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Notes & Quotes: Sonsio Grand Prix

Race engineer Mike Armbrester Jr., born and raised in Flatwoods, Kentucky, became hooked on motorsports after seeing his first Indy 500 with his grandfather. A graduate of Purdue University with a B.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering, Armbrester joined our team in the off season to engineer the No. 41 Chevrolet. He lives in Indianapolis with his wife Stephanie, kids Edison and Nora, and a pair of Golden Retrievers "Penny" and "Mackey". We asked him a few questions...


How did you become interested in motorsports? / What was the first race you attended? 

MA: "My family is from Indiana, and my grandfather, who lived in Rockville, had tickets for the Indy 500. When I was five, he asked my mother if he could take me to the race and she agreed, so that's what got me hooked -- my first Indy 500 in 1983. I was completely taken in by the size and energy of the crowd, the bright colors of all the cars and the pre-race balloons, the Purdue band, the speed and the sound. My grandfather would ask a different grandkid to go with him each year, but a lot of my cousins weren't interested, so I would beg to go in their place! I got to go to a lot of Indy 500s growing up because of that, and the ones I didn't get to attend I watched live on television back in Kentucky. We lived on a dead-end street and I would ride my bicycle down to the end of the street and back, 4 laps at a time like a qualifying attempt. Sometimes I'd pretend to be Rick Mears, sometimes Mario Andretti, but usually I pretended to be AJ Foyt."

Armbrester with his step-mother and step-sister at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's Hall of Fame Museum with A.J.'s 1977 winner (circa 1984-85).


Have you ever raced cars yourself? 

MA: "No."


When did you start your career as an engineer in racing? 

MA: "I started working for Champ Car at the beginning of the 2006 season, assisting in technical inspection and writing database software for both Champ Car and Atlantics."


Which teams/series have you worked in and what were your positions?

MA: "Champ Car (two years) in the Operations Group (tech inspection, electronics, software development for Champ Car World Series and Atlantics); EuroInternational (one year) as a Data Engineer in Atlantics; KV Racing (one year) as a Performance Engineer in IndyCar, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (seven years across two stints) as a Performance Engineer and Race Engineer in IndyCar (and a couple of events with the BMW team in a fill-in Performance Engineer role), Dale Coyne Racing (four years) as a Performance Engineer in IndyCar, Juncos Racing (half a year) as a Race Engineer in Indy Lights, and I did a little moonlighting as a Race Engineer with Belardi Auto Racing in Indy Lights for a few events in 2015." 


What is your most significant achievement to date? 

MA: "Winning the Indianapolis 500 in 2020 (unfortunately with no spectators)!"

Armbrester poses with the Borg Warner trophy after his driver Takuma Sato won in 2020.

What are the biggest challenges of working in the INDYCAR Series? 

MA: "From an engineering perspective, the diversity of the schedule -- there are so many different types of circuits and the demands change week by week, so you have to be flexible and versatile to be regularly competitive. Outside of pure engineering, I think the biggest challenge just comes from the fact that everyone has nearly the same equipment, so the margins are razor-thin and to be successful you have to have every member of the team perform their role at a high level."


What do you enjoy most about working in the INDYCAR Series? 

MA: "I've always loved team sports and math and science, so IndyCar is a great way to combine those three things into one career path that keeps me engaged on a regular basis. I also particularly enjoy the camaraderie in the paddock in general -- I've been doing this for a while now so I've met quite a lot of people in the industry, and it's fun to compete against them and get to do it in an environment where there is a healthy level of mutual respect. As I get older, there are more and more people that I've helped along the way that have gone to other teams and found success or grown into new roles, and that is rewarding for me (but so is beating them!)."

Which track is your favorite and why? 

MA: "Purely for the circuit, I've always loved Road America; it's a proper track where an IndyCar can stretch its legs, and it's exactly the type of venue where we should be racing. But, Toronto is my favorite event on the calendar -- it's a great city. I visited Toronto when I was in high school and I've had a soft spot for it ever since." 


What advice would you give to young engineers desiring to work in the IndyCar Series? 

MA: "Be patient and be open minded! When I started my career there were very few role definitions for engineers in racing, and there was really only one well-defined path for advancement. Now, things are very different -- there are lots of ways to get involved, and a lot of pathways to achieving your ultimate goal for your own career. Don't be afraid to step outside your comfort zone and take a risk by deviating from your preferred path. Other than that, the advice I always give students is this: if you're dumb, surround yourself with smart people, and if you're smart, surround yourself with smart people who disagree with you. That's the only way to truly challenge yourself and grow as an individual."

Armbrester vacationing with his family at Pinehurst, NC in autumn last year. Left to right: Stephanie, daughter Nora, son Edison who plays competitive junior golf, Armbrester and his father Mike Sr.


What interests do you have outside of racing? How do you spend your spare time? 

MA: "Golf is my primary hobby -- I play golf every chance I get outside of work, and I caddie for my 14-year-old son, who plays competitive junior golf. During the winter months, I am a die-hard Purdue basketball fan -- I'll make 8-10 trips per season to Mackey Arena for home games, and I watch every other game live on television, often texting back and forth with my Dad, who is also a Purdue alum and basketball fanatic. I also enjoy running, reading, building Lego sets with my kids, taking the dogs for walks around our neighborhood, and my wife and I like to ship the kids off to school in the mornings and then sneak out for breakfast at a few of our favorite spots in Zionsville."

