Winter Heat: Lasoski, Reutzel close out 2015 series with weekend wins

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The inaugural Winter Heat Sprint Car Showdown at Cocopah (Ariz.) Speedway is in the books after victories from Danny Lasoski on Friday and Aaron Reutzel on Saturday.

Lasoski steadily moved toward the front in Friday’s feature and picked up second place just past halfway. Lapped traffic helped him get even closer to leader Dale Blaney, and on the final lap, a backmarker caused Blaney to slow in Turn 1.

That opened the door for Lasoski, who went three-wide on the bottom with the lapped car in the middle and Blaney on the outside. After splitting the lapped car, Lasoski and Blaney switched lanes as they exited Turn 4 with the former moving up high and the latter coming down low.

At the stripe, Lasoski’s high-line push made the difference as he beat Blaney in a narrow finish.

“That was luck,” Lasoski said afterwards in a track release. “[Blaney] just got hung up. Whenever I’d get within a car length of him, I’d get tight. I had to move around, move around.

“He was setting a good pace and he just got held up, but sometimes it’s better to be running second.”

Paul McMahan, who won the opener of the five-night Winter Heat series, finished third for yet another podium. That set him up with a 24-point championship lead going into Saturday’s grand finale.

Reutzel had been a threat to win in the first two Winter Heat events only to be undone both times by mechanical problems. But on Saturday, he finally converted a front row start into a victory.

After starting up front with NASCAR’s own Kasey Kahne, Reutzel led the first eight laps before being overtaken by Craig Dollansky. Reutzel would respond by taking the lead back on the next lap but the nose wing broke on his car shortly afterwards.

Reutzel’s car now had its handling compromised, but he was able to hold on to his lead through the lapped traffic. Dollansky would be passed by David Gravel for the runner-up spot on the last lap.

As far as Reutzel was concerned, if his nose wing had to go, he was glad it happened with the lead in hand.

“Craig drove around me through the middle,” he recalled. “I got the wing back a little farther and figured I was going to try to go back around him the same way. Luckily, I got right back by him. Then the nose wing fell down, so luckily, I got by him that lap because we definitely wouldn’t have passed him with that nose wing down.”

Kahne would ultimately finish fifth behind Reutzel, Gravel, Dollansky, and fourth-place Sam Hafertepe Jr.

Meanwhile, the championship took one last twist on Saturday. McMahan failed to make it out of the B-Main, finishing ninth – just one spot out of the transfer zone.

Lasoski took full advantage of McMahan’s absence in the A-Main, finishing sixth and taking the title over McMahan on a tie-breaker thanks to his win on Friday.

Santino Ferrucci will drive No. 14 for AJ Foyt Racing full time in 2023 IndyCar season

Santino Ferrucci AJ Foyt
James Gilbert/Getty Images
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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.