If there was a starring performance during last weekend’s Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach that went under the radar, it was Santino Ferrucci at A.J. Foyt Racing.
Having weathered a brutal start to the new NTT IndyCar Series season with his new team, Ferrucci arrived in Long Beach with hopes for a faster car and less adversity. His wishes were realized on Saturday with a run to 18th in qualifying within the 27-car field. Considering how the opening rounds at St. Petersburg and Texas Motor Speedway went, it was an encouraging sign for the Connecticut native.
Ferrucci’s charge forward over 85 laps on Sunday to improve to 11th was another highlight for the No. 14 Chevy program, which delivered the team’s best result so far in 2023.
“I think even going back to St. Pete, we were competitive in qualifying, but we just got caught out by the red flag and we almost were going to advance until [Simon] Pagenaud put it in the wall. It went red with 600 feet to go for me to hit the timing line. And the rest of that weekend wasn’t great for us,” Ferrucci told RACER.
“Obviously, Texas, our luck wasn’t any better with the clutch failing. But things improved in Long Beach and it was kind of like the St. Pete I thought we could have had. Because we started on the alternate tires and we made the fuel number work, it ended up being a super textbook race. [Team president] Larry [Foyt] was calling the race and he’s really good at strategy. And I think we’ve proved that we can do well if things just go normally for us like it did this weekend.”
Fighting with drivers representing Team Penske and Rahal Letterman Lanigan offered a visual indicator of where Ferrucci and the No. 14 Chevy belonged during the 85-lap race.
“One of the things that stood out was going three wide into Turn 6,” he said. “I was passing I think [Agustin] Canapino on the outside and then Pato [O’Ward] went around me on the outside. I knew I braked late and he braked like 20 feet later that I did — I was like, ‘There’s no way he makes the corner.’ And he did. Unbelievable. I was thinking to myself, ‘I know if I did that, I definitely would have hit the wall.’ No way that my car was gonna turn. But that was entertaining.
“Honestly, the most fun I had during that race was right in the end of the second stint when everybody’s tires were going off and I kept them underneath us. I just worked my way past like three cars — I ran down [Scott] McLaughlin, and I actually thought I was gonna get him. I don’t know if I would have been able to stay ahead of him; it would have been a tough, tough battle for me, but I sure as hell would have tried to hold on to that position because it would have been big for us.”
With the recent and unexpected loss of Lucy Foyt, wife of A.J. Foyt and mother to Larry Foyt, the team was grieving throughout Long Beach. A charging drive from Ferrucci only helped to celebrate the team matriarch.
“Honestly, for all things considered, that was the best-case scenario for us to move forward and get our legs to stand on,” he said. “It’s great to lift everybody’s spirits. I know A.J. was really happy; he called the team immediately after the checkered flag came out, and I wasn’t even back in the pits yet. Because that was the first thing I was told when I got out of the car, that A.J. was really happy with the result and he watched the whole race.
“I’m happy that Larry was able to make it out after losing his mom. It was really tough for everybody, but it was a great way to cap that weekend. It definitely makes everybody happy going into the Indy test and hungry going into Barber. So now it’s all about carrying momentum.”