By Joey Barnes, Editor-in-Chief
INDIANAPOLIS – Santino Ferrucci shined bright on the biggest stage of them all at the 103rd Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge.
Despite starting 23rd on the 33-car grid, the 20-year-old Connecticut native made all the right moves to finish a career-best seventh, and even led a lap, in “The Greatest Spectacle Racing.”
“The race was surprisingly longer than it looks, and racing with other drivers was actually a lot more fun than I had ever hoped it to be,” said Ferrucci, driver of the No. 19 Cly-Del Manufacturing Honda for Dale Coyne Racing.
“I got to battle it out almost the entire race with (Ryan) Hunter-Reay, who’s a champion here, and I can’t thank him enough because the experience that you get racing someone like that and the enjoyment and excitement of racing around other competitors like him, it was just a blast.
“I think that was probably some of the best parts. It feels like a victory. We started 23rd, man.”
The biggest moment for Ferrucci came late in the running when he dodged a massive five-car accident triggered by teammate Sebastien Bourdais and Graham Rahal in Turn 3 on Lap 177. The rookie was driving into a clogged race track filled with smoke, but then dived onto the pit access lane to avoid the chaos.
“I saw a little bit of the grass stick up getting towards the corner and the spotter comes on the radio and says, ‘All right, just don’t go high. Don’t go high,’ Ferrucci said.
“Then I see everybody starting to wreck, and I’m just like, middle of the track, and then I floored it because I thought that was the smart thing to do, then I saw the grass, which to me was the only hole, and that looked like the most intelligent place to go.
“So we mowed the lawn in retrospect, and we came out just fine.”
The outcome at Indianapolis Motor Speedway gives Ferrucci his third top 10 finish of the season and pushes him up to 10th in the overall championship standings, 74 points out of fifth.
Additionally, with only 10 total starts in North America’s top open wheel championship, it was hard for him to not become overwhelmed by the result in undoubtedly the biggest race of his young career.
“You become a fan,” Ferrucci said. “You know, you’re here to be a part of the event as much as compete in it, and I think that being also a fan and a competitor, it was one of those things where you just get to be in awe of what’s around you and the experience that you get and the opportunity that you get. You know, it’s still overwhelming.
“I’ve never been in front of 300,000 people. I’ve never seen what that looks like, either. I can tell you it was probably one of the coolest days of my life.”