Hunter-Reay fastest in first IndyCar practice at Mid-Ohio

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A lap of 1 minute, 6.5316 seconds, set just before time expired, was enough to give Ryan Hunter-Reay top honors for this morning’s first Verizon IndyCar Series practice at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Hunter-Reay, who enters this weekend’s Honda 200 at 69 points behind championship leader Helio Castroneves, was able to beat out Simon Pagenaud’s lap of 1 minute, 6.6731 seconds.

The two Honda-powered drivers were followed by Chevy-powered Scott Dixon from Chip Ganassi Racing, winners of the last five IndyCar events at Mid-Ohio. Dixon posted a 1 minute, 6.7140-second lap that was good enough for P3 in the session.

Pagenaud’s rookie teammate, Mikhail Aleshin, was fourth-quickest with a 1 minute, 6.7280-second lap. Sebastien Bourdais, one of the winners in the most recent doubleheader weekend at Toronto, rounded out the Top 5 speeds with a 1 minute, 6.8192-second lap.

As you can likely gather from the lap times, the field is tight once again this weekend with one second covering the Top 20 drivers in the first practice. Only Ed Carpenter Racing’s Mike Conway (1:07.7806) and rookie Jack Hawksworth (1:08.0129) fell outside of that.

Also interesting to note was that the leaders didn’t run a big amount of laps; Hunter-Reay ran 10 laps, while Pagenaud (six) and Dixon (nine) didn’t touch double-digits.

Pagenaud did tell IndyCar Radio that his team wanted to spread out its own limited tire allotment, hence the relatively short session for him and Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports.

A second, 45-minute IndyCar practice session will take place later today at 2 p.m. ET.

VERIZON INDYCAR SERIES AT MID-OHIO – FIRST PRACTICE

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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.