A.J. FOYT RACING

No. 14 Chevy: Santino Ferrucci (19th in 2023 championship)

No. 41 Chevy: Sting Ray Robb (23rd in 2023 championship with Dale Coyne Racing)

THINGS TO KNOW

A rarity for Ferrucci

Santino Ferrucci enters his seventh season of IndyCar racing but only three of those were of the full-season variety, and only once has he done back-to-back seasons with the same team. Constant change has been the 25-year-old’s IndyCar reality, which hasn’t helped his development. It makes returning to the Foyt team for a second tour a welcome opportunity.

Being able to build upon the positives he’s developed with the No. 14 entry is a big deal, and while most of 2023 was underwhelming for the team, there’s been solid improvement throughout the program for Ferrucci to take advantage of and move up a few spots in the final standings.

Full-season influence from technic al alliance

Michael Cannon returns as the team’s technical director, which is important for a few reasons. He’s been in the middle of the technical alliance struck last summer between Foyt and Team Penske, and with a full offseason to further develop the relationship and their shared action plan, there’s every reason to believe the Foyt cars will be faster at most tracks due to the chassis setup info and dampers being shared by Penske.

Cannon’s ongoing mentorship of the team’s race engineering group is also something to keep in mind, as Foyt has undergone a complete change in engineering leadership with both cars. New to the team on Ferrucci’s No. 14 is first-time IndyCar race engineer James Schnabel, who comes from Team Penske where he’s served as a performance engineer and worked with Ernie Francis on the Penske/Force Indy/HMD Motorsports Indy NXT program.

For Robb’s No. 41, the team acquired former Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing race engineer Michael Armbrester, who brings valuable experience to the program. Having access to Penske’s info won’t make the Foyt cars magically faster at every round; a driver and engineer will make decisions that could lead to big speed or take the car out of the setup window, but there’s a much better chance for the team to start race weekends in the window than it’s had in at least a decade.

Redemption opportunity for Robb

The 22-year-old had a rough introduction to IndyCar last season with Dale Coyne’s team. He weathered the team-based issues like having the wheels fall off his car at both Iowa races and cut down on his driving errors as the year went along, which is exactly what you’d hope to see from a rookie. He also recorded a couple of solid runs before closing 2023 with a 12th

at Laguna Seca.

Robb isn’t a threat to win an IndyCar championship, but that’s no different from most of the drivers in any major series who aren’t destined for halls of fame. His history suggests that it takes two to three years to reach his potential in each category, so if he makes progress, it wouldn’t come as a surprise.

Armed with exceptional support and sponsorship, Robb has a chance with Foyt to embark on his sophomore season in the smooth and uncomplicated manner he envisioned as a rookie. It’s not exactly a do-over for him, but with the Penske alliance and a motivated Foyt team that wants to strengthen its commercial base and ensure Robb stays for many years, he definitely has stronger ingredients to showcase his talent.

Where that leaves him in the final standings is another matter altogether, but it should be better than his rookie result.

A real reason for hope

Making bold predictions in a series like IndyCar is a waste of time, so there’s no reason to try and forecast where the Foyt team will end up among the other entrants after 18 events. But it’s hard to deny how energized and hopeful the team has become, and for the first time since the race- and pole-winning era of Takuma Sato and the great race engineer Don Halliday, there’s a reason to expect more good days than bad for the team.

Is Penske, Ganassi, or McLaren losing sleep over the Foyt cars? No, but we should have a new player in the thick of the midfield, and that would be a great development to build upon for the coming years.