Pato O'Ward

Riding into last year’s Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear, Santino Ferrucci was 15th in points. This year, with the same AJ Foyt Racing group, Ferrucci is 12th.

That three-spot improvement has Ferrucci dreaming big.

“I think the team's consistency is getting much better,” he said.

In preparation for Sunday’s 100-lap race (noon ET, USA Network, Peacock, INDYCAR Radio Network), Ferrucci powered his No. 14 AJ FOYT RACING/SEXTON PROPERTIES Chevrolet to seventh on Friday’s speed charts with a top lap of 1 minute, 2.3277 seconds.

Ferrucci comes into the weekend accumulating as many points (95) after five races this season as he did at this point (96) with six races completed last year.

The budding confidence stems from being strong on all disciplines of tracks. Among his three top-10 finishes this season, each came at a different type of circuit. He has finished ninth in the season opener on the streets of St. Petersburg, seventh on a natural road course at Barber Motorsports Park and eighth in last Sunday’s 108th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge.

Can he sustain that level of success all season? Last year, Ferrucci faded to 19th in points with a best result of 16th (Road America, Portland International Raceway) over the final 11 races.

“I definitely think I'm better than a couple of the people in front of me,” he said. “I feel like I'm more consistent than a couple of them, as well. Why not?”

Ferrucci also tempers those expectations by noting AJ Foyt Racing is a small team and has yet to run a clean weekend. Ferrucci joked some teams have more personnel on their catering team than AJ Foyt Racing has working on its race cars.

That’s why finding consistency is going to be the determining factor of how far Ferrucci climbs or falls over the final 12 races this season. Entering Sunday’s race at Detroit, Ferrucci is 20 points out of 10th in the standings but 27 clear of 19th. The margins are slim, with minimal room for error.

“This is where it really counts,” Ferrucci said. “You really got to dig down deep. Got to make sure you get all the rest you can at night. These are the races that really make a big swing on your championship. We get through these next three weeks clean and consistent, we're going to be sitting really pretty before we head into the summer races.”

Newgarden Thinks Fast Car Can Be Even Quicker

Josef Newgarden slid into the cockpit of his No. 2 Hitachi Astemo Team Penske Chevrolet for the first time since bursting out of the car after winning Sunday’s 108th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge. In Friday’s weekend opening NTT INDYCAR SERIES practice session in Detroit, Newgarden was sixth on the speed charts with a top time of 1:02.2377.

He then sent a warning to the other 26 drivers in the field after practice.

“In the middle, we hit on some changes that I think were really good,” Newgarden said. “I think we have even more in the car. I think the car feels really good. I’ve got to clean it up on my side. I think we know some areas where we can be better and faster and what direction to go. It’s a long weekend. We’ve got to make it to the end.”

With some drivers electing to practice on the Firestone Firehawk softer and faster alternate tire, Newgarden pounded the 1.645-mile pavement on the more durable primary tires. He said the car should have more pace on the alternate tires for NTT P1 Award qualifying Saturday.

Newgarden is aiming to become the first driver since Arie Luyendyk in 1997 to win the Indianapolis 500 and the following race on the schedule. Luyendyk won at Texas Motor Speedway following his “500” win.

Last year, Newgarden finished 10th at Detroit while Marcus Ericsson finished seventh at Belle Isle Park a week after his 2022 Indianapolis 500 win.

Rahal, Simpson Take Grid Penalties

INDYCAR officials announced Friday a six-position starting grid penalty for the entries of No. 4 Journie Rewards Chip Ganassi Racing Honda and No. 15 iPacket Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda for unapproved engine changes following the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge.

The teams were in violation of:

Rule A fifth (5th) Engine is eligible to earn Engine Manufacturer points if a Full Season Entrant has completed the Full Season Entrant Engine Mileage with its first four (4) Engines. Otherwise, a fifth (5th) or more Engine does not earn Engine Manufacturer points and will be considered an Unapproved Engine change-out.

INDY NXT by Firestone Leader Abel Embracing Momentum

Abel Motorsports driver Jacob Abel brings a 25-point advantage in the championship standings over HMD Motorsports sophomore driver Nolan Siegel this weekend to the Detroit Grand Prix.

Following a runner-up finish in the season opener on the streets of St. Petersburg, Abel in the second race of the season stormed to his maiden INDY NXT by Firestone victory on April 28 at Barber Motorsports Park from the pole. The next race weekend was a doubleheader on the 2.439-mile, 14-turn Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. Abel finished first and second, respectively.

That ballooned Abel’s points lead, with the Louisville native bringing four consecutive top-two finishes and three consecutive poles to Detroit.

“It’s honestly nice,” Abel said of the momentum. “Looking back at the past few races, we finally had a couple weeks off during the Indianapolis 500. That was nice to be the points leader. We’re only four rounds in out of 14, so a lot of road ahead. We’re just going to keep taking it race by race and trying to maximize each session.”

Odds and Ends

  • Actors Judge Reinhold and John Ashton, stars of the upcoming Netflix release “Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F,” will be featured guests at this weekend’s Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear. Reinhold will join a long list of celebrated INDYCAR Fastest Seat in Sports passengers as he leads the field to green in a custom INDYCAR SERIES car with a special back passenger seat. This high-speed, high-octane, super-charged thrill ride already has been taken by Jon Bon Jovi, actor Dylan Sprouse and country music star Riley Green during the 2024 INDYCAR season. Ashton also will take a high-speed lap around the Detroit Grand Prix track, and both actors will be introduced to the crowd during pre-race ceremonies before taking a special grid walk before the green flag drops.
  • INDY NXT by Firestone driver Nolan Allaer is wearing a Detroit Lions-themed racing helmet for this weekend’s Detroit Grand Prix. Allaer, born in the Detroit suburb of Grosse Point Woods, Michigan, will pay homage to the local NFL team sporting a helmet inside the No. 11 HMD Motorsports entry that is almost an exact replica of the Lions’ blue alternate helmet.
  • The 1.645-mile, nine-turn temporary street course in Detroit had a couple updates this year. Approximately 700 feet of asphalt resurfacing was completed prior to the Turn 3 braking zone. The Turn 3 runoff was also resurfaced since last year. Concrete resurfacing also was completed beginning approximately 50 feet before the apex of Turn 9 and continuing approximately 150 feet beyond the corner.
  • Prior to Newgarden winning two consecutive Indianapolis 500 races, Helio Castroneves (2001-02) was the last to accomplish that feat. Now that Newgarden, 33, is among 21 drivers to win the “500” multiple times, he has plenty of time to win more. “A.J. Foyt told me once when I won the fourth, he said records are made to be broken,” Castroneves said. “In the future, people continue winning multiple races at Indianapolis, and I think that's what's going to happen. Great performance (by Newgarden). Last-minute pass, and it worked out.”
  • Ferrucci is celebrating his 26th birthday Friday in Detroit but isn’t a person that likes to fete turning older. He said he woke up and had a breakfast sandwich. If anything, he said his celebration came Thursday when he played golf at Detroit Golf Club. “Had to pull a couple favors to get in there, so it was well worth it,” he said.
  • INDY NXT by Firestone driver Reece Gold said it is nice to return to a track where he last won. Gold earned his first career INDY NXT by Firestone victory in the opening event of last year’s Detroit doubleheader. “Looking forward to helping turn around my season here,” Gold said. He said there’s a lot of pressure on this upcoming stretch of races to rally from his current spot of seventh in the standings.