Santino Ferrucci ready for ‘team leader’ role at Dale Coyne Racing

Photo by Jonathan Ferrey, Getty Images

In just one season, Santino Ferrucci has gone from brash rookie hoping to prove himself in IndyCar to driving dean of Dale Coyne Racing.

Last year, he was teamed with wise veteran and four-time Champ Car Series champion Sebastien Bourdais, who was more than twice his age. Bourdais and the team split during the offseason, and Ferrucci, 21, is now the “team leader” at Dale Coyne Racing.

Ferrucci has moved into the No. 18 SealMaster Honda at Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser and Sullivan. Talented newcomer Alex Palou if Spain is in the second Dale Coyne Racing entry, the No. 56 Honda.

“Me and Seb got along incredibly well; it was like a father-son bond,” Ferrucci told NBC “He was such a mentor to me. He understands the politics, and I understand the politics. I wish I had the opportunity to be with him for another year because I was learning so much and was so happy there.

“But this is what has happened and what I have to work with.”

How does it feel to be the team’s “elder statesman” at 21?

“I’m pretty excited,” Ferrucci said. “Now, I have the keys to the kingdom, and I get to be the leader. It’s a lot of weight on my shoulders. It’s a lot of pressure to step up to the plate, perform and fill these shoes.”

Much has changed in such a short period of time for Ferrucci.

He entered the series trying to shed an image from an unfortunate incident with a teammate in a Formula 2 race at Silverstone before the British Grand Prix. Ferrucci was ultimately dismissed from the Trident team for a variety of reasons that have been well documented.

Some on social media refuse to let him forget about that incident. They are part of today’s “Cancel Culture.”

But what fans in the NTT IndyCar Series discovered was a fast driver with a friendly personality who always took time to engage anyone who stopped by with a smile and friendly conversation.

He even made a fan out of NBC Sports and former NASCAR hero Dale Earnhardt, Jr., who raved about Ferrucci on last year’s telecast of the 103rdIndianapolis 500.

“I really like Santino Ferrucci,” Earnhardt told at this year’s Daytona 500. “That kid is really fast, and I can’t wait to see what he does this season.”

Ferrucci has had to learn his share of lessons and develop into a potential star.

“Honestly, I think people that still want to bring up the past need to look at themselves and look at the future,” Ferrucci told NBC “If you are still holding on to something that is two years old, that’s kind of pathetic.

“I spent a lot of time meeting people last year. I think a lot of people that had a negative opinion, I reached out to them and said, ‘Please, come by. Hang out.’ I’ll take time for anybody and everybody if I have to. It doesn’t make a difference to me.

“For people that don’t want to even do that, that’s fine. It’s their choice. You can’t control other people; you can only control yourself and control what you want to do. From here, I’ve been building my image with Dale Coyne Racing. I think we’ve done a good job. I’ve gotten to show a little bit of what I’m made of and what I can do with the team.”

Ferrucci had two top-10 finishes in his first five NTT IndyCar Series races, before his breakthrough at the 103rd Indianapolis 500. He started 23rd, drove to the lead, finished seventh, and put on a show in between.

His most memorable move came late in the race during the big five-car pileup in Turn 3 that involved Graham Rahal, Sebastian Bourdais, Felix Rosenqvist, Charlie Kimball and Zach Veach.

Ferrucci avoided the carnage by hitting the throttle and driving through the grass.

“It was really good but in long run, I’m going to try and not to do that again this year,” Ferrucci said. “I’d prefer not to test the lawn setup.”

It was on the oval tracks where Ferrucci found his groove. He finished fourth in another wild race at Texas Motor Speedway, fourth at Pocono and fourth at Gateway. He ended the season as one of the top drivers in the entire series on the ovals.

“It was a solid first year,” Ferrucci said. “We learned so much. Especially the ovals. I just felt right at home there. With the road and street courses and working with Sebastien and with the team. I feel a lot more confident going into a lot of races this year, knowing the tracks, understanding how the team works throughout the weekend. Every race is drastically different.

“It’s been an awesome learning curve. We’re ready to take on this year with the same mentality of go through it, have fun and just enjoy it and see how we do.”

Photo by Chris Graythen, Getty Images

It’s been a rapid rise for Ferrucci, but he is no longer the kid learning from the mentor. In 2020, he will have to embrace the role as team leader.

“Obviously it’s very different,” Ferrucci said. “I go from someone with my entire life’s worth of experience to a kid I know very well from Europe and worked with before and get along with as well in Alex.

“I think it’ll be a good fit. We’ll both be really competitive this year. We’ll really be able to push the team to its limits and see what we can get out of the cars.

“But it is weird being the veteran driver at 21.”

Ferrucci was able to grow as a rookie in 2019. In the process, marginalized the “Cancel Culture” that wanted to see him fail. But he admits he has more growing up to do, now that he is in a new role at Dale Coyne Racing.

“I’m still very immature to be the veteran on the team, especially Dale’s team,” he said. “Those guys are like family, so they’ve treated me well. Sebastien taught me so much over the year. It’s working with everybody and keeping them in good spirits. I feel like Sebastien was a natural leader for the team. He did a really good job mentoring me and putting me in a position that I was expecting to have another year with him.

