By: Spencer Neff
May 16, 2019 | 9:30 AM
May 18, 2018 was a significant day in the life of Woodbury, Connecticut’s Santino Ferrucci.
At the time, he arrived at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as the reserve and test driver for Haas F1. Additionally, he held a Formula 2 ride with Trident Motorspots.
That day, he was announced as the driver for Dale Coyne Racing’s No. 19 car for the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix doubleheader for the week after the 102nd Indianapolis 500.
Fast forward through an eventful year to May 2019 at IMS, and although the car and driver remain the same, things have changed quite a bit for the soon-to-be 21-year-old Ferrucci.
Now a full-time driver, Ferrucci has made nine NTT IndyCar Series starts, notching two top-10 finishes this season. In 2019, May 18 will be a significant day for him once again. Saturday will be Day 1 of qualifications for the 103rd Indianapolis 500-mile race. Ferrucci and 35 others (including six other rookies) will take to the track to attempt to qualify for the race.
During the April 24 Open Test, the Dale Coyne Racing driver completed the second-most laps of any driver taking the Rookie Orientation Program. After completing the program, Ferrucci spoke positively of his IMS debut-just his second time on an oval.
“Today was pretty awesome,” he emphasized after the session.
“This track is definitely special. Rookie Orientation (Program) was super, super helpful, especially for someone who had only been on an oval twice in their life, including today.”
“The Cly-Del Manufacturing car felt really good and we even did a bit of running with another car, which was fun and a good learning experience. I’m now very much looking forward to coming back in May.” Just 20 days later, Ferrucci returned to the Brickyard for Opening Day at the Indianapolis 500.
During the first two day’s of practice, the rookie’s enthusiasm has been evident, to say the least. During Tuesday’s opening session, Ferrucci ran the most laps of any rookie (95) and placed 16th on the final speed chart at 227.083 mph.
“I got to run in traffic and get a feel for our Cly-Del Manufacturing Honda,” Ferrucci noted after practice. “We didn’t trim the car today, it’s still early in the week, so we have a couple more days before we need to worry about that.”
On Wednesday, the thrill of his first Indianapolis 500 was amplified. By day’s end, Ferrucci made his way up to fourth-quickest in the seven-hour session.
During the day, he was on track for 90 laps and served as the field’s fastest first-year driver. However, Ferrucci was quick to note the team’s need to change focus.
“We were running in race trim, turning laps and we happened to set one of those really cool tow laps while running in the pack,” Ferrucci said after a best lap of 228.835 mph.
“It’s nice to go 228.5 mph and be near the top of the timesheet. I think we have something solid, but now we are going to start backing it down and preparing for qualifying, probably later in the day on Thursday.”
Setting up for Success
Despite a seemingly quick adaptation to the historic track, he was candid in his self-assessment.
“It’s a slow learning process,” Ferrucci said of his learning curve. “There’s no way to rush anything. You go day-by-day learning how to manage traffic, race others, learning the gaps, how to come into the box and out of the box better, learning your tools.”
Although he has shown promise, there is still work ahead before qualifying this weekend. Heading into Saturday, Ferrucci and his team will look to keep their early pace as he attempts to qualify for his first Indianapolis 500 start.
Header image by Chris Jones/INDYCAR.
Open-Wheels coverage of the 2019 month of May at Indianapolis is presented by Driven 2 Save Lives. Driven 2 Save Lives, an entity of the Indiana Donor Network, is a program that utilizes motorsports as a platform to encourage race fans to become organ donors. Currently, there are 114,000 individuals that are waiting for a life-saving organ transplant. Register as an organ, tissue, and eye donor at Driven2SaveLives.org/register and follow Driven2SaveLives on Facebook and Twitter.