Interview

Santino Ferrucci Looking to Improve Race-By-Race in NASCAR Debut

By: Ashley McCubbin

Over the past two years, Santino Ferrucci showed the world his talent behind the wheel of an IndyCar, scoring 12 top-10 finishes including a fourth in the 2020 Indianapolis 500. Though he is set to shift gears this year, jumping behind the wheel of a stock car in the NASCAR Xfinity Series with Sam Hunt Racing.

“I absolutely loved my time in IndyCar,” Ferrucci said. “(But) I’m very much looking forward to my time in NASCAR. NASCAR has been so incredibly helpful for me with the switch because it’s very, very different. The process is very different, the training that we do for NASCAR is very unique. It’s been awesome making the switch.”

Ferrucci will make his debut in the Contenders 250 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, set to run five events in a row for Sam Hunt Racing. Starting off, he says the debut will all about “not throwing away his first race,” and taking advantage of each lap on the track.

“Everybody always really thinks long-term but to be honest, I really want to excel at my first five races with Sam,” he told NEWS FROM THE PITS. “Homestead (is about) keeping the car in one piece, completing all the laps, and then slowly trying to improve from Homestead to Vegas, and Vegas to Phoenix. I want it to be in increments. I don’t want it to have any mistakes on my side. I want to be very, very consistent in my driving.

“Then obviously I want to run more races later this year with Sam in his open races as he said. Then obviously I’d love to do a full-season effort in 2022. it’s something that I definitely need to showcase what we can do as a team, but expectations beyond that, I keep an open mind.”

While he has not got the chance to drive a stock car yet, Ferrucci was able to get some time on the simulator running Phoenix Raceway, which will be one of those five races on his slate.

“I’m super stoked about that race,” he admitted. “But to be honest, I’m really excited about Miami. I’m excited we get to do a little small reveal; I’m super excited about that. It’s going to be a fantastic event. Both those tracks are going to require me to really drive the car to my fullest ability and that’s something that I am looking forward to more.”

Ferrucci also feels despite showing up to Homestead “cold turkey” with no experience, he will be able to rely back on all the other experience he has gained through his racing career to date, from knowing set-up to how a racecar is built.

While new to the Xfinity Series, Sam Hunt Racing is already showing speed, as evident by Brandon Gdovic scoring an eighth-place finish at Daytona to open the season. Kris Wright then backed up the performance on the road course with a 16th.

Now set for their third driver in three events, Sam Hunt says Ferrucci’s ability across multiple disciplines, whether open-wheel or a midget, is why he is a good fit.

“Just raw talent as a racecar driver – not necessarily as a stock car driver or a formula driver,” he commented. “Just seeing him run and have some success at the Chili Bowl and we all see how hard that event that is with guys like Chase (Elliott) and other NASCAR guys dipping into that. I think he’s a really wide open kid. He’s not scared – obviously. I think anybody who competes in the Indy 500 is not scared of the racecar.

“I think he has a motivating driver to maximize every opportunity that he’s got and that’s how I got to be with my team, building it the way I am. It was just a very natural this is what you’re trying to do, this is what I’m doing, a lot of the subjects align with each other and let’s go do it.”

While the full 2021 slate has not been announced yet for SHR, Hunt confirmed Ferrucci will be running “a few more races” that they are not ready to announce yet, and is hopeful for more events for the pair together.

Ferrucci isn’t set to leave his open-wheel background behind either, confirming he is still on the lookout for a ride for the Indianapolis 500.

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