St. Petersburg flashback: Rahal’s rainy first win in 2008

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It’s a sign of how young he still is and how fast time goes that Graham Rahal, 24, is five years removed from both his first and thus far only, IZOD IndyCar Series victory. It happened April 6, 2008 on the streets of St. Petersburg.

Even getting to the race was an accomplishment in itself. Barely more than a month earlier, IndyCar and Champ Car announced their merger that would see some parts of the Champ Car series amalgamated into IndyCar, with Champ Car teams acquiring older Dallara chassis.

Rahal, then 19 and with one year of Champ Car experience already under his belt, had an accident in testing a week earlier at Homestead, Fla.’s 1.5-mile oval. That meant his Newman/Haas Racing team had to thrash to repair his only car and he didn’t start the oval opener.

With a flat black, repaired tub back in action, Rahal drove with such maturity and poise to keep his head in a mostly rainy day in St. Pete to score the victory ahead of Brazilians Helio Castroneves and Tony Kanaan.

Earlier in the race, he was leading Ryan Hunter-Reay, who at the time was driving for Bobby Rahal’s team! That is a conundrum that neither party will have to worry about this year as Graham suits up for Bobby’s team on a full-time basis this year.

The race also saw E.J. Viso (fourth) and Enrique Bernoldi (fifth) score surprise top five finishes for HVM Racing and Conquest Racing, two additional former Champ Car teams. HVM has now joined in partnership with Andretti Autosport for Viso this year, and also is set to run a Lola LMP2 prototype in the FIA World Endurance Championship with the European-based Status GP team.

Eric Bachelart’s Conquest team, which ran twice in partnership with Andretti and driver Ana Beatriz last year, is also exploring its options in sports cars after it was not able to garner an engine lease on its own for the 2012 IndyCar season. It raced the entirety of the American Le Mans Series with three-race IndyCar starter Martin Plowman and programmer and burgeoning racing driver, David Heinemeier Hansson.

See also: St. Petersburg flashback: 2003 race debut

Santino Ferrucci will drive No. 14 for AJ Foyt Racing full time in 2023 IndyCar season

Santino Ferrucci AJ Foyt
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Santino Ferrucci will return to full-time racing in the NTT IndyCar Series next season, joining AJ Foyt Racing.

Ferrucci had made eight IndyCar starts with three teams since his last full-time season in 2020 while also racing part time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series this year.

He will drive the storied No. 14 Dallara-Chevrolet for four-time Indy 500 winner A.J. Foyt’s team, which will field the car from its Waller, Texas headquarters.

“It’s incredibly exciting to be back in the INDYCAR Series full time,” Ferrucci said in a team release. “Being a part-time driver over the last two years has been hard for me, personally. I’m a race car driver, and I want to compete. Working with different teams has been exciting, and I’m proud that no matter which car I’ve raced, I’ve always shown speed and consistency. I couldn’t be more excited to join AJ Foyt Racing in the 14 Chevy. I can’t wait to make the best of it.”

Ferrucci, 24, had finished a career-best fourth in IndyCar four times, including the 104th Indy 500 in 2020. He was the 2019 Indy 500 rookie of the year with a sixth.

In nine Xfinity starts since 2021, Ferrucci has a career-best finish of 13th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“I am thrilled to welcome Santino to the team,” Larry Foyt said in a release. “He’s shown a knack for getting toward the front of the field, and I think he is a racer who moves forward on race day. A.J. sees the fire in him and has enjoyed their meetings together. I think Santino’s experience will help his rookie teammate as well, so he is a great addition to our roster.”

Ferrucci will be teamed at AJ Foyt Racing with Benjamin Pedersen, who finished fifth in the 2022 Indy Lights standings. The team has yet to specify the number for Pedersen’s entry, which will be fielded out of its Indianapolis race shop.

Foyt’s two full-time drivers last season were Dalton Kellett and Kyle Kirkwood, who is moving to Andretti Autosport.