NASCAR: Late-season stumbles put Bowyer, Larson on ropes heading to Richmond

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After the dust settled on last night’s Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, noted motorsport journalist Lewis Franck made the following observation:

Indeed, one year after helping to trigger Michael Waltrip Racing’s race manipulation scandal at Richmond International Raceway, Bowyer is set to return to “The Action Track” as a center of attention once again.

It’s attention that he could do without.

Bowyer finished 38th last night after having to go to the garage early with a broken shifter, which led to a transmission replacement and more than 20 laps lost.

Now down 23 points to Greg Biffle for the 16th and final Chase Grid position, Bowyer may need a “Hail Mary” of his own like that of Atlanta winner Kasey Kahne in order to make the post-season.

“It seems like if it weren’t for bad luck, we wouldn’t have any luck,” Bowyer said last night. “We’ve been good at Richmond but we are going to have to have a really good finish, if not a win, to make it into the Chase.”

He makes an important point there, as Bowyer’s won twice in his Cup career on the 3/4-mile RIR bullring.

But his Atlanta problems again emphasize how disastrous late-season mishaps can be for those like him that are on the Chase bubble.

Take Kyle Larson, for example. Going into Michigan three races ago, Larson was +9 points over the cutoff at 15th on the Chase Grid.

Then he crashed just before the midway point of that race and finished dead last, 43rd place. Larson promptly dropped out of the Grid to 19th, at -24 points behind the cutoff.

And with 16th place Greg Biffle on a perfectly-timed run of Top-10 finishes (his 10th-place result last night was his fifth Top-10 in a row), Larson’s solid results of 12th at Bristol and eighth in Atlanta have done nothing to close the deficit – which is again at 24 points with only Saturday’s regular season finale at RIR to go.

“[A] Top‑10 is not bad, but it doesn’t really matter anymore because Kasey won,” Larson said. “So happy for Kasey, but that pretty much ends our Chase hopes unless we win.”

And if neither Bowyer or Larson can get a win in the Commonwealth of Virginia, they’ll clearly know how, when, and where things went wrong for them.

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.