The Grass is Not Always Greener

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Later today, there is a good chance that we will receive confirmation that the NTT IndyCar Series will probably be losing one oif its brightest young stars. Santino Ferrucci, who has raced for Dale Coyne Racing the last two IndyCar seasons, is expected to be signed to a twenty-race deal to drive in NASCAR’s Xfinity Series for 2021.

We have been wondering why there had been no announcement that Ferrucci would be returning for a third season at Coyne. Most of us assumed that there was just some minor details to work out. Dale Coyne usually likes to take his time announcing his drivers, so it was not really alarming that Ferrucci’s plans had not been made public. There was also the thought that maybe there were some sponsorship issues. Running this past season during the pandemic could have certainly put sponsors in a bind.

Last week, we started hearing very quiet whispers that Ferrucci was hinting that he may want to try his hand at NASCAR. This week, Racer.com reported that Ferrucci was headed to Our Motorsports for twenty races; and that a deal could be officially announced by the end of the week. Today is Friday. As Kevin Lee said on Trackside on Tuesday night – this is most likely instead of IndyCar rather than in addition to IndyCar.

I’ll be honest – I have never heard of Our Motorsports. Then again, I’m not real conversant on all of NASCAR’s Cup teams, much less the Xfinity or Camping World Truck Series. But if Ferrucci can do better career-wise by making this move; that’s not a good sign.

I understand that the Coyne team is not like running for Penske or Ganassi, but they are not the bottom of the barrel either. Since 2009, there have been more IndyCar seasons with a Coyne car winning at least one race than not.

Our Motorsports has one season under its belt in the Xfinity Series – the 2020 season that saw them finish fifteenth in owner’s points splitting one car among four different drivers. Prior to 2020, they ran mostly in ARCA after getting their start in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, back in 2014. Finishing fifteenth in their first Xfinity Series was something of a milestone, but it seems to be that Ferrucci is taking a huge risk in betting his future on this fledgling team.

I acknowledge that I am just slightly biased. When I was in fourth grade, I always used to daydream drawing Indy cars in class – not stock cars. I might as well have doodled out a picture of my family’s boring 1967 Impala as to have sketched a picture of Richard Petty’s Plymouth. Indy cars are what I found fascinating, and I guess I assume that everyone feels the same way that I do.

What is it that made Ferrucci decide an Xfinity team heading into its sophomore season, was a much better choice than an IndyCar team that offers a legitimate shot at winning most seasons? Unless it was money, and I mean a whole lot more money – I find this a very perplexing move.

Santino Ferrucci was one of the more compelling young stars in the NTT IndyCar Series. He is talented and fearless in the car, and brash with swagger outside of the car. It seems like someone told the crop of young drivers that they need wear a stern look on their face, as if they had just taken a bite out of a persimmon. While many of them look like somebody just shot their dog, when they step out of the car – Ferrucci wears a mischievous grin, like he just got caught with his hand in the cooler taking the last beer.

Many young drivers take themselves a little too seriously. Ferrucci doesn’t. He is one of the few young drivers who looks like he’s been having a blast when he takes his helmet off. He’s not too cool to admit he’s having fun.

In his rookie season, he took bold chances on the track. Whether it was pure luck or not, he was always able to make his car do exactly what he wanted. He seemed to thrive on his competitors scolding him. It’s as if he knew that deep down, they were envious of him. He was one of those that we always said “Just wait until he gets into a really good car”.

For now, it looks like a Dale Coyne Car will be the best race car Santino Ferrucci will have driven in for the past few years. With no experience in stock cars, I think everyone knows how much he will struggle. Ferrucci was heading into his third year. He could have been really good, and taken his Dale Coyne ride to Victory Lane at one of the familiar tracks to him on the IndyCar schedule. Instead, he will be back behind the learning curve, in a type of car he’s never driven before at many tracks he’s never seen before.

I realize that no one has asked me my opinion on this, but I cannot fathom why Ferrucci has made this move. Jumping to NASCAR didn’t work out so well for Sam Hornish, Dario Franchitti or Danica Patrick. The grass is not always greener over in NASCAR-land, but the money is. Something tells me that Santino Ferrucci is going to regret this move. I just hope he isn’t too proud to admit his mistake to try and come back to IndyCar someday. We’d love to have him back.

George Phillips

9 Responses to “The Grass is Not Always Greener”

  1. I’d presume he was not invited back, for whatever reason. I won’t miss him, he showed his colors in F2 and I have disliked him ever since. I know a lot of people tried to forgive and forget but I don’t believe a zebra can change the color of his strips and will never like him.

  2. well, since i have made career moves “for the money”, i cannot criticize someone else doing the same thing.

  3. Ferruci has shown his speed in his 2 seasons so far with Coyne.
    Doing a few NASCAR races on the side and continuing IndyCar full time sounded pretty good at first.

    We don’t know what is happening at Coyne. For now, it’s anybody’s guess. Are they downsizing their lead driver to part-time status on budget reasons? Do they not want to do that and are looking for a different driver to lead the team now? Who knows. Whatever it is, it may be just as surprising as last season when Coyne let Bourdais go.

    During the past 2 seasons in IndyCar, Ferruci has matured into a competitive driver. As George stated, he has earned his place on the grid. But he may not have earned his Coyne.

  4. Paul Fitzgerald Says:

    Marshall Pruitt theorized that he is leaving because he doesn’t have as much sponsorship money as he’s had in the past and doesn’t have enough money to keep the Coyne ride. So it’s not that he doesn’t want to stay…he can’t afford it.

  5. Choice #1: Stay in IndyCar and have to go out and find more personal sponsorship $$$ to bring to Dale Coyne so you can continue to drive.

    Choice #2: Go to Xfinity Series and get PAID to drive.

    How’s this a mistake on his part? Guy’s gotta put a roof over his head and eat just like the rest of us. No?

  6. billytheskink Says:

    Even in Coyne’s best seasons, his team is always looking for money, which most everyone is sure is the reason Ferrucci will likely not return there next year. This team is only a few years removed from putting Francesco Dracone in one of their cars after all.

    NASCAR is a curious move, of course, as most drivers with backgrounds like Ferrucci’s look to sports cars when they can’t land an Indycar seat. I do wonder if we may begin to see open wheel drivers start migrating to stock cars again in significant numbers now that there are more road races on the schedule for nearly all of NASCAR’s series and win-and-you-are-in playoffs in the 3 national series.

  7. He was getting the hang of things in Indy and, if he could, I think he’d better much better off. NASCAR looks easy. But, we’ve seen IndyCar champs do poorly. Why? It seems if you don’t come from stock car racing then you need to come from dirt racing. Tony Stewart had that dirt racing background and so he could adapt. I wish Ferrucci well but I think he may have a very frustrating time.

  8. Running in the back in NASCAR still pays more than Coyne probably, unfortunately. Still though, it’s a huge shot to take and that team may be expanding too quickly. Ferucci seemed to get a boost with Earnhardt Jr liking his driving style. Earnhardt has swung and missed before though and this isn’t even a shot at Jr’s team….

  9. He’s dead to me now.

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