There is one very simple reason why AJ Foyt Racing chose Santino Ferrucci as the driver of the No. 14 Chevrolet for the 2023 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season.
“Whatever the situation, he goes forward on race day,” team president Larry Foyt said. “That's what I really liked. When you look at it, INDYCAR qualifying is so tough, especially with the knockout qualifying on road courses, you got to get a perfect lap, get your tire pressures right there. Some days you got to come from the back.
“Even when he had to face that, I was really impressed how he got to the front. Even with limited practice, he did a really good job.”
Ferrucci, 24, has not been a full-time fixture in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES since 2020. He spent most of the past two years with occasional starts bouncing between the NTT INDYCAR SERIES and NASCAR’s Xfinity Series, along with running in the Chili Bowl Nationals.
In 2022, he recorded two top-10 finishes in three one-off appearances in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (ninth at Texas Motor Speedway), Dreyer & Reinbold Racing (10th in the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge) and Juncos Hollinger Racing, and he was also on-call for Team Penske following Josef Newgarden’s crash at Iowa Speedway in July.
“The last few years for me, including this year, everything has been on merit for me,” Ferrucci said. “I had sponsorship my first year I came into INDYCAR, a little bit with the second year. After that it's just been really tough with COVID for myself. That's kind of why we switched to NASCAR a little bit, because I had to find some partners that preferred that. Also, I wanted to try it. There's a reason why you saw me over there.
“For me, being as young as I am, having these part-time rides, subbing for the kids that do get injured unfortunately, is really the only thing that's kept me going.”
One significant statistic that undoubtedly got the attention of AJ Foyt Racing is Ferrucci finishing in the top 10 in each of his four appearances in the Indianapolis 500, including a career-best fourth in 2020.
“I know that race, in particular, I will always kind of have a shot,” Ferrucci said.
Connecticut native Ferrucci will be the second newcomer to the Foyt team in 2023, joining Indy Lights graduate Benjamin Pedersen. Ferrucci may have just 43 career NTT INDYCAR SERIES starts over five seasons, but that experience will prove valuable to help push the Foyt team forward and also help Pedersen in his rookie season.
“To come back full-time and to be driving for Larry, it's an honor,” Ferrucci said. “It's so tough for drivers in my position right now that are trying to make it, or else we're going to flip burgers. I'm just very grateful for the opportunity.
“I'm ready to work as hard as I've ever worked to show that we can do this as a team and this was the right decision for everybody involved, all the partners that are coming back in, that want to be a part of this deal.”
Besides his ability to stand on the gas, Ferrucci’s diverse racing resume the past few seasons appeals to team owner A.J. Foyt, a four-time Indianapolis 500 winner. The legendary Foyt remains the only driver in history to win the Indianapolis 500, Daytona 500, 24 Hours of Le Mans and Rolex 24 At Daytona.
A.J. Foyt also was legendary for working on his cars, even after computers started to play as big of a role in car setup as wrenches and seat-of-the-pants feel. Ferrucci has a similar background, as he said he traveled to races during his karting career in a pickup truck and turned wrenches on his kart.
“Having the fundamentals, I'm not the typical driver that doesn't get his hands dirty,” Ferrucci said. “There's a lot of those today that don't even know how to drive a stick, which is mind-blowing to me. I am a very old-school mentality. I want to be in the weeds like everybody else, working on things, making sure everybody is doing it together.
“It’s a team, man, at the end of the day. I'm one part of many. We need to function like a team.”