Stat surprises through two IndyCar race weekends

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With St. Petersburg and Barber in the books, there’s a couple interesting nuggets to note from the first two rounds of the IZOD IndyCar Series season.

QUALIFYING SURPRISES

Three teams – Dragon Racing, KV Racing Technology, and Sam Schmidt’s teams – have seen the regarded “junior” driver outqualify their more experienced teammates in both races.

Since Simon Pagenaud (Schmidt Hamilton) is regarded as one of the fastest young drivers in the series, it’s been surprising to see Tristan Vautier (Schmidt Peterson) outdo him on both occasions. Vautier is one of three drivers, along with Team Penske’s Will Power and Helio Castroneves, to qualify in the Firestone Fast Six both races.

Simona de Silvestro has rebounded nicely from her Lotus engine nightmare 2012 season and pushed Tony Kanaan at KV. Receiving less attention but no less noteworthy, Sebastian Saavedra (right) has outqualified Sebastien Bourdais by at least 12 positions the first two races, ending ninth each time.

One other qualifying stat of note: the first two races have seen JR Hildebrand, Ana Beatriz and Ed Carpenter each locked into the bottom three spots on the grid. In a field this tight, setup or car differences have made relatively small gaps of more than one second to the session leader look larger.

CLOSER MARGIN OF VICTORIES

Andretti Autosport’s winning drivers – James Hinchcliffe and Ryan Hunter-Reay – have withstood pressure from Castroneves and Scott Dixon, respectively, to take the first two wins of the year.

Hinch’s St. Pete win came in at 1.0982 seconds, while last year Castroneves beat Dixon by 5.5292 seconds. At Barber, the MOV dropped from 3.3709 (2012, Power over Dixon) to 0.6363 of a second.

MARCO IMPROVING, BUT STILL HUNGRY

The re-focused Marco Andretti has only one less top-10 finish in the first two races (two) as he did the entire 2012 season. Still, with a win having eluded him since Iowa 2011, he’s itching to get back on the top step of the podium.

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.