Santino Ferrucci Saves RLL Racing From Disastrous Weekend

On a weekend where their three full-time drivers struggled, it was Santino Ferrucci that was the lone bright spot for RLL Racing at Texas.
Santino Ferrucci Saves RLL Racing From Disastrous Weekend

Saturday went from bad to worse very quickly for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. Shortly after their three cars qualified in the bottom four of the 27-car field, it got ugly. Jack Harvey crashed during the final practice session, and his No. 45 Honda made heavy contact with the wall. The tub was cracked and the car destroyed, forcing the team to build a new chassis.

IndyCar allowed the crew to stay until 12:30 AM to work on the car. After working feverishly, they soon found out that Harvey was not going to be medically cleared in time for the race.

Per IndyCar protocol, all drivers wear accelerometers that measure G-forces exhibited during an incident. These get evaluated, fully, after each incident, and if the result of the G-forces surpasses the minimum threshold, drivers must be re-evaluated prior to returning to competition. Following the protocol, Harvey was re-evaluated Sunday morning and was not cleared to race.

The team turned to a familiar face to fill in for the Englishman. Santino Ferrucci drove in five races last season for the team, and was already at the track. About 90 minutes before the green flag, Ferrucci and the team were given a handful of laps on the track to get up to speed and to make sure the new chassis would be good to go.

“I’m just happy that Jack is okay,” Ferrucci said. “Happy that I’m here, and just going to represent for Hy-Vee and try and have a good day for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.”

Ferrucci did just that, rocketing to the front of the field in the early stages of the race. He was nearly collected in an accident right in front of him, just narrowly avoiding the incident and continuing in the race. He continued his march through the field and ultimately ended up with a 9th place finish for the team.

"Considering I was going to be racing my couch today, I am pretty happy to be racing for RLL and the Hy-Vee Honda," Ferrucci said. "I had six laps of warmup this morning in a seat that wasn't mine - I couldn't see over the steering wheel, that was fun! I strapped in for the race and it was full send from there. I can't be more happy with how everything turned out, and it was a lot of fun."

While Ferrucci had an outstanding afternoon, the same could not be said for his two teammates.

Christian Lundgaard was making his oval debut in the No. 30 Honda. The rookie stayed out of trouble for most of the race but made slight contact with the wall in the closing laps and suffered front wing damage. He was relegated to a 19th place finish on Sunday.

“The first oval race is done here in Texas. It was a tough one to swallow at the end, I had some contact with Colton. In the end I'm happy to have the car in one piece, but it was one hell of an experience. I think the car was great all day, dirty air definitely makes a difference, but the car was just awesome in clean air. By the end we were catching up to everyone pretty quickly. We were basically the fastest car on the track at that point for quite some time. So I think as a first experience I can be satisfied, be happy.”

Graham Rahal dodged a close call early in the race, but his luck would run out when Devlin DeFrancesco made an ill-advised move in Turn 3. The Andretti Autosport driver made a rookie mistake by going under the white line, forcing a three-wide situation with Rahal and Helio Castroneves. The three all got together and made heavy contact with the outside wall.

Santino Ferrucci Saves RLL Racing From Disastrous Weekend

"It was a disappointing end to our day here in Texas. We had made quite a move forward. I thought things were shaping up pretty good to battle here at the end. These things happen, but I’m obviously frustrated to be in that scenario. I was being a little bit cautious on the start. I thought we gave him room. Third man in needs to be first man out. I was trying to give Helio room on top too and being stuck in the middle was a little tough. We're going to soldier on here."

Had it not been for the sensational drive by Ferrucci, this would have been one of the worst weekends that RLL has had in quite some time. Going forward, all expectations are that Harvey will be cleared in time for the next race, which is three weeks away. The April 10 race at Long Beach will give the Brit plenty of time to get well. It is also a place he has run well, finishing 7th there last year. Ferrucci has just one start on the street circuit, finishing 21st in 2019 with Dale Coyne Racing.

Even though Ferrucci likely won't be needed for the next race weekend, the 23-year old still has something to look forward to. Ferrucci will be driving the No. 23 Chevrolet for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing in the 106th Indianapolis 500 in May. In terms of one-off drivers that can win the race, he should be near the top of everyone's list. He was at the top of RLL's list this weekend, and it paid off in a big way.

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