CHEVROLET IN NTT INDYCAR SERIES
THE THERMAL CLUB OPEN TEST
AJ FOYT RACING DRIVER TRANSCRIPT
FEBRUARY 1, 2023
SANTINO FERRUCCI, NO. 14 AJ FOYT RACING CHEVROLET:
What are your thoughts on getting back into an Indy car this week?
“It’s going to be weird because I actually haven’t driven on a road course in INDYCAR in quite some time. Hopefully it’s like riding a bike and just comes right back to us. It’s been nice though to be with the team since September, so I kind of already feel like I’ve had a season before the season, so we’ll see what we can do.”
Being out for a season, you’ve had a little bit of racing in there, but what do you do? What’s the hardest part about staying sharp?
“You can only train so much before you start to go a little stir crazy. I think the coolest thing was now this year, I’ve been basically inside five INDYCAR teams. Starting off with Rahal, then Dreyer, then Juncos, then Penske, and at the very end, Foyt. It’s just kind of a weird way of seeing how operations work, which was kind of unique for me. I think it’s a really unique position as a driver to see. Then running the Chili Bowl actually was really nice because it knocked a lot of my timing, honed a lot of my timing because driving those cars, they’re very fast. They mimic racecars for setup, just in the reverse. Everything’s just a complete opposite, but it’s still a racecar. It really hones your feeling again. I’m really excited to get back into an Indy car.”
What do you feel is the biggest key in allowing [AJ Foyt Racing] to turn the corner here?
We just needed some organization. I had this chat with Larry [Foyt] a while ago. The team has all the fundamentals to really put a good car out there. If you look back at the results, they’re really not a reflection of the actual speed of the car, in my opinion. I think that having someone like Michael Cannon come on board to really help organize this team, put them on the right track, give them what he calls Racing 101, we just need some consistency. I think that was our biggest thing and that’s what we’re hoping to really find. I’d like to see this team back inside the top-10 consistently and then go from there. We’ve got to be a little bit realistic. It is tough coming off of where the team has finished in the last couple years, but we definitely can see a lot of rapid growth hopefully throughout the winter.”
Does it give you motivation knowing that you’re on the radar of the INDYCAR powerhouse teams now?
“It definitely makes you hungry and want more. I just want to do my best. I want to continue down the path I’m going because I think it’s the right path for me. Getting the opportunity to work with AJ [Foyt] and the team, and to take this team from where it is and to build something of my own with Michael and Larry is going to be nothing short of a challenge. But I’m really looking forward to that. I really think I’m up to that challenge now. It will be a reflection on all of us how we do this year because it’s not just on me, it’s not just on Michael Cannon, it’s not just on our leadership. It’s on everybody coming together as a team and making this effort, making a really good effort.”
How does it feel to be sitting at a team being the senior driver, and what does that mean to you about going forward in 2023?
“It’s definitely a unique position to be in. I’m very fortunate for Benjamin [Pederson]. He’s actually unlike some of the other rookies I’ve seen on the grid. He’s very willing to learn and he’s very, very into it. Working with him and spending some time with him, it’s going to be really good. His dad is a very brilliant person who came in when we needed organization while we were trying to get people like [Michael] Cannon on board, and he really put the base layer down. It’s not common that you see someone like that do something for a team like this. I’m very much looking forward to being the senior driver. I know that I am not even close to the same driver I was in 2019 and 2020 as I am today. The way that I drive, the way that I get feedback, the way that I know what I want out of the car, I kind of hopefully can speed his progression up the best I can with my knowledge while getting us working in unison. We really need to be a team to get this thing accomplished.”
What are your goals for the test at Thermal this week?
“I’ve got to knock the rust off because I haven’t seen a road course in INDYCAR in quite some time. We’re going to have a little bit of fun just getting used to track. We want to make sure that we have our road course car set to look forward to Barber, and to get through some fundamental testing. It’s a new team, I’m new to them. We have a bunch of new engineering and other structure, so we’ve got to get into the rhythm of working with each other, the chain of command. Communication will be huge. Once we get through that, I think this two-day test will be more about understanding each other and making sure everything’s good with the car more than anything else.”
