Race Report: Children's of Alabama Indy Grand Prix
BIRMINGHAM (April 30, 2023) -- Making lemonade out of lemons. That's what AJ Foyt Racing attempted to do in the Children's of Alabama Indy Grand Prix at Barber Motorsport Park Sunday afternoon.
The general consensus when the checkered flag flew was that they succeeded since both Santino Ferrucci and Benjamin Pedersen were more competitive in the race than they had been the past two days. A small victory but an important one as the team is trending in the right direction.
Starting last in the 27-car field due to not being able to qualify, Ferrucci's No. 14 Sexton Properties Chevrolet started on the softer alternate tire compound and he sliced his way past seven cars in just five laps. He made it to 19th when he pitted on lap 12 as the team opted for the three-pitstop fuel full speed strategy instead of the two pitstop fuel saving mode.
Switching to the harder primary compound, he opted for that tire compound for the balance of the race. He set his quickest lap of the race on lap 63, just before his final stop on lap 64. Although he only got higher on the lapchart during pit cycles when he rose to 13th, he finished the race in 20th.
“It was a solid Sunday for us considering we didn’t qualify," Ferrucci said. "Just tough with strategy, we struggled with the car. I think we were a little bit too free on entry and a little too tight in the middle (of the corner) but, all in all, a top 20 for us is something to walk away with. We completed all the race laps and you know what, I can’t complain. So, looking forward to the month of May now and we’ll go from there.”
Ferrucci smiles as Team President Larry Foyt (right) makes a point and crew chief Didier Francesia (center) listens.
Pedersen had his strongest performance of the season to date at a track where he enjoyed success in the INDY NXT by Firestone Series. Although his results show 22nd, he was making passes on a track where it is tough to pass. Unlike his teammate, he opted to take on another set of alternate compound tires on his third fuel stint and chose the primary tires for his final stint. He cycled up to 16th during the pit stop cycles.
Race engineer Roberto Garcia chats with Pedersen while performance engineer Tim Kuschel looks on.
"Great race here at Barber, finished P22 after starting pretty close to the back," said the enthused rookie. "Crazy race, lots of really cool passes, always something going on, very busy race. Pretty proud of what we were able to do today. I think there was potential to maybe be in the top 15, but we had a couple mistakes happen. But overall, very positive and very happy with the race.
"Strategy was very good. It was an attacking strategy today," he continued. "We hit our fuel numbers very well. It was very tight margins but the whole team did a great job being very precise and close on making it on fuel and that’s exactly what we were asking for, so very good day."
The NTT INDYCAR Series saw its fourth different winner in as many races with Scott McLaughlin sweeping past pole winner Romain Grosjean with nine laps remaining in the 80-lap race. Following the pair across the finish line were Will Power, Pato O'Ward and Alex Palou.
The teams now head to Indianapolis as they prepare for the GMR Grand Prix which will run May 13th on the road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race will be broadcast on NBC starting at 3:30 p.m. ET.