INDIANAPOLIS -- A.J. Foyt Racing has been near the bottom of the IndyCar standings the past few seasons. So, it decided to make a change ahead of 2023, bringing in five-year IndyCar veteran driver Santino Ferrucci and rookie Benjamin Pedersen.
That change paid off at Indianapolis 500 qualifying.
After a seven-hour qualifying period Saturday afternoon at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Ferrucci and Pedersen made it into the Fast 12 of the Indy 500. They will compete for pole position Sunday, racing against Arrow McLaren Racing, Chip Ganassi Racing, and other formidable teams. It's the first time Foyt Racing has had a driver in the top 12 of qualifying since 2018.
“It's pretty funny,” Ferrucci said. “You sit there going against two four-car teams that have an insane budget, up front like this for a long time. McLaren is new, but you guys have been doing a fantastic job. To compete with them is definitely something special. I think we've definitely been there more on the racing side of things, at least I have in the past few years. To see us up there on raw car speed is pretty cool.”
Ferrucci finished ninth in the first day of qualifying Saturday with a four-lap average speed of 233.147 mph.
Pedersen was close behind, coming in at a speed of 232.729 mph for 11th. Pedersen was the only rookie to make the Fast 12, and the only one to make it into the top-25 — Agustin Canapino of Juncos Hollinger Racing finished 27th, RC Enerson of Abel Motorsports finished 29th, and Sting Ray Robb will compete in last-chance racing on Sunday.
The 12 fastest cars from Saturday will take one four-lap qualifying run with the six fastest advancing to compete for the pole.
“I think it's a pretty impressive feat for the team,” Ferrucci said. “To see the 14 upfront, my teammate right there as well who went earlier in the day, it's been pretty awesome. To see us up there is pretty sick, man."
On the first day of qualifying, A.J. Foyt Racing outscored both Team Penske and Andretti.
And Foyt, at 88 years old, was at the track watching his drivers compete on Saturday. He was impressed by what he saw.
“I think (Foyt) is really happy to see that car up on top,” Ferrucci said of his No. 14. “I think he's more thrilled that both cars are equally competitive. I think he believes in what we're doing. He believes in the program. It's just one of those things where he's ready to see what we can do on race day."
Ferrucci and Pedersen have the chance to put A.J. Foyt Racing back on the map in the Fast 12 positioning on Sunday and to continue Foyt’s legacy, who won the Indianapolis 500 as a driver four times.
In preparation for the Fast 12, Ferrucci doesn’t anticipate any changes to his car — he’s prioritizing his rest ahead of pole qualification.
“I'm having a good dinner, going to bed,” Ferrucci said. “Driving the same car tomorrow. Nothing I'm changing.”
This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Indy 500 qualifying: A.J. Foyt Racing's Ferrucci, Pedersen in Fast 12