Marcus Ericsson Josef Newgarden Santino Ferrucci

Santino Ferrucci has had much to celebrate this week, with Sunday’s stirring performance in the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge followed by his 25th birthday Wednesday.

So how did the AJ Foyt Racing driver spend his only day at home in several weeks? Mowing the grass on a sweltering Texas afternoon, one day after driving 12 hours from Indianapolis with his fiancé and their dogs.

“Only a third of an acre,” he said of the yard, “on a push mower though. Oh, yeah, very old school.

“My fiancé thought I was crazy when I bought this (mower) at Home Depot. She said, ‘You’re going to mow the lawn once and (then) pay someone else to do it.’ I said, ‘Nope, I’m doing this.’ So, I’m sticking to it.”

Ferrucci apologized on INDYCAR’s video conference for dripping in sweat with filthy hands, a scene his team owner, a notoriously tough Texan, would have appreciated.

Ferrucci certainly is finishing a whirlwind month, first qualifying in the fourth position for the 107th Running of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” and then delivering the race of his life. Ferrucci led 11 laps late in the race, and he nearly grabbed the lead in a three-wide duel with Josef Newgarden and Marcus Ericsson on the Lap 196 restart.

At that moment, Ferrucci was certain he had cleared his way to the lead just before the caution waving for a crash behind them on the front straightaway, but Race Control determined he had not. That was a significant moment to the outcome of the race as the driver of the No. 14 AJ Foyt Racing/Sexton Properties Chevrolet would have been first or second with what turned out to be one lap to go. Instead, Ericsson had the lead, with Newgarden in the enviable second spot.

“Had it gone yellow two seconds later … had (officials) waited, which you can’t wait when (cars are) crashing, so there’s nothing you can do,” Ferrucci said. “I was in third (at the yellow), only 6 inches behind Newgarden, and that’s very clear in the video.”

When the race restarted for the deciding one-lap shootout, Ferrucci said Ericsson masterfully got a jump as the leader, pulling out to a sizable lead as they reached Turn 1. Ferrucci said he didn’t get a great restart and wasn’t able to hang with Newgarden for what turned out to be Newgarden’s winning move approaching Turn 3. Newgarden then held off Ericsson on the frontstretch for his first “500” victory.

With so much on the line in a three-hour battle, Ferrucci had an emotional release when he climbed from the car. Tears welled up, and he needed a moment to collect them.

“There’s so much riding on that race and it was going so well – it finished really well,” he said. “It wasn’t pressure to perform, it was emotional pressure to just be there, to know that we probably had that race won had it gone yellow two seconds later. It’s just kind of heartbreaking.

“But still, to come home third, to join Helio (Castroneves) and Harry Hartz with (five top-10 finishes in the first five races), you start to realize what you accomplished at the ‘500’ in your first five starts with four different teams and what we’ve done with AJ Foyt Racing, which hasn’t had a top-three finish (at Indy) since 2000.

“There are so many positives, and that day could have been so much worse. We had so many close calls between pit lane and some of the crashes on track. At the end of the day, I was just happy and I went to bed that night knowing I did the best I could, the team did the best it could and that’s (the luck of) the track.”

Along with the rest of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES competitors, Ferrucci must regroup quickly. His itinerary has him flying early Thursday from Dallas to Detroit, where the seventh race of the season, the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear, will be staged this weekend on a new downtown street circuit. The first practice is set for 3 p.m. ET Friday. Coincidentally, Ferrucci’s first NTT INDYCAR SERIES race was in Detroit during the 2018 doubleheader at The Raceway at Belle Isle Park, and this will be his 50th career start in the series.

Ferrucci finished 11th in the series’ most recent street race, the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 16, which gives him optimism for this weekend. But he doesn’t know what to expect for the circuit that will be used for the first time.

Ferrucci said he hasn’t had access to computer simulator, and his only experience with the 1.7-mile layout was one winter drive in a Chevrolet Tahoe.

“Having taken some laps there in a Tahoe was definitely a lot of fun,” he said. “(Those vehicles) do have much better suspension than an Indy car -- and heated seats when we were there -- so that was really nice.”

Still, racing a new track sure beats pushing a mower on a humid day in Texas.

“It’s kind of nonstop, and getting sleep’s tough (to get),” he said of his schedule. “It’s a lot of fun.

“I like the energy of go, go, go, and I’m pretty sure the team does, too, continuing that momentum.”

The return of street racing in the Motor City culminates this weekend with Sunday’s Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear at 3 p.m. on NBC, Peacock and the INDYCAR Radio Network.