FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — A.J. Foyt Racing started the IndyCar season with a new driver lineup and high expectations for improved performance.
It came to a crashing halt in the third turn of the season-opening race.
Santino Ferrucci and Benjamin Pedersen were part of the first-lap crash in downtown St. Petersburg, Florida, that sidelined five cars before they completed a single trip around the circuit on March 5.
“It was a bummer because there was so much newness, we had two new drivers, and everybody is excited for a new season and you don't even get past turn three,” said Larry Foyt, president of his father's race team. “It was such a letdown.”
Almost a full month later, the team heads to Texas Motor Speedway — technically the home track for A.J. Foyt Racing, which operates one of its two cars from its headquarters outside of Houston — ready to actually start the season.
“It's weird because this feels like our first race,” Foyt said. “We didn't get to do any pit stops, there's boxes that you want to get checked off that first race that we weren't able to get out of the way, and it was such a bummer. But it's behind us now and we're ready to move on.”
A.J. Foyt, who turned 88 in January, missed the season-opener and had a pacemaker installed two days later. He plans to be in Texas this weekend.
Ferrucci — whom the team hired this year after having last ran a full season in 2020 and did a combined eight IndyCar races over the last two years — is an excellent oval racer and Sunday marks the first oval on this year's schedule. Ferrucci finished fourth at Texas in 2019 and was ninth last year as a race-day replacement for Jack Harvey, who suffered a concussion in practice.
Pedersen, a 24-year-old dual citizen of Denmark and the United States, ran one full season of Indy Lights and then four races last year, but spent all of 2022 shadowing Foyt's IndyCar team. He got the call-up when Kyle Kirkwood moved back to Andretti Autosport and Dalton Kellett returned to Canada to work for his family business, leaving the Foyt organization with two seats to fill.
Pedersen's only oval experience was two races at Gateway in 2021. Texas will be the first superspeedway of his career — and Indy cars top out at 220 mph on the 1.5-mile track.
Foyt said the organization has been energized by the two young drivers.
“We're excited about Santino, he brings a great energy and his oval results are fantastic,” Foyt said. "So with the Indy 500 being important to us, as it is to every IndyCar team, but especially to our brand. We're excited about Indy this year with him.
“And he brings some experience to help Benjamin, a rookie, who can lean on Santino a little bit. Benjamin is also 100% racing, he eats, sleeps and breathes it and is totally focused. It's going to be fun to watch him mature this season.”
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