Updated: May 3
PORTLAND, Ore. - After having the best result of his 2022 NTT IndyCar Series season the last time out at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport rookie Devlin DeFrancesco is hoping to use the momentum from finishing 12th to end his first year on a high note.
With two races remaining on the 17-race calendar, DeFrancesco has an average finish of 18.9. Stepping up to the premier open-wheel racing series in North America after competing in Indy Lights last year is a completely different animal for a 22-year-old trying to make his name in the paddock.
“Looking forward to ending the last two races on a high,” DeFrancesco said. “Honestly, 6.5, I’d rate our season. The results and speed is really starting to come the last couple of races. It’s taking me a bit long to get my feet under me and things like that.
“A few races haven’t gone our way and showed our true potential. But we’re always working and closing the gap and I think that’s really become apparent the last couple of races.”
Despite a tough rookie campaign, DeFrancesco is confident that things are headed in the right direction at Andretti. He believes his No. 29 team continues to get better each race weekend, noting how well he performed at Gateway and on pace with his more experienced teammates.
Not surprising for an IndyCar rookie, it took DeFrancesco time to get more comfortable behind the wheel of an Indy car, but he feels good coming to Portland International Raceway this weekend for the Grand Prix of Portland.
“It’s (Portland) a fun little track,” DeFrancesco said. “It’s very tight, it’s high commitment, especially the last section of it. So, it’s very enjoyable. It’s very close and tight. There’s really not much room for error.”
Last week, DeFrancesco was fortunate enough to get additional track time by attending a private IndyCar test session at PIR. This provided a great opportunity for the young driver to shorten the learning curve when he returns this week for the race. On the test day, DeFrancesco thought it went fairly decent although it took him a while to feel comfortable in the morning.
But later in the day, the team made a few changes to the No. 29 Honda before the last run and made some positive gains with the setup. Last year, DeFrancesco competed in two Indy Lights races at PIR, finishing 11th and seventh. However, he thinks some of his past experience helps to a certain degree, but Portland is more challenging to drive in an Indy car compared to the Indy Lights car.
“It’s a different car, it needs different things,” DeFrancesco said. “It’s good to know where the track goes and things like that, but different car and different things required.”
Looking ahead to next year, DeFrancesco envisions taking the next step in his IndyCar career. His goals include improving his qualifying results, potentially advancing to the Fast 12 more often and maybe the Firestone Fast Six if things go really well. DeFrancesco’s best qualifying effort of the 2022 season occurred at Gateway when he qualified ninth.
One of the toughest tracks in his rookie season was Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama. He couldn’t explain why he struggled despite finishing 17th. However, he remembers the corners he had the most trouble with and believes things will be different next year.
In order to begin contending for top-10s, top-fives and podiums, DeFrancesco understands he’ll have to put in the work during the offseason to improve.
“Identifying the weaknesses and that’s going to be a job to do over the winter to look back over on the season,” DeFrancesco said. “This is the things that went well, this is the things that didn’t go well. And this is what we need to work on. I’m doing a lot of work about that over the offseason to come out swinging next season.
“I know the car now and a lot of the tracks I’m going back to next year, so I’ll really be able to draw in that knowledge. Things aren’t the same year-to-year, but I have my own experience to rely on instead of looking at others.”