Originally published by NBC Sports.
Santino Ferrucci was in tears after last Sunday’s 107th Indy 500.
The AJ Foyt Racing driver from Woodbury, Connecticut had just driven the best race of his career, only to have the final yellow flag of the race fly just a second or two before he would have been in position for the win.
The field had just been given the green flag with four laps to go and Ferrucci was charging in the No. 14 Chevrolet into Turn 1, about to pass both Josef Newgarden for second place, which would have put him in prime position to draft past Marcus Ericsson for the victory.
But IndyCar race control issued the third red flag stoppage in the final 15 laps of the race and with Ferrucci 2 inches behind Newgarden’s Chevrolet, he was lined up third.
When IndyCar had the remaining drivers refire the engines for three-quarters of a lap behind the Pace Car followed by a one-lap green and white flag dash to the finish, Ferrucci knew there was little he could do to get past the front two cars.
Newgarden passed Ericsson on the backstretch and went on to take the checkered flag for his first Indianapolis 500 victory. Ericsson was just 0.0974-of-a-second away from winning the Indy 500 for the second year in a row and Ferrucci was 0.5273-of-a-second away from winning his first career NTT IndyCar Series race.
It was a fantastic effort for Ferrucci, but to come so close to winning the biggest race in the world, the kid from Connecticut was heartbroken.
“We were so good this month,” Ferrucci told NBC Sports after climbing out of his car. “When you are that fast all month long, you just want it that much more. The way we did everything to finish the race under green, it’s great for the fans, IndyCar did the right thing, but sometimes it’s a tough pill to swallow restarting third like that when you are really second.
“It’s all timing and scoring. That doesn’t lie. If it says we are third, we are third. It’s very bittersweet.”
When Ericsson and Newgarden were both “Unleashing the Dragon” with the draft-breaking zigzag moves at the end of the race, Ferrucci admitted he was hoping it would play into his favor if those two made contact ahead of him.
“I was hoping and praying because when you are third, that’s all you can do – hope and pray,” Ferrucci said.
His prayers were not answered, but his determination to win the Indianapolis 500 remains undeterred.
He has never finished outside of the top 10 in the Indianapolis 500. Ferrucci was seventh as a rookie in 2019, fourth in 2020, sixth in 2021, 10th last year and third this past Sunday.
“I love this place,” the driver said. “I love coming here. I’m always so comfortable in the race. We are good at avoiding all of the accidents that happened in front of us.
“We will win it eventually. We have to.”
Ferrucci has proven he likes to rise to the big moments.
“I like the pressure,” he said. “We do well under pressure.
“But you have to take third, sometimes.
“We had a really good shot at winning this race. We made the most of it.”
Ferrucci continues to display the uncanny knack for racing hard and avoiding trouble. When he took the lead in the No. 14 car made famous by his team owner, legendary four-time Indianapolis 500 winner AJ Foyt, many of the fans in the crowd of 330,000 roared with approval.
Ferrucci was in front for 11 laps and was in prime position to pounce at the end, before the final 15 laps brought out red flag fever.
Because of that, and the timing of where he was when the last yellow light came on before the final red, put him in a difficult position to win the race.
“It’s just emotional, bittersweet,” he said. “It was emotional getting in the car, which was kind of strange because you feel like there’s a lot of people that really want this, the team really wants this.
“We worked so hard to be where we were. We ran out front all day long. It’s definitely one of the more difficult races that I’ve probably ever run, and just we also knew that we had a really good car.
“We got really close with Felix Rosenqvist when he was wrecking so very thankful, we were able to avoid that. And then yeah, coming to the end, I think on the second to final restart, me and Marcus battling it into 1, and obviously it going red when it did, it’s part of this place, it’s part of racing, it’s part of the Speedway.
“I’m just bummed. I’m sure Marcus Ericsson thinks the same thing I do.
“All three of us could have won it at any point in time.
“Yeah, it’s bittersweet.”
A few days have passed since Ferrucci was crying when he got out of the race car. He celebrated his birthday on Wednesday by mowing his lawn after a 12-hour drive back to his home in Texas. On Thursday morning, he flies to Detroit to get ready for this weekend’s Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix on the streets of downtown Detroit.
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