Devlin DeFrancesco is headed to the NTT IndyCar Series.
Indy Lights graduate DeFrancesco, 21, was introduced by Andretti Autosport on Thursday as its fourth driver for the 2022 IndyCar season. DeFrancesco replaces James Hinchcliffe in the No. 29 Dallara Honda and will join the trio of Colton Herta, Romain Grosjean and Alexander Rossi.
DeFrancesco, who was picked over Indy Lights champion Kyle Kirkwood, will drive for the Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport arm of Andretti Autosport. That arm is co-owned by George Steinbrenner IV.
DeFrancesco finished second in Indy Pro 2000 in 2020 and was Indy Lights rookie of the year last season, when he finished sixth in the standings for Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport’s Indy Lights entry.
“We’re really excited,” Andretti said in a video press conference on Wednesday. “It’s actually exciting when a plan comes together. This is something that started quite a few years ago, and with Dev driving for us first in Mazdas and then in Lights, and he finished second at the championship in Mazdas and probably had a better shot at winning if we as a team maybe would have had more experience to help him out in that way, so he did really well there, and then had a pretty good year in Lights.
“The plan was always for him to get to Indy cars right about now, and it’s really great when it all comes together. I’m really excited.”
Steinbrenner said that DeFrancesco has what it takes to surprise some people next year. The young driver will be replacing one on of IndyCar’s most popular drivers. Hinchcliffe, 34, had a disappointing season in 2020. Despite a season-best third-place finish on the streets of Nashille, Hinchcliffe finished just 20th in the NTT IndyCar Series standings.
“It’s extremely satisfying,” said Steinbrenner when asked about bringing someone through the ranks as opposed to signing an IndyCar free agent. “It’s hard even from Michael and myself’s perspective to get anyone in IndyCar when you’re starting from the junior formulas; to sort of put a whole program together around a person can be difficult and challenging.
“To sort of get it all put together, get Devlin in IndyCar for the foreseeable future hopefully, and yeah, I think it’s going to be a really good year. I think we’re going to surprise a lot of folks.”
DeFrancesco brings sponsorship, which no doubt factored in the Andretti decision.
“I’ve had such great support from such great partners, and to be able to keep those people on for next year and also have some new partners is a great—is something personally great for me. Kimoa,” DeFrancesco said. “Simply Mac, Fyllo, Powertap, Sol Yoga, Jones Soda, to have these people on board for next year on the No. 29 car is really exciting, and I truly am grateful for it.
DeFrancesco is also happy with his results in IndyCar tests.
“Honestly, personally, I found the car suited me much more,” DeFrancesco said. “I got to grips with it quite quickly. Definitely from midday onwards in Sebring I was already coming to grips with it and then Barber it didn’t take me that long to get up to speed. I really enjoy the car. I can’t wait to be in the thing again, and I’m really excited to get going for next year.”
Andretti picked DeFrancesco for the promotion ahead of its other three drivers in Indy Lights. Included in that list is Kirkwood, who won the Indy Lights championship with 10 wins in 2021 (DeFrancesco was winless). Also in the Andretti stable in Indy Lights in 2021 were Danial Frost, who finished fifth in the standings, and Robert Megennis, who finished seventh.
Andretti said that DeFrancesco, however, outperformed Kirkwood in an IndyCar test.
“Well, like I said, it was a long-range plan,” Andretti said. “It wasn’t something that we just came up with overnight. We’ve had this planned out a few years ago. It was more basically just following the plan.
“But I want to comment, as well, on Devlin at his test, I think he did very well. I think an Indy car is really going to suit his style. He’s a very aggressive style, which I think in Indy Lights probably was not as good for his driving style, but I think IndyCar you have to be very aggressive, and he is, and I think that’s why if you saw, he was actually quicker than Kyle Kirkwood in the last test on the same day. That says something because everybody rates Kyle.
“For him to go out and go quicker than Kyle I thought was really great there at a very tough track, too. Barber is not an easy racetrack.”
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