By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
INDIANAPOLIS – Never afraid to navigate around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Santino Ferrucci looks to make his fifth Indianapolis 500 start, his finest yet.
It appears promising after Wednesday’s practice session where he denied Chip Ganassi Racing from sweeping the top-three as he was third quickest. The best out of the Chevrolet camp, the AJ Foyt Racing driver had a best speed of 228.977 mph and ran 79 laps during the six-hour session.
Primarily focusing on race trim, Ferrucci was flattered to see his No. 14 Chevrolet look strong right out of the gate. Flattered enough, he said during the post-practice press conference that he doesn’t really expect the car undergoing massive adjustments leading up to the 107th Indianapolis 500 next Sunday.
“We were looking for a tow lap like everybody else. What I didn’t expect was to be passing people in that lap,” said Ferrucci. “To be able to follow as closely as we did because we did make a change before we put the set of stickers on because the left rear is a little bit softer this year.
“With the track being as green as it is, they’re not quite lasting as long as we probably would have liked the first day, but expect that to obviously change.”
In four previous starts, Ferrucci has never finished outside the top-10 with 10th a year ago being his worst when he drove for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing.
A key to his success at Indy is by carving his way through the field where he gets to focus on his driving, no matter where he had to start.
“I would much rather start on the outside row five or six than having to manage being up front,” said Ferrucci. “We got up front with the Dreyer (& Reinbold) car started 15th last year and we stayed up front all day till the very end. It’s one of those things where we can definitely do it and we have pace, but my focus is always a race car.”
Never a fan of qualifying, Ferrucci saves all the talking on race day. With one minor exception being a year ago where his pit crew helped him maintain his perfect top-10 at Indianapolis.
“I’m just a racer, so I think it really shows that I like the race. I’m not afraid to pass people. I’m not afraid to be on the limits in the pits and get the guys going,” said Ferrucci.
“Last year, the team did really save me in pit lane quite a bit, which was nice. I didn’t have the greatest restarts, which is kind of unusual. I was definitely taking more of a step back being on just a one ride kind of deal because I really needed to finish.
“This year, I can go a little bit more out ahead of my skis per se and really be aggressive. But also just being comfortable. So starting in the back for me, people make mistakes, trying to push to the front too early. And I’m more of the last 75 laps kind of guy.”
With the Indy 500 being an enigma for the organization, Ferrucci is looking to bring AJ Foyt his sixth Indy 500 victory either as a driver or owner with the last being in 1999 when Kenny Brack took home the victory.
Not only he’s driving for Foyt, he also has the revered engineer Michael Cannon once again. Together, they were an incredible duo in 2019. Highlighted with a seventh in the Indy 500 and three fourth-place finishes.
After spending three years at Chip Ganassi Racing where he won a championship with Scott Dixon in 2020, Cannon left to join Foyt and reunited with Ferruci, whom he worked at Dale Coyne Racing.
Having Cannon back, Ferrucci explained why having him around is special and hopes for a dream month in Indiana.
“He’s just someone that I grew really close to, and we had a lot of success for me, who’s never really seen any of the tracks before and didn’t grow up in Indy Lights,” said Ferrucci. “Speaking with him this winter and getting him — before I did anything in my career, I’d always talk to him, moving forward with my path, because he’s someone that I’ve always trusted.
“So given that opportunity for the stars to align at AJ Foyt, it was really cool that he wanted to come on board, work together again, and try and get some of that unfinished business out of the way a couple of the races that we felt like we gave away in ’19.
“Particularly this being one of them that we knew we had a hell of a car back then, and we were definitely in contention to win, I just had no idea what I was doing as a rookie.”
Additionally, Ferrucci continued his remark by mentioning how the entire organization has been gelling well. While the results haven’t quite been there, he knows how hard they’ve been working, including his rookie teammate Benjamin Pedersen. In large part of having high-caliber engineers.
“The dynamic is awesome. Seeing him in the team working with my race engineer Daniele (Cucchiaroni) and with Benjamin’s race engineer Roberto (Garcia) has been phenomenal,” said Ferrucci. “A lot of his focus is taking the pressure off of those guys and doing different things and working in different areas so they can focus on the day-to-day tasks with the race car.
“It’s paying off. I think we do show a lot of success in the races regardless where the results say we are, and I think coming here where Mike has put a lot of his efforts into this car, today I think it shows.”