By David Morgan, Associate Editor
FORT WORTH, Texas – Talk about coming in clutch.
Santino Ferrucci came into the weekend at Texas Motor Speedway as just an interested observer, not expecting to be a participant in Sunday’s XPEL 375, but by the time the race was rolling around the 23-year-old was suiting up and strapping in for the race.
Following a heavy practice crash on Saturday, the primary driver of the No. 45 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, Jack Harvey, was checked and released from the infield care center and cleared to drive by IndyCar, but things changed by race morning.
IndyCar stated that Harvey was rechecked by the medical staff per their protocols following high g-force crashes and the data gathered from the accelerometer drivers are mandated to wear led to Harvey’s race clearance being revoked for Texas.
That’s when Ferrucci got the call that he would be driving the car in Harvey’s absence.
Ferrucci is no stranger to driving for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, having competed in five races for the team during the 2021 season, finishing 11th or higher in all five starts. He has also made two previous starts at Texas, finishing fourth at the track in 2019 while driving for Dale Coyne Racing.
Climbing behind the wheel of the back-up car for the first-time mid-morning to shake down the car and get acclimated with it, Ferrucci took his place at the back of the grid for the start of the race.
Methodically working his way forward, Ferrucci did his best to stay out of trouble, especially considering that the back-up car he was driving was also the primary car the team is planning to use in the Indianapolis 500. Though trouble sometimes came looking for him.
When Devlin DeFrancesco, Graham Rahal, and Helio Castroneves crashed in Turn 4 on lap 129, Ferrucci was the first car behind those three, but was able to emerge from the incident unscathed.
From there, Ferrucci continued his march forward, eventually cracking the top-10, where he would remain until the checkered flag flew.
“This was definitely a Sunday for me,” Ferrucci said. “Not at all what I expected to be racing. I was going to race my couch and watch the race with a bunch of buddies, but Rahal needed me to come in and fill in with the Hy-Vee car for Jack. Very happy to do so.
“Six laps of warm-up to make sure the car that they rebuilt last night; they rolled a chassis out so kudos to the team. Once again, just always doing a fantastic job. My team in Indianapolis that I’m racing the 500 for, Dreyer & Reinbold, they sent my seat from their shop to get here and we got it and put it in the car about 30 minutes before we went green.
“Everything was a little tight, but, hey, passing cars left and right. Coming home with another top-10 finish. I can’t complain. Can’t thank Hy-Vee and the boys here enough.”