SANTINO FERRUCCI

When this kid arrived in the NTT IndyCar Series paddock, he already had a reputation to live up to from his days racing in Europe. Some of that time overseas included his share of controversy, but one thing Ferrucci displayed was speed.

Driving for Dale Coyne Racing, Ferrucci was at his best on the ovals.

“I think it’s racing in general — it just makes sense to me,” Ferrucci said. “There’s something about it that clicked immediately. It surprised me a lot, but it’s one of those things when it’s just natural, it just happens. You don’t have to think about it.

“I don’t have too many fears. A lot of people are really afraid of the wall and have had massive shunts and it’s not something I’ve had or I’m willing to have,” he said. “I think part of that goes into being young and dumb for the most part, but no, it works in my favor a little there. Having decent car control. So, I’m looking forward to that again this year.”

Ferrucci’s oval performance helped him gain new fans and earn a chance at stardom.

“It was a solid first year,” he said. “We learned so much. Especially the ovals. I just felt right at home there. With the road and street courses and working with Sebastien Bourdais (his teammate last year) and with the team, I feel a lot more confident going into a lot of races this year.

Ferrucci Set For Chili
Santino Ferrucci has been turning heads in the NTT IndyCar Series. (IndyCar photo)

“I know the tracks, understand how the team works throughout the weekend. Every race is drastically different. It’s been an awesome learning curve and we’re ready to take on this year with the same mentality of go through it, have fun and just enjoy it and see how we do.”

Ferrucci is part of IndyCar’s youth movement that also includes Herta, Pato O’Ward, Oliver Askew, Alex Palou, Dalton Kellett and Rinus VeeKay.

“I think in the series, you have three categories as a driver,” Ferrucci explained. “You have the veterans who have been there since I was born. You have a bunch of European drivers who have come over from European racing cars, and then you have a bunch of drivers coming up through the IndyCar ranks.

“The diversity on the grid is massive. You have different attitudes, different personalities, different driving styles. It makes the racing incredible.”

The move that defined Ferrucci’s rookie season came late in last year’s Indianapolis 500 when veterans Graham Rahal and Bourdais triggered a massive crash between turns three and four.

With cars scattered across the track, Ferrucci kept his foot on the throttle, drove through the grass and onto the separate lane that is used to enter the pits during practice.

That move impressed former NASCAR great Dale Earnhardt Jr., who was part of NBC Sports’ broadcast crew at last year’s Indy 500.

“It was really good but in long run, I’m going to try and not to do that again this year,” Ferrucci said. “I’d prefer not to test the lawn setup.”

CONOR DALY

While Herta and Ferrucci have entered their 20s, Daly is at the older end of that age group. But this driver from Noblesville, Ind., has joined the “Hometown Team” for the Indianapolis 500 with Ed Carpenter Racing.

Conor Daly will be back with Andretti Autosport at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. (IndyCar Photo)
Conor Daly is slated to run the full IndyCar Series season thanks to partnerships with two race teams. (IndyCar Photo)

It might be his best chance to win the Indy 500.

“I like Ed a lot,” Daly said. “I think he is hilarious. I see him at the gym and we always talk. He’s a great guy. It will be fun to see him in the trenches when we are fighting for something. Teammates at Indy, he is incredible there. It would be hilarious to share the front row with him. It would be a great photo shoot. That would be a lot of fun.

“Clearly, they have an incredible track record at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. There is a bit of a new element with the aeroscreen and you never know how that is going to work out. The good teams at Indy usually figure that out pretty quickly.

“Ed has a lot of people that support him in Indiana and support the hometown team in that event,” Daly added. “That is really cool. He’s made the team one of the top teams at Indy. For any of us young drivers, when you look at teams and what is available, I think one of the most coveted seats in racing is Ed’s seat. Josef Newgarden has gone from there to Team Penske. They have won races and that is the most important thing.”

Prior to the unexpected shutdown of racing because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Daly was focused on running a full season of races. He will still get that opportunity once the season resumes.