IndyCar: Why an offseason feud landed back in the spotlight

Santino Ferrucci, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, IndyCar (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Santino Ferrucci, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, IndyCar (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) /

An offseason feud involving Santino Ferrucci and Conor Daly found itself back in the minds of IndyCar fans following a stellar run by the former in the most recent race.

On Saturday, March 19, Santino Ferrucci had no idea that he would be competing in the XPEL 375 IndyCar race at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday, March 20.

But Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Jack Harvey suffered a hard crash in Saturday’s final practice session for the 248-lap race around the four-turn, 1.44-mile (2.317-kilometer) oval in Fort Worth, Texas, and he was not medically cleared to drive the #45 Honda the following afternoon.

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So Ferrucci, who competed in five races for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing last year, was called upon to fill in for Harvey, who had initially qualified in 24th place. Ferrucci started 27th (last) in the field behind the wheel of a backup #45 Honda.

Despite not practicing or testing at the track, he moved up 18 spots and finished the race in ninth place.

The run had many scratching their heads as to why 23-year-old Woodbury, Connecticut native was left without a full-time ride for a second straight year in 2022.

And given the points he scored, it also brought back memories of an offseason feud involving the 2019 Indy 500 Rookie of the Year.

Despite having both found the time to compete in racing series other than IndyCar together, Ferrucci and Conor Daly don’t necessarily have the greatest relationship on or off the race track.

Over the offseason, the two got into an argument on Instagram regarding why they do/don’t have rides in IndyCar.

Ferrucci, who hasn’t competed full-time since his second full season with Dale Coyne Racing in 2020, called Daly, who is currently in his fifth season as a full-time driver, a “wuss” who is “only there because of you know who”.

Daly, who is in his first full season competing only for Ed Carpenter Racing after spending the last two seasons competing for both Ed Carpenter Racing and Carlin, responded, saying that he was “wildly curious as to who that might be”.

“Fill us in oh wise wizard of the sport,” he told Ferrucci.

Ferrucci hit back, calling Daly the real wizard.

“All jokes aside, you’re the wizard my guy. How you can stay in a seat when your best finish was my worst and I was part time with no testing is a shocker. Please show me the way.”

In just five races last year, Ferrucci recorded an average finish of 8.4 with four top 10 finishes. His lowest finish, 11th place, was indeed Daly’s best (in 16 races).

Daly responded.

“Look kid, if there is one thing I don’t have to do in my life … it’s defend any part of my career to someone who got kicked out of racing in an entire continent by the FIA for being an idiot.”

Daly is, of course, referring to the 2018 controversy involving Ferrucci in Formula 2.

Through two races in 2022, Ferrucci, who has made just one start, and an unexpected one at that, sits ahead of Daly in points.

Daly’s 2022 finishes include a 21st place finish on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida and an 18th place finish at Texas Motor Speedway.

But realistically, the issue at hand has nothing to do with Daly.

Daly has proven his worth in IndyCar, having many times outperformed his equipment with various teams. He has stood on the podium before in the unlikeliest of circumstances.

Most notably, he was an Indy 500 contender in both 2019 and 2021. He ran as high as fourth place late in the 2019 race, and last year, he led a race-high 40 laps before slight damage from a stray tire knocked him out of contention and he had to settle for 13th.

He has also been stellar at promoting the sport away from the race track, and he has Indiana ties that not many others have.

The real issue has to do with why Ferrucci is still without a full-time ride.

He was among three drivers publicly considered for the third Rahal Letterman Lanigan seat alongside Graham Rahal and Harvey in 2022, but that seat went to Christian Lundgaard instead.

In his six starts since losing his full-time ride, he has five top 10 finishes, no finishes lower than 11th place, and an average finish of 8.5.

These results include a sixth place finish in last year’s Indy 500, his third top seven Indy 500 finish in three starts. His average starting position in the race is 21.67, while his average finish is 5.67.

In 2020, he finished higher than Dale Coyne Racing teammate Alex Palou in the point standings (13th vs. 16th). Palou signed with Chip Ganassi Racing for 2021 and won the championship.

Fortunately, Ferrucci is set to compete in his fourth Indy 500 this May, doing so for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing alongside Sage Karam. Like Ferrucci, Karam has a history of coming through the field at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Driving for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing last year, he placed seventh after starting 31st.

But at what point does another team owner realize that he has what it takes to compete at a high level on a full-time basis?

While criticizing Daly may not be the number one way to make his case, the numbers certainly back Ferrucci for another shot in IndyCar.

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Harvey is back for this afternoon’s Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach on the streets of Long Beach, California, so it does appear that Ferrucci will need to wait until the series travels to Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the 106th running of the Indy 500 next month to get back behind the wheel.