top of page

NOTES & QUOTES: Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey

CHRIS "BEAKER" SHEFFER joined AJ Foyt Racing in October last year as the shop manager of the team's Speedway, Ind. race shop. Born in Sacramento, Calif., Sheffer went to races at Sonoma Raceway (aka Sears Point) with his father and did the driving schools there and at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. His resume shows experience in a wide array of series in both open wheel and sports cars. He and his wife Jessica live in Brownsburg, Ind. with their dogs Axel (3) and Hilary (14). We asked him a few questions...

Why “Beaker”? How did you get your nickname?

CS: "Long story short on this one: 1996 Toyota team with PPI (Cal Wells' Precision Preparation, Inc.

race team), which made its debut in the CART (Championship Auto Racing Teams) Series that year. We would do spring training at Homestead, (Fla.) then come back to the shop in California. We had two days to turn cars around before the first race. We were working a 32-hour day and someone ticked me off and I walked out of the shop and when doing so, I was saying some choice words. When I came back everyone started calling me "Beaker" because I looked and sounded like "Beaker" from the Muppets when I walked out. Name has stuck ever since."

How did you get interested in motorsports?

CS: "My dad raced boats in upstate New York growing up and my grandfather was a test driver for Saab in Sweden when he was growing up. Needless to say, it's in my blood."

What was the first race you attended in person?

CS: "Probably the 1984 Trans AM race at Sonoma if I had to remember that far back."

Please name the series or teams that you've worked with before coming to Foyt and INDYCAR...

Beaker at Laguna Seca

CS: "My first job in racing was with John Martin, racing in Indy Lights in 1994. Since then, I've been a mechanic in CART, Champcar, WSC (World Sportscar Championship), IMSA, Ferrari Challenge, PWC (Pirelli World Challenge), Porsche Cup, Lamborghini Super Trefeo and back to INDYCAR. I took a break in 2002 and came back to racing in 2008."

What is your favorite track and why?

CS: "It's a toss-up between Sears Point (Sonoma), Laguna Seca (Monterey), and Watkins Glen (NY). I grew up around Sears Point in going to races with my dad. I went to racing school at both tracks but enjoy the challenge of driving Laguna Seca. I've spent many weekends at the Glen with my grandfather and dad as they are from there."

What is your highest achievement in racing?

CS: "I've always been a fan of sportscar racing and getting the chance to work at Wayne Taylor Racing and then winning the 24 Hours of Daytona was a good time."

Did you ever drive race cars? if so, what type and when?

CS: "I drove for a bit in a Formula Mazda. I did 9 races that year, I think.:

What is the most challenging part of your job?

CS: "Making sure everyone is on the same page, but also having a good time. I know this job is very

Beaker delivers BP's birthday cake in May.

demanding at times, and I don't need our team of guys burnt out and not enjoying their jobs."

What gives you the most satisfaction in your job?

CS: "Seeing our team and drivers succeed while not only working hard together but all having a good time in the end."

If you weren't in racing, what would you do (as a job)?

CS: "It would be in the automotive field for sure. I used to work at Saleen, I ran the S7 special projects (supercar) department. I still stay in touch with friends who now work at Czinger." [Note: Czinger is an American automobile manufacturer of hybrid sports cars based in Los Angeles, operating since 2019.]

Beaker with wife Jessica and Axel who's 3.

What interests/hobbies do you have outside of racing?

CS: "Jigsaw puzzles, hanging out with friends and family."

What are the top 3 things on your Bucket List?

CS: "Travel the world more with my wife, charter a yacht with 10 of my closest friends, restore a car with my grandfather. "

What is the best advice you've ever gotten and from whom?

CS: "My dad always told me you can never stop learning, and if you feel you've found that person to learn from, do what us Sheffers do and learn all you can from them."

Three generations of Sheffers (L to R): Ken (who passed away), Chris aka Beaker and grandfather Gene.