BENJAMIN PEDERSEN, NO. 55 AJ FOYT RACING CHEVROLET:
Some changes at AJ Foyt Racing from last year to this year. How are things coming together for you?
“It’s been very exciting times at AJ Foyt Racing. New people, new organization, new structure, new methods, people are so hungry right now to be there and to improve and I think it’s been a lot of time, before my time there, of people wanting it but not knowing how to get there. Now there is a very good path with, as a team, how we can accomplish goals. People are staying extra during weekends to practice pit stops when they don’t have to be. People that don’t have to be there to help them are showing up to help them with that and it’s just really special to be a part of.”
You spent a lot of time last year shadowing AJ Foyt Racing. How valuable was that for you?
“It was so valuable. I felt like last year I was a part of the team. The only thing I wasn’t doing was driving the car; every team meeting I was a part of. Being on the timing stand, seeing strategy come into play, it was a really big help. It made me feel like I got a season’s worth of experience without driving the car, and now the only difference is, I’ll be driving the car. The strategy meetings, everything like that, will feel similar and I’m grateful to the team for letting me be a part of that last year. I can’t wait to do it now for real, and as an official driver for them and working together.”
Can you take us into a little bit more of what you’ve seen in changes Larry and the team made, and how it will be beneficial in continuing to climb up the grid?
“When I talk about the restructure of the team, new people, some of those key players are additions like Michael Cannon who was at Ganassi for the last three years with [Scott] Dixon, who is now our technical director and oversees many different areas. Craig Brooks is a new person as well who helps run the team as a manager position. New mechanics, same engineers that have been involved in the program to keep building on what they have started. New parts on the car that will help with dampers, etc. It’s a lot of new things and a lot of hard work, but as soon as we go live at Thermal here in a couple of days, it’s going to be a lot of hard work and I cannot wait to work hard with the team.”
You’ve got a somewhat veteran teammate in Santino Ferrucci this year. How much do you think you can lean on him and learn from him?
“He’s been awesome. I haven’t had too many interactions with him. The first one was at the Foyt Christmas party, actually. We were having dinner together, and the amount of information he shared with me that I would not expect him, or any teammate to share with me once you get to INDYCAR, it was pretty eye-opening, and I take my hat off to him for that. Everything from little advice or tips for how he has his cockpit set up, different tracks, what he prioritizes, and I was very impressed with what he shared. I can’t wait to work with him as a teammate, to help make this team better.”
Are there any particular tracks you’re looking forward to this year?
“In terms of tracks coming back to, I’m very excited for Barber, one of my favorite tracks. Honestly every track on the calendar in terms of tracks I’ve been at, there’s not any track I don’t enjoy. I very much look forward to the new tracks like at the Indy 500, Texas, Toronto, Long Beach. Very excited to explore these new places.”
Are you particularly excited about the ovals in INDYCAR, and do you anticipate expecting any difficulty in differences of machinery from INDY NXT?
“Personally, I’m a huge fan of the ovals. We’ve had a lot of success in INDY NXT the past couple of years on the ovals we have done. It’s not like I had a lot of experience on ovals before then, but we hit the ground running as soon as I was introduced to it. I’m looking forward to two superspeedways this year. I haven’t gone over 180-185 mph in a racecar, so I’ll be doing close to 240.”
What have you been doing to prepare for INDYCAR vs. INDY NXT?
“I’ve personally spent a lot of time on the simulator I have at my house. I’ve been doing a lot of sim racing, long races, to get used to that. Been doing go-karting. Been taking advantage of any track time I can get, but really since being in a proper racecar, which was Laguna Seca last year, and honestly since my INDYCAR test, it’s been seven months. I’m looking forward to getting back in real life and pushing like crazy.”
What are your goals for the test this week?
“I think the big goal is let’s get going. Let’s get comfortable in the car. To get used to a brand new track. My first goal is to push myself as hard as I can, and to work with the people around me to improve myself. Secondly, it’s also how can we improve the car. If we have a car that’s capable of being top-five, that’s what I expect. If it’s a car that we’re struggling in top-15, then anything over that I think is good. Whatever is realistic is what my goals are then we can always push for more.”
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