Hunter-Reay crash caps tough GP of Indy quals for Andretti Autosport

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Luck clearly was not on Andretti Autosport’s side today in a rain-soaked qualifying session for the Grand Prix of Indianapolis at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

In hindsight, that became obvious early when all five Andretti drivers – full-timers Ryan Hunter-Reay, James Hinchcliffe, Marco Andretti and Carlos Munoz, plus one-off Franck Montagny – were listed as part of the first group of qualifiers. Only two of them, Hunter-Reay and Hinchcliffe, advanced to the second round.

Then, Hinchcliffe was unable to get into the Firestone Fast Six, leaving Hunter-Reay as the sole Andretti competitor to battle for the pole. For a moment, it looked as if it would turn out alright as Hunter-Reay leaped to P1 with just a couple of minutes left.

But shortly after doing that, Hunter-Reay lost control of his No. 28 DHL Honda coming out of Turn 14, spun out, and had a long slide into the front-stretch wall.

Luckily, Hunter-Reay hopped out of the car intact. Unluckily, his crash brought out the red flag, which cost him his two quickest laps in the Fast Six per IndyCar rules and gave the pole to KV Racing Technology’s Sebastian Saavedra.

“In the wet, you have to go for it,” said Hunter-Reay, who officially qualified third after having his best laps scratched. “We did a good enough time for P1. There’s a very fine line before you step over it. It’s just part of the game.

“I dinged up the right rear there. The most work is going to be done with the exhaust and things like that. It was just one whack. I had some time to head backwards for a while. It wasn’t a hard hit. The standing water was a pretty big issue.”

But at least Hunter-Reay will still be starting toward the front in tomorrow’s 82-lap race around the revamped, 2.4-mile road course at IMS.

The rest of his teammates will have to climb from mid-pack. Hinchcliffe qualified 11th, followed by Andretti in 13th, rookie Munoz in 19th, and Montagny in 21st.

Andretti’s best lap in Group 1 was less than one one-hundredth of a second off of sixth place, which would have gotten him into the second round of qualifying.

“I think it was a team decision to go out because we were worried about the weather,” he said after that excruciatingly close call.

“We plateaued too early and the car got better at the end, so we’re sitting on the outside looking in on this hundredth of a second…I’m losing sleep over this.”

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.