Ten with Townsend: St. Petersburg debrief

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Following a gripping start to the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series season, we asked NBC Sports Network analyst Townsend Bell for his thoughts and overview of the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. It’s a new element we hope to feature regularly on MotorSports Talk. Without further adieu, here’s the first “Ten with Townsend.”

-Biggest surprise of the weekend?

Hinchcliffe driving a perfect race to notch his first win.  We knew he was talented but that was perfectly executed like a guy that has been winning all the time!  Great to see.  With Craig Hampson on his program, expect many more front running performances going forward.  Honorable mention goes to Marco for working hard over the off season to refine his craft.

-Biggest disappointment? 

JR.   Nobody is more frustrated than he is with the result.  He needs to get things on track and he knows it.  I’ve been in his shoes before and its not fun.  But you can’t jump your way out of a hole.  Its one foot in front of the other.  A steady climb.

-Your most improved team and driver?

KV Racing.  They are looking very strong with a lean and mean org chart.

-What did you make of the gap between Firestone’s black and red tires?

It was a little bit of a mystery here.  Not much of a gap in qualifying but more noticeable on some cars in the race.  The biggest story was Penske’s ability to make the red tires last over long distance where most other struggled with wear- i.e Simona.

-Hinch: One-hit wonder or do you think this will be the first of many victories?

More to come.

-What do you make of Andretti’s engineering additions, Craig Hampson and Michael Cannon?

They made a big time response to losing two talented engineers in Allen McDonald and Tino Belli.   They stepped up and secured two of the best available.  That’s the sign of a team that is serious about winning.

-Simona: How did you rate her weekend? What areas of improvement beyond the obvious (new engine, team) can you see in her?

Super impressive but frankly not many were surprised who have followed her career.  When she has equal equipment, she runs with the best of them.  Sector times (where horsepower was not a factor) last season showed that the driver and engineer (Gerald Tyler) were strong.

-Why do you think Target Chip Ganassi Racing struggled as much as they did? Honda on the back foot? Dario’s driving style/braking still not meshing with the DW12?

I think Sato proved that Honda’s performance was capable of top-5 qualifying.  In fact Sato’s qualifying lap was one of the more impressive one lap performances of the weekend.  Several teams struggled to adapt their 2012 setups to this front tire.  I’m putting Ganassi in that grouping.  They’ll get it right and it won’t take long.

-Thoughts on JR’s mistake, if any?

Simple distracted driving.  When everyone is doing burnouts and slamming brakes before a restart there is a massive accordion effect.  It’s an easy mistake to make if you glance down at the knobs or data on the wheel at the exact wrong time.   But he won’t ever make that mistake again I’m sure.

-And lastly, any off-the-wall observations you witnessed around the paddock.

A hot lap as Wally’s passenger, on a race track he’s never driven, can lead to PTSD.

 

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

Santino Ferrucci AJ Foyt
James Gilbert/Getty Images
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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.