“But since he’s unfortunately not with us, I have to try and fill his shoes and try and bring that direction to the team.

“I have to keep everybody in that together, that happiness and momentum moving forward.”

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500 

Supercross 2023: Results and points after Houston


Eli Tomac led all 23 laps of the Monster Energy Supercross race at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas and the results show he now has three wins in the season and is one shy of tying Ricky Carmichael’s 48 for third on the all-time list. With this win, he takes a seven point lead in the standings with 12 rounds remaining.

For Tomac at Houston, it was literally a tale of two races. Both his heat and the main started the same with Tomac grabbing the holeshot, but he was passed quickly by Chase Sexton in the heat. Tomac faded quickly after getting passed and was trailing by almost eight seconds at the checkered flag, which caused him to retreat to the hauler and reassess his lines. Without making any adjustments to the bike, Tomac entered the Main with a new attitude, and simply rode better.

Supercross Results Houston
Chase Sexton played it safe in the sand, but he was aggressive in every other turn. – Feld Motor Sports

Sexton had so great a lead in his heat that one could not even use the cliche that he left Tomac in his dust. By the time the rider with the No. 1 plate crossed the same real estate as the No. 23, the dust was well settled. Sexton had a modest start on the initial gate drop and ended Lap 1 in fourth. He worked his way past Aaron Plessinger on Lap 3 and got around Jason Anderson three laps later. Sexton was able to catch Tomac and pressure him, but he picked a safe, i.e. slow line through the sand section and could never get alongside his rival.

RESULTS: Click here for 450 Results; Click here for full 250 East Main Results

After starting the season with back-to-back seventh-place finishes, Anderson now has a pair of podiums. He won his heat and was easily one of the top three riders in the field, ultimately finishing behind the riders who finished 1-2 in the other preliminary. Anderson was subdued on the podium – happy he was there, but disappointed he has not yet found a way around the riders he is chasing in the points.

In the early stages of the race, Plessinger appeared to have a bike capable of winning. He pressured Tomac on the first two laps and was setting up the pass just as a red flag waved for an injury to Dylan Ferrandis that brought out a red flag. He lost second to Anderson on the restart and eventually slipped to fourth to score his first top-five of the season.

Click here for 450 Heat 1 | Heat 2 | Last Chance Qualifier

Cooper Webb rounded out the top five. Along with Sexton, he is now one of just two riders with a sweep of that mark in 2023, but with Tomac’s three wins, he is beginning to slip in the points. Webb sits third in the standings, 12 points behind the leader.

Ken Roczen entered the race as the third rider with a sweep of the top five and progressively better results in the first three races of 2023. Had the pattern held, he would have finished at least second, but he struggled for most of the night, finishing fifth in his heat and eighth in the Main. There may have been extenuating circumstances, however. Ferrandis’ injury was suffered when he landed on the back of Roczen’s bike and potentially damaged the No. 94 Suzuki.

Click here for 450 Main results | Rider Points | Manufacturer Points | Lap Chart

The 250 East division made their 2023 debut in Houston, but the name atop the board was familiar. Hunter Lawrence joined his brother Jett Lawrence as the early points’ leader in their respective divisions, but it didn’t come without a little anxiety.

Riding behind Supercross newbie Tom Vialle on the second lap, Lawrence was forced to take evasive action when the leader pitched his bike sideways to scrub speed over a jump. Lawrence veered left and landed off course, but he cleared the Tuff Blox and kept his bike straight. Lawrence made the pass for the lead on Lap 18 and never relinquished it.

Click here for 250 Heat 1 | Heat 2 | Last Chance Qualifier

In his first attempt on a 250, Max Anstie ascended to the podium. – Feld Motor Sports

England’s Max Anstie made the move from 450s to 250s this year after scoring a best result of 11th on the big bike at Anaheim 2 last year. It didn’t take anytime at all to find the front for Anstie, who finished second in both his heat and main.

It has been a while since Jordon Smith stood on the podium: February 23, 2019 to be exact when he finished that well in Detroit. A series of injuries kept him off the bike for much of 2020 and 2021, but he’s proving to be a factor when he’s healthy.

Click here for 250 Main results | 250 East Rider Points | Combined Rider Points | Lap Chart

There was a lot of hype surrounding the debut of Haiden Deegan in the 250 class and he proved it was merited. He finished fourth in his heat and main. He was as far down as ninth at one point in the feature before slowly picking off riders on his way to the front.

Jeremy Martin finished fifth and now has a streak of three consecutive top-fives to his credit stretching back to last year. Unfortunately, his pair of strong runs in 2022 were interrupted by injury.

Making impressive debuts in the 250 division, Vialle recovered from a fall to finish seventh, Chance Hymas finished eighth, and Talon Hawkins just missed the top 10 with an 11th.

2023 Results

Race 3: Chase Sexton, Levi Kitchen win
Race 2: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence win
Round 1: Tomac, Lawrence win

2023 SuperMotocross Power Rankings

Week 3: Ken Roczen takes the top spot
Week 2: Roczen moves up; Chase Sexton falls
Week 1: Eli Tomac tops 450s; Jett Lawrence 250s