Notes & Quotes: Children's of Alabama Indy Grand Prix
Heath Huddleston joined AJ Foyt Racing this season to work as the crew chief on Benjamin Pedersen's No. 55 Sexton Properties Chevrolet. Originally from Collinsville, Ill., not far from World Wide Technology Raceway, Huddleston lives on his farm in Bismarck, Ill. He commutes daily (80 miles one way!) to the race shop in Speedway, Ind. We asked him a few questions...
What is your past work experience (in racing and otherwise)?
HH: "I started in motorsports in 1999 with Bettenhausen Motorsports. I worked there from 1999-2001, then I went to work as a dealership technician, so I could raise my children and be home with my family even though my heart was always in racing. I became master-certified in the Kia, Honda and Hyundai brands. I also have AG (agricultural) mechanical experience (farm equipment). I believe all of which has helped me become a better race mechanic. I got back into racing in 2019 when my former crew chief called me to help at Harding Racing. I've been in racing since. I was with Colton Herta through 2020, then Arrow McLaren as a float mechanic and outside front tire changer on Pato O'Ward's No. 5 car. I learned a lot there about what it takes to win and how to win. The knowledge and experience I gained working at Arrow McLaren helped me grow personally and professionally."
Are you married?
HH: "Yes, I am married. I've been happily married to my beautiful wife Stephanie for 21 years. We will celebrate our 22nd anniversary on May 26th. We have four children and five grandchildren."
What is the first race you attended?
HH: "The first race I remember attending was the 1988 Indy 500 qualifications and race with my grandfather and I've been hooked ever since."
How did you get involved in motorsports?
HH: "I started with Bettenhausen Motorsports in 1999. I asked around when the team was at Gateway (aka World Wide Technology Raceway) and talked with Joe Ward the team manager. I got an interview and two weeks later I was hired."
What is your favorite race track and why?
HH: "The Indianapolis Motor Speedway! IMS and the Indianapolis 500 are just different. It's special and it's the biggest race in the world. When you are on the grid and there are 300,000 plus people in the stands, the hair on your neck just stands up; it's hard to explain or put into words."
What is your proudest achievement?
HH: "Raising my children to love God, family and country. Teaching them the value of hard work, about being responsible and dependable, and that life is not easy. If you want something, you have to be willing to work hard for it and earn it."
Have you ever raced cars yourself?
What is the most satisfying part of your job?
HH: "Watching our team grow and get better each week."
Huddleston in action changing the outside front tire on Pedersen's car.
What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
HH: "Having a plan and then something comes up that is unexpected and having to come up with solutions quickly and on the fly, but it's rewarding when we do."
What is your favorite thing about Barber Motorsports Park?
HH: "The facility and the museum."
Do you have any advice for someone who is looking to work in racing as a mechanic?
HH: "Yes, be persistent, don't be afraid to follow your dreams, don't be afraid to fail or make mistakes. That's how you learn and grow. It's part of the process. I truly believe if you put the work in and continue to develop the skills you need, you will make it."
Do you have hobbies outside of racing?
HH: "Spending time with my family, children and grandchildren, working on my farm, hiking and camping when I have time."
Heath with his son Gabe. His other son is in the Marine Corps on special assignment.
What is your greatest goal in your career?
HH: "Win the Indianapolis 500 and the INDYCAR championship."
What are your top three bucket list items in life?
HH: "Take my wife to Ireland, Israel, and see Scotland."
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
HH: "You have two ears and one mouth, so listen more and talk less, always focus forward. There is a reason the windshield in a car is bigger than the rearview mirror."
Santino Ferrucci, driver of the No. 14 Sexton Properties Chevrolet, has raced at Barber Motorsports Park only once - in 2019 - when he qualified 10th and finished 15th. He was working with his teammate Sebastian Bourdais who qualified fifth and finished third. This race will be Ferrucci's 15th start on a permanent road course.
“Super excited to head to Barber to carry the momentum from Long Beach. Haven’t been back for a little while now, so we will see how it goes for the team, but I know that Benjamin’s (Pedersen) rookie test proved successful, so I’m very excited to see what they learned and apply it to this weekend.”
Ferrucci Fast Facts: Age 24...Born in Woodbury, CT...Lives in Dallas, Texas...Began racing karts at age 5, moved to cars in 2013...Competed in Formula 2000, British Formula 3, GP3 finishing third at Spa Francorchamps as a rookie, was development driver for Haas F1 team for three years (2016-2018), moved to Formula 2 in 2018...moved to NTT INDYCAR Series in 2019 finishing 13th in standings for Dale Coyne and won Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year after finishing seventh...13th in standings again with fourth place finish in the 500...drove part-time in 2021-22 but maintained top-10 streak in Indy 500 with finishes of sixth (RLL Racing) and 10th (Dreyer Reinbold Racing)...Competed part-time in NASCAR Xfinity Series in 2021-22.
Benjamin Pedersen, driver of the No. 55 Sexton Properties Chevrolet, has competed at Barber Motorsports Park in F-3 and the INDY NXT by Firestone. At Barber, he has three starts in the INDY NXT by Firestone, and finished second twice. In his last start there, he qualified and finished second.
"I am really looking forward to being back at Barber this week. This is a track I have experience with and have found success at from F3 to Indy Lights. It will be nice to be back on a track that I am familiar with and it happens to be one of my favorite tracks on the schedule. We had a great test here last month in the No. 55 Sexton Properties Chevrolet, so I am excited to see what we can build on and accomplish as a team when we are on track beginning this Friday."
Pedersen Fast Facts: Age 23...Born in Copenhagen, Denmark, moved to Seattle at age 4 and is now living in Indianapolis...Began racing karts at a young age and has competed and won races in the INDY NXT by Firestone, British Formula 3, FR Americas Championship, F4 US Championship...Enjoys golf, pickleball, skiing, soccer, snowmobiling, mountain biking, dirt biking.
Past Performance at Barber Motorsports Park: AJ Foyt Racing’s best start is fourth in 2012 with Mike Conway and its best finish is fifth with Sebastien Bourdais in 2021.
Last Race: Ferrucci scored the team's best finish of the season to date in Long Beach, Calif. where he qualified 18th and finished 11th, aided by great pit stops by the No. 14 Sexton Properties crew. After qualifying 23rd, Pedersen's first race ever on the streets of Long Beach had multiple issues causing him to lose several laps; he finished 24th.
The Children’s of Alabama Indy Grand Prix will be broadcast live on NBC at 3 p.m. ET. Practices (Friday at 3:40 p.m. ET and Saturday at 12 p.m. ET) and qualifying (3 p.m. ET on Saturday) The final warm up starts Sunday at 12 p.m. ET. All practices, qualifying and the race will also be broadcast on INDYCAR Radio and SiriusXM Channel 160.