Santino Ferrucci has yet to drive a NASCAR stock car. In fact, he’s never even started one. All Ferrucci has been able to do is merely sit in the car he’ll make his NASCAR debut in on Saturday afternoon, but if the simulator is any indication, he knows what to expect.
“The car’s loud, it moves a lot, and it’s very fun to drive,” Ferrucci said.
Ferrucci is a little more than 24 hours away from the green flag for the Xfinity Series race at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Saturday, 4:30 p.m. ET, FS1). Not surprisingly, it’s been full steam ahead this week with preparations for him and Sam Hunt Racing. Ferrucci continues to spend time at the Toyota performance center, training and looking at film.
While he wasn’t at the track the last two weeks, Ferrucci said he paid close attention to the races at Daytona. He was also texting team owner Sam Hunt non-stop, particularly during the road course race, to get a feel for the dynamic of how the team operates.
Getting in the simulator was the first time since January, when he was introduced to the tool, that Ferrucci has been able to use it. Ferrucci was able to put himself in a simulated race scenario and work with his crew chief and spotter.
“The changes on the car are very unique, that goes back to the language,” said Ferrucci. “Working with the wedge, track bar, your springs as opposed to dampers. Starting to work with the language for me and how to give my feedback to make changes has been honestly the biggest help.
“That and in the simulator, you have guys like Harrison Burton who are contenders in the championship that set a reference line, and you can literally follow them around the track in a virtual world, which for me is a huge help because I have no idea where I’m going. So, it’s great to learn from guys like that.”
Yes, learning stock car terminology to know what adjustments to ask for properly has been part of Ferrucci’s learning curve. Ferrucci joked that although Hunt knows what he’s talking about with how he describes the car and words he uses, others not so much. But Ferrucci did get a shock — and his first real eye-opener of this transition — when he climbed into the cockpit for the first time last month and asked where the electronics were.
“Sam kind of chuckled and said, ‘You’re on your own here,’” said Ferrucci. “Everything is manual gauges, and that’s definitely going to be a big adjustment too. It’s weird not having any tech in the car other than a radio. It’s also pretty awesome.”
Homestead is the first of five consecutive races that Ferrucci will be in the No. 26 Toyota. And although he’s sat in the car, Saturday afternoon will be the first time he fires it up. With no practice on the schedule, that will be on pit road as Ferrucci prepares for pace laps and then the green flag for the Contenders Boats 250.
“It’s tough showing up to Homestead cold turkey, but my knowledge as a race car driver will always remain from everything I’ve done in my career,” said Ferrucci. “How to look at built cars, how to set cars up. My feelings driving. My knowledge of how to do pit stops, how to race. None of that will go away, which is nice. So, working with Sam and them being very helpful on information on exactly what I’m doing.
“We don’t really have many expectations going into Homestead; you just want the car to come back in one piece, and laps are laps for us. We’ve got five in a row, so there is no sense throwing away your first race trying to do something spectacular. It’s all about being consistent and building up to it slowly.”