Mix of nostalgia and focusing forward for Rahal in Pocono

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Bobby Rahal and the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team had a better weekend in Iowa than the month previous. Now, the 1988 Pocono winner returns to the 2.5-mile oval for this weekend’s IZOD IndyCar Series race as a team owner, and hopes that his drivers Graham Rahal and James Jakes can enjoy a second half surge.

“When I won in 1988 that was the one and only victory with a Judd engine in the history of Judd,” the senior Rahal recalled in the team’s advance release. “To be honest, we weren’t the fastest although we qualified well (third). The Chevy’s were much more powerful than the Judd was at the time but it was a battle of attrition and in the end Al (Unser) Sr. and I had a fight.

“He was Chevy-powered and with Penske and the Chevy was very strong at the time but we just outlasted everybody which was somewhat unusual with that engine because we suffered with reliability earlier in the year. In the end we were the last ones standing so to speak.

“What made that race even more special was that earlier in the week we had broken ground on my first automobile dealership in Mechanicsburg, PA. that started the Automotive Group we’ve got going today, and won the race too. It was a special week.”

Jakes ended Thursday’s test after 104 laps in 10th; Graham Rahal 22nd after experimenting with different downforce levels in his 141 laps. Rahal ended the session with a slight brush against the Turn 1, with minimal exterior damage. The team also tested at Pocono immediately after Iowa last week.

“The aero configuration is a little bit different from the test and the weather was different too, it was a little warmer and windy today,” said Jakes. “It’s hard to say how different the car is but I think we had a productive day. We certainly tested a lot which is what we needed to do. Generally on the super speedways we’ve been pretty good so we’ve just got to keep on working hard and make improvements overall. Hopefully we can make some steps and Honda can as well to be in a position to fight right at the top come Sunday.”

“I didn’t feel a ton more downforce (in the car) but I know that there is since last week’s test,” said Rahal. “We struggled with our car a little bit today so to say that I felt it wouldn’t be true. Frankly I felt the other tire was a little bit better for my car but we couldn’t run it with the blistering so we will have to make the most of what we’ve got here. We’ll keep working hard on it.

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.