Armbrester's two English Cream golden retrievers, Penny (3) and Mackey (7 months).


SANTINO FERRUCCI is coming off a strong performance in the Children's of Alabama Indy Grand Prix at Barber Motorsports Park where he finished seventh after starting 17th. Entering the month of May, he is now 10th in the NTT INDYCAR Series point standings which is the highest he's been since he began driving the No. 14 Sexton Properties Chevrolet last year.

 Why are you looking forward to the Indy GP?

SF: "It’s always nice to start May off with a road course and to get settled staying in the coach over the GP weekend. It’s also nice that we have a Saturday race to free up our Sunday to relax and maybe play golf at Brickyard Crossing."

What did you learn from the race at Barber that will help at Indy?

SF: "I think from all the testing we learned more so when we came into Barber we knew we had a good package. Hopefully the same goes for the Indy GP since we tested at the IMS road course with the hybrid engine last month." 

Is qualifying well imperative at the IMS road course or are there enough passing zones to overcome a position deep in the starting grid?

SF: "I think qualifying is very important everywhere we go this year because the field is so competitive. But you can most definitely pass here at the GP and hopefully we have a good strategy race as well."

Can differing fuel strategies come into play in the GP like it did at Barber?

SF: "There is definitely potential for that. I feel the Indy GP has been more of a tire race than fuel but it changes every year because the Firestone tires change." 


Ferrucci Fast Facts: Age 25...Born in Woodbury, CT...Lives in Dallas, Texas...Married Renay Moore in January, 2024...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 career-best finish to date with his 3rd place finish in the 2023 Indianapolis 500 to continue his string of consecutive top-10 finishes in the 500...Competed part-time in NASCAR Xfinity Series in 2021-22.


STING RAY ROBB lost the steering on his No. 41 Chevrolet before slamming into the Turn 1 barrier in the Children's of Alabama Indy GP at Barber Motorsports Park; fortunately he escaped without injury. The driver maintains an optimistic outlook as he heads into the month of May.


How do you bounce back from an incident at Barber where you had a mechanical issue that ended your race?

SRR: "You bounce back like nothing ever happened. A great lesson I learned growing up playing other sports was to have a short memory. Sometimes you strike out swinging. Things happen and you have to move on. There's often times we learn what we can from an incident like this, chalk it up to a lesson and forget the rest. There were some good things that came from the weekend we can move forward with that. Even though the result was not great and severely hurt us in points, we can't dwell on that and can only focus on what is in front of us."


You were running well at Barber before the mechanical issue so does that give you confidence going to IMS?

SRR: "Absolutely. The contact on the start caused a little bit of damage but we were still able to fight with some competitive drivers that finished well on the day. We just need to qualify better and put ourselves out of the chaos zone in the future and back into the fight. We race well with good strategy and good pitstops. The rest will come."


What do you like about the road course at IMS? Is it one that allows for racing wheel to wheel in some of the passing zones?

SRR: "It is a great track for racing. There are a lot of passing zones. There are places where you have to think about momentum more than other tracks when making a pass, because the straightaways are so long. There are often times where you have to think multiple corners ahead to figure out where you can make a high percentage move without compromising the rest of the lap."  


Does having this race before the 500 help get you in the rhythm for the big event?

SRR: "It's obviously a very different event, but momentum weekend to weekend is a very real thing. The month of May I think could be a turning point for us. With some good results, rolling into the rest of the season and with that confidence as a more cohesive team could be crucially important." 


Sting Ray Robb Fast Facts: Age 22...Grew up in Payette, ID....Lives in Indianapolis...Engaged to Molly Mitchell...Began racing karts at age 5 winning several national titles over the next 10 years. His transition to cars began at the Skip Barber Karts to Cars Shootout where he won the Bryan Herta Scholarship which put him on the Road to Indy and into the NTT INDYCAR Series at age 21. In his rookie season, he scored a career best finish of 12th in the season finale in Monterey, Calif. A devout Christian, Robb will be active as a spokesman for his sponsor this season. Off track, Robb enjoys mountain biking, skiing, hiking, hunting, fishing, rock-climbing, golf, tennis, pickleball and basketball.


Past Performance at the Indy GP: Ferrucci has competed in five races on the road course (including the fall races) and his best start is 11th in 2020. His best finish is ninth also in 2020. Robb is making his third start at the track in an Indy car. His best start (May race) and finish (August race) is 22nd. AJ Foyt Racing’s best start on the IMS Road course is fourth with Jack Hawksworth in 2016 and their best finish is fourth with Matheus Leist in 2019. In both cases, the drivers were in their sophomore year of NTT INDYCAR Series competition.


Peacock Streaming and NBC Broadcast Information: NBC's Peacock will stream Friday’s practices at 9:30 a.m. and 1:10 p.m. and qualifying at 4:20 p.m. and Saturday’s 30-minute warmup starting at 11:15 a.m. The Sonsio Grand Prix will be broadcast live on NBC Saturday afternoon starting at 3 p.m. and will be streamed on Peacock and INDYCAR Live. All times are Eastern.


Radio Broadcast Information: The Sonsio Grand Prix and all NTT INDYCAR SERIES practices and qualifying sessions air live on network affiliates, SiriusXM INDYCAR Nation 218 and SiriusXM NBC Sports Audio 85, and the INDYCAR App powered by NTT DATA.


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