Sato, Hinchcliffe sustain heavy accidents in Phoenix practice (VIDEO)

Photos: Tony DiZinno

AVONDALE, Ariz. – Both Takuma Sato and James Hinchcliffe were checked, cleared and released after heavy, near identical accidents in opening practice for the Verizon IndyCar Series’ Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix.

Some Honda teams rolled out with 2015 rear wheel pod assemblies, and that’s key to note, because it played a big role in both accidents.

Within the first 10 minutes of the session, we had the first accident when Takuma Sato lost control of his No. 14 ABC Supply Co. Honda and backed it in hard at Turn 2.

Past the half hour mark, James Hinchcliffe had a near identical impact in his No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda, losing it in Turn 1 and backing it in in Turn 2. He hit the yellow line in Turn 1 in a later apex, and that helped snap his rear end.

Both drivers were evaluated and released from the infield care center. However, both were running the 2015 rear wheel pods, with lower downforce on (blame me for taking both pics in advance…)

“It was quite big impact, but I’m good,” Sato told NBCSN’s Robin Miller. “It was a quick spin. I lost it. It was a little bit too much oversteer. We did qualifying trim. Unfortunately we lost it at the back.

“The car’s pretty damaged. We were reasonably happy with the balance in testing. The car felt good on the test day. But it was my first shot at qualifying trim, and we were slightly off.”

Larry Foyt told NBCSN they plan to repair the No. 14 car in time for qualifying.

Meanwhile Hinchcliffe was happy to emerge unscathed after his first accident since his accident at Indianapolis last May.

“It’s unfortunate. I was doing a quali sim; we had a bunch of understeer in the car,” Hinchcliffe told Miller. “We tried to dial it out. We’d had that understeer in 3 and 4 … and the thing just snapped.

“It’s a huge kick in the nuts, especially with as little track time as we get.

“We’ll get it buttoned up. Focus on what we can from here. Going a buck 80 (180) feels as fast as 220 at the Speedway. The one difference is we had a different race series with a different kind of rubber (NASCAR raced here in March with Goodyear rubber). It’s freaky, two guys, that close together, in exactly the same spot.”

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

Santino Ferrucci AJ Foyt
James Gilbert/Getty Images

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.