SANTINO FERRUCCI makes his 60th start in the NTT INDYCAR Series this weekend and only his second start at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, his first coming in 2019 when he qualified 12th but was out after 48 laps.

Why do you like racing at Laguna Seca?

SF: "I don’t know if I’d say if I like racing at Laguna Seca, I do really like the track. I think it’s amazing to drive. It’s very difficult to pass here in INDYCAR so racing here is probably not my favorite, but I do very much enjoy running laps here."

Do you find the track challenging to drive and set up for? If so, why?

SF: "This is definitely a very challenging track to drive, testing here is going to be very helpful for me. The last time I was here I was testing and that was in 2021. That was also on the old track, so I’m excited to see what the repave is like."

Where are the best (or only) passing zones?

SF: "I think the best passing zone is either the last corner or the first corner. Other than that, someone needs to make a mistake or you just need to be outright a lot faster to make a pass. I will say that if you make a pass in the cork screw, it is incredibly rewarding! It’s just incredibly difficult."

The area around the track - Carmel & Monterey - have some great restaurants. What is the name of your favorite restaurant out there?

SF: "It’s been a minute since I’ve been out to the restaurants, the boss and I had gone to one the other day. There is a sushi place on the strip and it was fantastic."

Ferrucci Fast Facts: Age 25...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...made his INDYCAR debut in Detroit in 2018...moved to NTT INDYCAR Series fulltime 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)...Scored best finish to date this year with his 3rd place finish in the Indianapolis 500...Competed part-time in NASCAR Xfinity Series in 2021-22.

BENJAMIN PEDERSEN wraps up his rookie season at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca where he has logged more race laps at the track than his veteran teammate. However, Pedersen's 140 race laps came in the Indy NXT Series - four 35-lap events over two seasons. His best start was third (Race 1, 2022) and his best finish was third (Race 1, 2021).

Why do you like racing at Laguna Seca?

BP: "This track has been here for a very long time. The nature of Monterey is very special with the elevation change at the track, which makes it very challenging. The new pavement changes will be very exciting for everyone because it's new and fresh. The degradation of the tires is going to be a completely different topic."

Do you find the track challenging to drive and set up for? If so, why?

BP: "In the past yes, with how much dag there is with the low grip track, it's usually very hard on tires, but with the new surface, I think that resets that. I think it will be very similar to Road America in regards to surface and degradation, but we will see here with the upcoming test and race weekend."

Where are the best (or only) passing zones?

BP: "Into Turn 2 is a pretty decent passing area and the top of the corkscrew can be very good. Otherwise, I think being on different strategies and fresh tires is what makes being able to pass easier."

The area around the track - Carmel & Monterey - have some great restaurants. What is the name of your favorite restaurant?

BP: "I enjoy going to Wave Street Cafe for breakfast and dinner anything down by Cannery Row is pretty good."

Pedersen Fast Facts: Age 24...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 Series, British Formula 3, FR Americas Championship, F4 US Championship...Earned Rookie of the Year award in the Indianapolis 500 after setting a record for the fastest qualifying lap by a rookie (233.297mph). Enjoys golf, pickleball, skiing, soccer, snowmobiling, mountain biking, dirt biking.

Past Performance at Laguna Seca: AJ Foyt Racing’s best finish was eighth with Mike Groff who also posted the team’s best start of 11th (both in 1992). In 2019, Ferrucci started 12th and placed 24th after 48 laps. Pedersen is making his first start here in an Indy car.

Last Race: At Portland, Ferrucci started 22nd and finished 16th after being hit from behind causing him to spin and lose track position in the closing laps of the race. Pedersen ran one of his most competitive races to date, starting 26th and finishing 24th at a track where it is difficult to pass.

The Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey will be broadcast Sunday, Sept. 10 on NBC starting at 2:30 p.m. ET. Practices and qualifying will be streamed live on Peacock.


bottom of page