By: Tanner Watkins
August 26, 2019 | 8:00 AM
The action wasn’t the only thing running hot after Saturday night’s Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at World Wide Technology Raceway.
On the final lap of this past Gateway race, Santino Ferrucci was pushing hard to finish a career-best fourth – an achievement he had earned twice before in the 2019 season. Charging hard was Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden, the championship leader and 2017 title winner.
Towards the center of Turns 3 and 4, Ferrucci’s car seemed to lose rear grip and darted to the inside lane of the track – where Newgarden was rapidly approaching. The chain of events caused Newgarden to take evasive action towards the grass, spinning his car and sending the Chevrolet driver from a fifth-place finish to seventh.
In the aftermath of the incident, Newgarden was critical of Ferrucci while venting his frustrations to NBC Sports.
“It is important to know that he is a rookie… (But) what he did was, in my opinion, dangerous,” said Newgarden. The Tennessee native continued, adding that he made one particular narrative clear in his post-race conversation with the rookie.
“He has got to learn that this is big-time auto racing. If you do a move like that on an oval – particularly at a high-speed oval – you will cause a very serious wreck,” said Newgarden. “He has just got to know that – I really drilled (into) him that you cannot come directly to the racing line.”
While Ferrucci remained silent on Sunday, the Dale Coyne Racing driver took to Twitter on Monday morning to voice his opinion on the incident, taking a bit of exception to Newgarden’s comments.
Ok 2 things. First, I told him I was sorry and I was getting out of the marbles so I didn’t hit the wall myself. Second, Last lap last corner! I’m not PULLING OVER to let Josef by! I’m a damn racer, I have a championship I’m competing for too. https://t.co/pp0xA3Ggka— Santino Ferrucci (@SantinoFerrucci) August 26, 2019
The championship Ferrucci is alluding to is the Rookie of the Year battle, in which the Connecticut native leads Felix Rosenqvist by a scant two-point margin following Gateway.
In a preseason where Ferrucci was hardly at the top of the pundits’ lists for R.O.Y. winners, he leads more heralded drivers such as Rosenqvist, Colton Herta and Marcus Ericsson with two races left in the season.
Furthermore, Ferrucci is ninth in the overall NTT IndyCar Series points standings for 2019. If he could hold that place, that would be the highest a rookie has finished in the overall championship since Carlos Munoz placed eighth in 2014.
Another note is that Ferrucci has finished more laps than any driver in IndyCar this season – a total of 1,893 laps, which is eight more than the driver with the second-most laps completed (Simon Pagenaud) and eighteen more than the driver with the third-most laps completed: Josef Newgarden.
During Saturday night’s race at Gateway, Ferrucci had a six-second lead at one point and led a race-high 97 laps before being caught out by an ill-timed yellow flag.
While this dust-up will likely be settled by the next race at Portland, it is never bad to have a little conflict in the IndyCar paddock – especially between an established champion and a rising rookie.
Header image by Joe Skibinski/INDYCAR.