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Race Report: Firestone Grand Prix of St Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG (Mar. 10, 2024) -- "It was a wonderful race!" said A.J. Foyt calling from his Texas ranch before Santino Ferrucci had a chance to shut off the Chevrolet engine in his No. 14 Sexton Properties Indy car this afternoon.


And Ferrucci finished 11th in the Firestone Grand Prix!


What Foyt saw on the NBC telecast and appreciated was the effort made by his entire team from Ferrucci gaining spots and fending off challenges to the engineers' fuel saving computations and the crew's efficient pit stops, resulting in a solid performance overall.


“Obviously a fantastic race day for us," said Ferrucci. "You know, this event was a little bit more of a qualifying race than it was anything else and starting 14th, we avoided some good carnage early, and moved up a couple of positions. First stop, there was a little bit of a hiccup, lost a couple there, but we made them back. And we just kind of did our own thing. We were in a big fuel save like everybody else. You know, we made it work. We stayed clean. We didn't touch another car. We didn't touch the walls all day. And we had a really clean green flag stop. Had a solid restart and we picked up a couple more positions. It was solid way to start the season with the Sexton Properties Chevrolet!”

After the race Ferrucci chats with his race engineer James Schnabel as performance engineer Adam Kolesar looks on.


Starting 14th, Ferrucci quickly slotted into 12th and ran there until his first pit stop which came a few laps early because of a full course yellow for Marcus Armstrong's lap 28 single car accident (he wasn't injured).


His teammate Sting Ray Robb, starting 24th dipped back a bit at the start but his first pit stop during the same caution period saw him gain a couple positions. When the race restarted Robb gained another spot in the Chevrolet but two laps later he radioed in that he lost his brakes. He ended up in the run-off area in turn 1 using the rear brakes to stop the car. Unfortunately, his car sat there for the remainder of the race, making him the second car out, and placing 26th.


“It was a tough day today," said the 22-year-old driver of the No. 41. "The start was not great, but once we settled in, I think that we had better pace than the guys in front of us. And on the first pitstop we made up a couple of spots, which was really good by the crew. We went on a different strategy from the guys in front of us so I think that we were just going to keep moving forward. After the restart, we gained a position, but then we had a brake failure. It’s something I think we've been struggling with through the year so far, just getting the brakes too hot. So it's something to look at. I think that'll be a little project that we get to do before the next race but for the most part, I think that we're still heads up. We have a good car and I think that Santino’s performance today showed that we're capable of doing a lot better than what we did. We're looking forward to the next one with the Chevrolet.”


Restarting15th, Ferrucci moved up to 13th and his next stop, which was under green, went flawlessly. Another caution soon followed on lap 68 when Linus Lundquist hit the wall in Turn 10. Romain Grosjean was given a drive-through penalty for avoidable contact in the accident.


Ferrucci gained two spots between the two and spent the next 30 laps fending off Kyle Kirkwood who was in close pursuit.


The race was gratifying for Foyt's son Larry Foyt, who spent the offseason revamping the team with as many as 16 new hires.

"Overall, a positive start to the season for sure," said Foyt. "Very proud of the 14 guys and the race Santino drove. He did a really great job saving fuel and keeping up with pace under definitely hot difficult conditions today. It's a shame for the 41 guys and for Sting Ray that he had the brake issues that put him out of the race. We'll have to look in and see exactly what happened there and make sure we can fix it going forward. Both guys did a good job on the weekend plus the crews did a good job and the cars were handling nicely for the drivers. There were a lot of positives to take from this weekend and it shows a lot of potential for this season going forward."


Josef Newgarden dominated in his No. 2 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet, winning from his pole position and leading 92 laps of the 100-lap event. Second was Pato O'Ward who was followed by team Penske teammates Scott McLaughlin and Will Power. Colton Herta rounded out the top five.


The teams head to Thermal, Calif. for a non-points race at the Thermal Club in two weeks. The weekend format will include a qualifying session and two heat races, with the top six from each heat advancing to an All-Star showcase. Up for grabs is a one million dollar prize for the winner of the All-Star race on the 19-turn, 3-mile road course about 30 minutes from Palm Springs. The two heats and the All-Star race will be broadcast on NBC Sunday (March 24) afternoon starting at 12:30 p.m. ET.


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