Race Weekend Central

Santino Ferrucci Sees Honest Shot at Indy 500 Victory End in 3rd Place

Santino Ferrucci ended what was undoubtedly his best shot to win an Indianapolis 500 to date in third place on Sunday (May 28). Though the result is his first career podium in the NTT IndyCar Series, that will be little consolation to the underdog of the month of May and his race team.

The race ended under controversial circumstances, featuring three red flags in the final 15 laps which culminated in a one-lap shootout for the victory between Ferrucci, Josef Newgarden and defending winner Marcus Ericsson.

“We were there all day, I mean all day,” Ferrucci told NBC after the race.

“This one stings, it’s bittersweet. But I’m happy for third, I’m happy for the team. Happy for Josef [Newgarden], all of Team Penske. He did a hell of a job at the end holding off Marcus [Ericsson]. Obviously, that’s not an easy thing, otherwise everybody would do it! But no, I’m just really proud of what we’ve done today.”

The No. 14 AJ Foyt entry was bad fast all day, with its 24-year-old driver rarely dropping out of the top 10 from start to finish. Rolling off in fourth place, Ferrucci looked like an honest contender for the victory in the 107th running of the race, in strong position until he made his final pit stop of the day. 

Ferrucci came to the pits on lap 180 of 200 for four fresh Firestones and fuel. The 2019 Rookie of the Year’s pit crew gave him a solid stop to rejoin the leading pack with 20 laps to go. However, the right-front tire changer lost control of a used tire, which rolled inches beyond the borders of the No. 14’s pit stall. The commentary booth – and IndyCar Twitter – erupted in debate as to how the team would be penalized for having an uncontrolled tire on pit lane.

NBC commentators James Hinchcliffe and Townsend Bell verbally jousted in the booth over the question of how the mishap would effect Ferrucci’s race. But the discord was shut down quickly when race control opted to penalize the No. 14 with a warning and monetary fine, preserving his track position and baffling… well, essentially everybody.

Right or wrong in terms of the penalty, Ferrucci’s pace dropped notably after his final pit stop. He only returned to contention for the lead once, on the second-to-last restart of the day.

See also
Josef Newgarden Wins 107th Indianapolis 500

All-in-all, the race ended positively in Ferrucci’s mind, even though it was so, so close to being so, so much better.

“I was trying not to tear up getting into the racecar before we started the race,” he recalled.

“I’ve actually never been that emotional for this race. At one point – it was weird because I’m never nervous. Different emotions, it was different but I think, you know, coming to the end, the last few restarts I think INDYCAR made the right decision with all they have done for a green flag finish for the fans… I just wish we had a couple more laps to finish that off.”

A more composed Ferrucci later appeared in the media center, seated to the left of runner-up Ericsson and retiring Tony Kanaan.

“It’s definitely one of the more difficult races that I’ve probably ever run,” Ferrucci admitted. “We got really close with Felix [Rosenqvist] when he was wrecking. So we were thankful that we were able to avoid that.

“And then, yeah, coming to the end, you know I think on the second to final restart, me and Marcus battling into turn 1 and going red when it did is, you know, it’s part of this place, it’s part of racing, it’s part of the speedway… Just, bummed because I think, I’m sure Marcus thinks the same thing I do… all three of us could have won it at any point in time. So, yeah… it’s bittersweet.”

Whether an Indy 500 winner or just a podium finisher, Ferrucci’s display throughout the month of May took many by surprise. And it was no fluke on the part of AJ Foyt Racing.

The young man in the other Foyt entry, Benjamin Pedersen, stirred up some buzz throughout the month which merited plenty of discussion in its own right. The rookie forced his way into the Fast 12 in qualifying and kept himself clean and present throughout his first Indy 500 until getting caught up in a second-to-last lap accident along with Ed Carpenter, Graham Rahal and Christian Lundgaard.

For Ferrucci, who entered Sunday’s race with a best finish of 11th (Long Beach) in 2023, this career-best run is welcome momentum for he and his AJ Foyt squad. The team has spent much of this season as mid-field runners at best and backmarkers at worst. Ferrucci’s podium result at the 500 may be their best shot to turn their fledgling season around.

About the author

Alex is the IndyCar Content Director at Frontstretch, having initially joined as an entry-level contributor in 2021. He also serves as Managing Director of The Asia Cable, a publication focused on the international affairs and politics of the Asia-Pacific region which he co-founded in 2023. With previous experience in China, Japan and Poland, Alex is particularly passionate about the international realm of motorsport and the politics that make the wheels turn - literally - behind the scenes.

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