Indy 500 frontrunner eyeing major success elsewhere in IndyCar

After yet another solid Indy 500, Santino Ferrucci is fully focused on improving A.J. Foyt Enterprises as a whole throughout the rest of the 2024 IndyCar season.
Santino Ferrucci, A.J. Foyt Enterprises, IndyCar
Santino Ferrucci, A.J. Foyt Enterprises, IndyCar / SOPA Images/GettyImages

Santino Ferrucci has competed in the Indy 500 in each of the last six years, including the last two behind the wheel of the legendary No. 14 Chevrolet for A.J. Foyt Enterprises.

In all six of his Indy 500 starts, he has finished inside the top 10. He started on the second row with A.J. Foyt's team in both 2023 and 2024, and he finished in a career-high third and eighth place, respectively.

Ferrucci and the team were among the most pleasant surprises at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year, with the Woodbury, Connecticut native leading 11 laps en route to a third place finish from fourth on the grid. Foyt's team had not been competitive at Indy since fan-favorite Tony Kanaan led laps in 2018.

The problem last year was that the team did not excel anywhere else on the IndyCar calendar.

Throughout the rest of the 17-race season, the No. 14 car never finished higher than 11th place, and Ferrucci had to settle for 19th in the championship standings, his worst result in three seasons as a full-time IndyCar driver.

This year, A.J. Foyt Enterprises and Team Penske formed a technical alliance. The primary reason for the former entering the alliance was for improvement throughout the rest of the IndyCar schedule. The primary reason for the latter was made relatively clear on Indy 500 qualifying weekend, when Roger Penske's cars swept the front row for the first time since 1988.

Through the first five races of the 2024 season, Ferrucci finds himself in 12th place in the championship standings, which would be a new career-high, with three top nine finishes.

In addition to his eighth place finish in the Indy 500, he finished in ninth on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida to open up the season, and he finished in seventh after leading laps at Barber Motorsports Park, giving him top 10 finishes at three very different types of race tracks to start the year.

On the streets of Long Beach, California, the team simply weren't on the right strategy, and at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a litany of issues resulted in an early retirement.

Last year, after the Indy 500, Ferrucci did not finish a single road or street course race inside the top 15. On the streets of Detroit, Michigan in particular, the team were well off the pace, and he finished in 21st place.

Though it's clear that the alliance with Team Penske has been paying off so far, Ferrucci believes that this Sunday's race in Detroit will be a great indicator as to just how much progress the Foyt team have made over the last 12 months, given just how far behind they were last June.

"I think [a] pretty good [indicator]," Ferrucci told Beyond the Flag. "We were really decent at St. Pete. Long Beach we struggled. I think that's very clear. There were some things that I don't think we got right. There were some strategy things that we didn't get right. So that's the learning curve of understanding what we can and can't take away from the Penske alliance."

Given what he has seen so far, specifically the jump from 20th place at Barber last year to seventh place there this year, he has no reason not to believe that the performance of the car will be much better than it was a year ago.

"You look at Barber, man, we were nowhere at Barber last year, and we were in it to win it," he continued. "So if that's the case for some of those tracks where we really struggled, and we have that full faith in in what they're doing, implementing it into our cars and our systems, which is what the goal is for Detroit, I think we should be pretty good."

For as fast as Ferrucci has been at the Indy 500, he hasn't even begun to look ahead to next year's race, instead focusing on what lies ahead throughout the remaining 12 races of the 2024 season.

While only five of 17 points races are in the books, we are nearing the halfway mark of the season from a calendar standpoint, and Ferrucci understands how important it is to get this part of the season off to a good start. He isn't getting ahead of himself.

"I was really looking forward to the [Indy 500] this year after what happened last year, but no, I'm not," he admitted. "It's so far out. There are so many things, that I've just kind of put it behind me. I'm not really thinking about the 500 next year."

The season's final 12 races consist of six oval races, including four at tracks one mile or less in length, as well as four road course races and two street course races.

"There are so many team things that we're aiming for, so many team goals that we're going to try to go for before this season's over, that are going to take so much precedence over Indy, for the time being," he stated. "As much as I really love that event, we've got a big challenge ahead of us, man, for what I think will be the next 12 races."

Where Ferrucci currently sits in the championship standings is a mark that has not been achieved by an A.J. Foyt Enterprises driver over the course of a full IndyCar season since Vitor Meira placed 12th in 2010. It's a mark that hasn't been eclipsed since Airton Dare finished ninth in 2002.

"I'm just hoping that we get through Detroit and Road America, kind of scot-free," he said. "I love Road America; it's a great track for me as a driver right now. Detroit has my full focus because we were not good there last year, and we definitely need to change that, for sure."

Next. Indy 500: Josef Newgarden let all the naysayers know. Indy 500: Josef Newgarden let all the naysayers know. dark

If they can indeed change that, perhaps we can officially say that Super Tex's IndyCar team is "back".