RACE REPORT: INDIANAPOLIS 500
INDIANAPOLIS (May 28, 2023) -- "That boy can drive!" was how A.J. Foyt summed up Santino Ferrucci's performance in The 107th Running of the Indianapolis 500.
The race fulfilled its promise of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing as three red flags in the final 15 laps delivered breathtaking action and three shootouts on the track.
And for the first time in 20 years, A.J. Foyt's No. 14 piloted by savvy Santino Ferrucci was right in the thick of it.
Ferrucci scored a career best finish of third in the Indy 500 for himself and brought the 14 back into the spotlight with the help of an engineering staff led by Michael Cannon who joined the team in January.
Ferrucci started fourth in the Homes For Our Troops Chevrolet and was never out of the top five except during pit stop cycles. When his strategy team told him to burn some fuel when the race restarted after Romain Grosjean's single car accident on the backstretch, Ferrucci vaulted into the lead after jumping from fifth to third on lap 157 and into the lead on lap 159. He held that top spot until he pitted on lap 169.
Ferrucci was running fifth on lap 185 when he narrowly escaped disaster after Felix Rosenqvist lost control in turn 1 and bounced off the wall. He then shot across the track, spun and backed up into the path of Kyle Kirkwood who rode over Rosenqvist's wheel and flipped over, finally skidding to a halt. Both drivers were uninjured but Ferrucci, who was just ahead of Kirkwood, missed being involved by inches. That accident brought out the first of a record three red flags.
On the lap 192 restart, Ferrucci climbed from fifth to third. Another red flag unfurled on lap 194 after leader Pato O'Ward lost control of his car and nearly flipped but climbed the wall instead.
The third red flag came when the No. 55 Sexton Properties Chevrolet, driven by the fastest rookie qualifier Benjamin Pedersen, was caught up in a multi-car chain reaction collision which was not of Pedersen's doing. Pedersen had been running 19th but looked like he might finish in the top 15 before the accident.
Ferrucci rides high, wide and handsome in the Indy 500 above Marcus Ericsson (No. 8) and Josef Newgarden (No. 2). (INDYCAR Photo)
That accident set up the two-lap showdown between Marcus Ericsson, Josef Newgarden and third place Ferrucci. Ferrucci had been up to second but officials ruled that at the time of the caution light, he was actually third and had to give the position back to the eventual winner Josef Newgarden.
For the first time ever, the cars rolled out from pitlane onto the track and took the green flag and the white flag simultaneously. Newgarden closed in on Ericsson and passed him on the final lap while Ferrucci could not muster a challenge.
Lead engineer Michael Cannon (in black) makes a point to Santino Ferrucci while race engineer (left) Daniele Cucchiaroni and performance engineer (right) Cordell Durcholz listen.
In his post-race press conference, Ferrucci revealed, "We've been so good this entire month that you get to race day and it's actually a relief because you know you've been up front, you know you've qualified well, and it was honestly -- I had so much fun driving the car today just because I know that. I'm sure the 14 got its fair amount of TV time.
"I'm sure Homes For Our Troops (was happy); it's a fantastic cause, we had so many vets here, and so many people that have served and currently are serving, in our pit box. We raised an extraordinary amount of money for everybody and we get to build so many houses just based off what we were able to accomplish this month. Definitely you get emotional, and plus I have a lot of friends and family here.
"When you finish third, knowing that you led into 1 with three or four to go, it's tough. But at the end of the day, I'm really happy with the way that things played out. This place does pick you as a winner. It's very true. But I just really wanted to win this race like everybody else."
Pedersen, who set a record for the fastest lap as a rookie in his qualifying run, was the highest finishing rookie with his 21st place finish and is a top contender for the Rookie of the Year award in this race.
The No. 55 Sexton Properties crew delivered clean stops all day. (INDYCAR Photo)
"It's been a tremendous month," said Pedersen. "My first 500, made it into the fast 12, fastest ever rookie here for a one-lap average, just a huge, huge month. We were fast, started 11th for the race. We were running a very good race, we were the last rookie to be out there fighting to the end. Unfortunately, on a restart, got hit from behind by a car that was a lap down and we were still on the lead lap. It was really unfortunate that something like that happened -- it was out of my control. Just very fortunate to be able to do this, it was an amazing experience, and I absolutely loved it. I can't wait for Detroit next week and to come back here next year with what I know is a fast car. Crazy race but I wish it would have ended a little better."
Asked about his impressions of the start of the race, Pedersen said, "The start was pretty similar to what I expected, maybe the pace was a little higher and I didn't expect to be able to run so wide as some people were, but now I know and I'll take that experience into next year and this momentum into Detroit next week."
Newgarden claimed his first victory while last year's winner Ericsson finished second ahead of Ferrucci. Rounding out the top five were Alex Palou and Alexander Rossi.
A.J. Foyt was really proud of Ferrucci and the race he drove today.
"I thought the crew did a great job, Larry called a good race, the driver drove a real good race," said A.J. Foyt. "I felt like we did have a winning car but it's one of those deals, the yellows didn't help us but Santino drove a helluva race to run third. He did a great job. "
Larry Foyt congratulates winning owner Roger Penske (left) and team president Tim Cindric (right) for winning the Indianapolis 500. (INDYCAR Photo)