship points. All of the above. And the only time that that’s okay to risk is when you’re running second and it’s there for the taking. It’s the only time. It’s the only time. That makes logical sense.”
While Ferrucci may be making the headlines for the team, his teammate Pedersen has been right there with him, with the rookie heading into Sunday as the fastest qualifying rookie ever.
“I had no idea we achieved it until after I got out of the car and was in a press conference or doing the interviews. When they told me I was like, holy, that’s a massive deal to have a record here in anything. So, it’s very humbling and special to be a part of.”
Pedersen explained that he just had a feeling they would be strong from the moment they first hit the track in the open test earlier this season. Even though they weren’t running their dedicated 500 cars, the makings of something special was there and sure enough when they returned for the Month of May the speed was there.
“I actually had a very good feeling going into this month, especially considering at the open test, we were pretty competitive, but we weren’t even in our 500 cars. The prep wasn’t the same. I knew we had very good prepped cars and some of the new key engineers we brought on board that we have a very good shot.
“As soon as we had our first practice here, it was just like, holy cow. This is gonna be pretty special to be a part of.”