NASCAR: Menard, McMurray end seasons with top-fives

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Perhaps the unfortunate part of the last race of the season is that if you’re a driver who has a great race or great finish but isn’t in either win or championship contention, you get overlooked.

Witness Paul Menard and Jamie McMurray, who finished fourth and fifth to round out the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season and finish the day the best two drivers who didn’t qualify for the Chase this year.

Menard qualified 16th but started from the rear of the field after being penalized for unapproved pre-race adjustments. But Menard was quickly into the top 25 by Lap 12, and methodically worked further forward the rest of the day despite having a cut rear tire. Menard’s fourth-place finish marked his fifth top-five and 13th top-10 finish of the season, both record highs, en route to a 21st-place finish in points in the No. 27 Richard Childress Racing entry.

“I’m proud of my guys and how hard they worked today to get us that fourth-place finish,” Menard said, via the team. “This year was good for us. We’ve made big gains and learned a lot. I’m looking forward to next year and what we can do as a team.”

McMurray started 19th and banked his seventh top-five finish of the year after another consistent run. He finished 18th in the points standings, one spot behind Chip Ganassi Racing teammate and 2014 top rookie Kyle Larson, but both drivers were better than their final standings would indicate. McMurray’s crew, led by crew chief Keith Rodden, brought the No. 1 team’s performance forward all season.

“We really struggled with the set up on our car tonight,” McMurray said, via the team. “Keith and all the guys did a great job making adjustments throughout the race and not giving up.  We took a gamble on a two tire stop in the closing laps and it worked out great for us.  The car really came to life and we were able to pull off a top-five finish to end our season.  I really want to thank all the guys on this team for everything this season and most importantly a huge thanks to all of our partners who have supported us throughout the year.”

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.