Bid to improve racing at 1.5-mile ovals continues for NASCAR

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Still searching for ways to improve the on-track product on intermediate ovals, NASCAR staged a second test session today at Charlotte Motor Speedway that featured a series of simulated races for different aero packages in addition to traditional single-car runs.

“One of the things that we learned and the reason we’re back here with so many cars is it is different when you have 30 cars or 25 cars out there versus the six,” NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton said this morning.

“It was important for us to come back here with a field of cars that we did. It gave us a little bit different view on some of the answers. It’s put us in some different directions.”

Five different sets of configurations were tested in the aforementioned races. Race 1, with Configuration 1, was “won” by Kevin Harvick by almost five seconds, with Harvick posting a best lap of 194.868 mph.

But Race 2, with Configuration 2, had Kyle Larson take P1 by a much smaller margin of .844 of a second and with a slower quick lap of 191.755 mph. In Race 3 (Configuration 3), Harvick was quickest again at 192.692 mph and beat Larson by 3.8 seconds.

The final two races saw things slow down further. Race 4 (Configuration 4) featured Larson returning to the top with a quick lap of 190.921 mph and the closest margin of victory (.219 of a second over Harvick). Finally, Harvick paced Race 5 (Configuration 5) at 189.907 mph, beating Larson by 4.5 seconds.

It’ll be a lot of data to sift through for NASCAR but its vice president of innovation and racing development, Gene Stefanyshyn, said multiple types of feedback, objective and subjective, would be taken into consideration in regards to the final 2014 aero packages.

“We have to take all that, triangulate it, try to find the alliance and what makes sense,” Stefanyshyn said. “It’s just a matter of looking at it all. If the data says this, there’s somebody that says something totally different, we scratch our head, see what other people said. You kind of balance it all.

“It’s not a perfect science, but we try to take all those inputs and utilize them in the triangulation to find the right answer. You will never get 100% agreement on everything. So really, you’re kind of looking for the 70% answer here that kind of leads you in the right direction.”

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.