Santino Ferrucci lands Indy 500 seat with defending winner Rahal Letterman Lanigan

Ferrucci Indy 500 Rahal
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Santino Ferrucci will enter the Indy 500 with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (RLL), creating a lineup of drivers who took three of the top four spots in last year’s race.

Ferrucci will drive the No. 45 Honda at Indianapolis with sponsorship from Hy-Vee. The Midwestern supermarket chain will also be the primary sponsor in two IndyCar races this season for Graham Rahal and an associate sponsor on Rahal’s car the entire year.

Takuma Sato won the Indy 500 last year for RLL and Rahal finished third. Ferrucci finished fourth driving for Dale Coyne w/Vasser-Sullivan.

“They’re definitely trying to stack the deck,” Ferrucci said of RLL’s lineup for the 105th running of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” on May 30. “I don’t think they could have built a better driver lineup and this is probably the best opportunity I’ve had at Indianapolis.”

Ferrucci joined the IndyCar Series with four races remaining in the 2018 schedule and ran the last two full seasons. He was the Indy 500 rookie of the year in 2019 with a seventh-place finish and trailed only the RLL cars and runner-up Scott Dixon in last year’s race.

He finished fourth in 2020 after starting 19th.

Sponsorship woes led Ferrucci to explore a move to NASCAR this season and he’s so far run four Xfinity Series races with upstart Sam Hunt Racing. He was scheduled to race Friday night at Martinsville Speedway but will instead participate in the open test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Thursday and Friday.

His next Xfinity Series race will be in June at Pocono Raceway, which gives Ferrucci the next six weeks to prepare for the Indy 500.

“That was my commitment to Rahal, to be 100% committed and fully focused on the Indy 500,” Ferrucci said.

Ferrucci refused to close the door on IndyCar as he began the transition to NASCAR and has worked all offseason to put together at minimum a ride for the Indy 500. He would add more IndyCar races to his schedule if the opportunity was presented, and he’s currently hoping for at least five more Xfinity races after Pocono in June.

His best finish in NASCAR was 13th at Las Vegas, followed by a pair of 15th-place finishes at Phoenix and Atlanta. The IndyCar season does not begin until April 18 and there are two oval races – both at Texas Motor Speedway – before the Indy 500 on Memorial Day weekend.

“I feel like I’ve almost got a leg up in a lot of ways because my primary focus to start this year has been nothing but ovals,” Ferrucci said. “Even though it’s a completely different category and type of racing and literally a different a way of life, I’ve just been so focused on working on my driving style and skillset for ovals. I think I’m actually going to be in really good shape for the 500.”

Hunter Lawrence defends Haiden Deegan after controversial block pass at Detroit


Media and fan attention focused on a controversial run-in between Haiden Deegan and his Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing teammate Jordon Smith during Round 10 of the Monster Energy Supercross race at Detroit, after which the 250 East points’ Hunter Lawrence defends the young rider in the postrace news conference.

Deegan took the early lead in Heat 1 of the round, but the mood swiftly changed when he became embroiled in a spirited battle with teammate Smith.

On Lap 3, Smith caught Deegan with a fast pass through the whoops. Smith briefly held the lead heading into a bowl turn but Deegan had the inside line and threw a block pass. In the next few turns, the action heated up until Smith eventually ran into the back of Deegan’s Yamaha and crashed.

One of the highlights of the battle seemed to include a moment when Deegan waited on Smith in order to throw a second block pass, adding fuel to the controversy.

After his initial crash, Smith fell to seventh on the next lap. He would crash twice more during the event, ultimately finishing four laps off the pace in 20th.

The topic was inevitably part of the postrace news conference.

“It was good racing; it was fun,” Deegan said at about the 27-minute mark in the video above. “I just had some fun doing it.”

Smith had more trouble in the Last Chance Qualifier. He stalled his bike in heavy traffic, worked his way into a battle for fourth with the checkers in sight, but crashed a few yards shy of the finish line and was credited with seventh. Smith earned zero points and fell to sixth in the standings.

Lawrence defends Deegan
Jordon Smith failed to make the Detroit Supercross Main and fell to sixth in the points. – Feld Motor Sports

“I think he’s like fifth in points,” Deegan said. “He’s a little out of it. Beside that it was good, I don’t know. I wasn’t really paying attention.”

Deegan jokingly deflected an earlier question with the response that he wasn’t paying attention during the incident.

“He’s my teammate, but he’s a veteran, he’s been in this sport for a while,” Deegan said. “I was up there just battling. I want to win as much as everybody else. It doesn’t matter if it’s a heat race or a main; I just want to win. I was just trying to push that.”

As Deegan and Smith battled, Jeremy Martin took the lead. Deegan finished second in the heat and backed up his performance with a solid third-place showing in the main, which was his second podium finish in a short six-race career. Deegan’s first podium was earned at Daytona, just two rounds ago.

But as Deegan struggled to find something meaningful to say, unsurprisingly for a 17-year-old rider who was not scheduled to run the full 250 schedule this year, it was the championship leader Lawrence who came to his defense.

Lawrence defends Deegan
A block pass by Haiden Deegan led to a series of events that eventually led to Jordon Smith failing to make the Main. – Feld Motor Sports

“I just want to point something out, which kind of amazes me,” Lawrence said during the conference. “So many of the people on social media, where everyone puts their expertise in, are saying the racing back in the ’80s, the early 90s, when me were men. They’re always talking about how gnarly it was and then anytime a block pass or something happens now, everyone cries about it.

“That’s just a little bit interesting. Pick one. You want the gnarly block passes from 10 years ago and then you get it, everyone makes a big song and dance about it.”

Pressed further, Lawrence defended not only the pass but the decision-making process that gets employed lap after lap in a Supercross race.

“It’s easy to point the finger,” Lawrence said. “We’re out there making decisions in a split millisecond. People have all month to pay their phone bill and they still can’t do that on time.

“We’re making decisions at such a fast reaction [time with] adrenaline. … I’m not just saying it for me or Haiden. I speak for all the guys. No one is perfect and we’re under a microscope out there. The media is really quick to point a finger when someone makes a mistake.”

The media is required to hold athletes accountable for their actions. They are also required to tell the complete story.