Indy Lights gets nine cars for season finale

Sage Karam leads Gabby Chaves at Houston (IndyCar)
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More will come Wednesday on the championship battle between Schmidt Peterson Motorsports teammate Sage Karam and Gabby Chaves for the Firestone Indy Lights Series season finale.

Today, though, a brief look at the entry list for the Lefty’s Kids Club 100 (Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, NBCSN) reveals several other things.

Jack Hawksworth and Carlos Munoz will be eliminated when the race begins. Although they are within a mathematical range (35 and 36 points behind, respectively), they will not be able to gain enough points assuming Karam and Chaves both start the race.

The maximum available points gained this weekend will be 31 with nine cars entered – 53 for a win, pole and leading the most laps, and 22 for ninth place.

Kyle O’Gara returns for the first time since Indianapolis in a fourth SPM entry, with support from Wink Hartman, Hartman Oil and Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing. The silver, blue and black that has adorned Josef Newgarden’s No. 67 IndyCar most of this season will be on O’Gara’s entry.

Giancarlo Serenelli will make his first career oval start in the No. 6 Belardi Auto Racing entry. Team Moore Racing, which ran Peter Dempsey and Conor Daly at Houston, had one potential driver for its No. 22 car this weekend but funding has apparently fallen through for that. Bryan Herta Autosport also won’t race as it did at Houston, with driver Axcil Jefferies.

Of the nine drivers entered, only Munoz and Serenelli’s two Belardi teammates, Jorge Goncalvez and Juan Pablo Garcia, have Fontana experience. Munoz won the race handily last year.

The last driver in the field after Karam, Chaves, Hawksworth, Munoz, O’Gara and the three Belardi drivers is Zach Veach, Munoz’s Andretti Autosport teammate.

This is the last race for Firestone in the series, as it signs off before Cooper Tires takes over next year. Daly and Tristan Vautier have spent time testing the Coopers at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Milwaukee Mile.

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.