22 years ago, Andy and Cathy DeFrancesco’s dreams of becoming parents for the first time hung in the balance.
Their newborn son Devlin was born 15 weeks premature at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Hospital and weighed only one pound. He wasn’t expected to make it – in fact, a Roman Catholic priest was brought in to read the last rights for the newborn.
Devlin DeFrancesco was born fast! But, despite “jumping the start” at birth, the Miami-based Italian-Canadian racer not only survived but thrived after the youngster found a go-kart under the Christmas tree as a six-year-old.
After a decorated karting career, success in single-seater championships in Europe, and climbing the ladder on the “Road to Indy” over the past two years with Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport – DeFrancesco will make his debut in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES this weekend at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
DeFrancesco will drive the No.29 Honda-powered machine – resplendent in his signature bright fluorescent and red livery backed by long-time Road to Indy partner, Powertap Hydrogen.
The 22-year-old got his first taste of INDYCAR action at Sebring International Raceway in October last year. Two additional test days at Barber Motorsport Park and again at Sebring last week have been supplemented by “hundreds” of laps aboard simulators to prepare for St. Petersburg.
As part of the four-car squad prepared by Andretti Autosport, DeFrancesco will draw on the massive experience of his team and teammates as he kicks off his rookie season in INDYCAR. Ex-Formula 1 racers Romain Grosjean and Alexander Rossi are part of the Andretti squad along with DeFrancesco’s close friend, long-time karting rival, and INDYCAR star Colton Herta.
DeFrancesco and Herta head into St. Petersburg this week on a race-winning high. The duo combined with fellow INDYCAR racer Pato O’Ward and sportscar veteran Eric Lux to win the LMP2 class at this year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona sports car race recently
The No.29 Honda-powered INDYCAR of DeFrancesco will be backed in 2022 by a trio of green technology brands. Joining PowerTap Hydrogen is long-time Andretti Steinbrenner partner, microturbine energy solutions provider Capstone Green Energy and clean technology company, Atmofizer.
Additional brands that will feature on the car in 2022 include electric motorcycle pioneers Damon Motorcycles; software and services company Fyllo; Miami-based Sol Yoga; Clarus Securities, life sciences health and wellness company, Wesana Health along with green technologies investment company, The House of Lithium.
Major retail brands will also be showcased on the car, including Kimoa – the fashion, clothing, and accessories brand founded by Fernando Alonso; Seattle, WA-based Jones Soda Co. and returning Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport partner – small-batch and Austrian-distilled ultra-premium brand, NEFT Vodka.
ST PETERSBURG SCHEDULE
Friday, February 25
3:40 PM – 4:25 PM: Practice 1
Saturday, February 26
9:00 AM – 9:45 AM: Practice 2
12:30 PM – 1:45 PM: Qualifying
Sunday, February 27
8:45 AM – 9:15 PM: Warm-up
12:30 PM – Round 1 (100 laps)
HOW TO WATCH
USA: NBC and Peacock TV
Peacock also will stream all races airing on NBC and will be the exclusive home of INDYCAR practice and qualifying sessions,
Canada: SportsNet World
International TV: https://www.indycar.com/ways-t
HOW TO LISTEN
INDYCAR Radio and Sirius XM – https://www.indycar.com/radio/
HOW TO FOLLOW
Website: andrettiautosport.com <https://paulryanmedia.us7.lis
Website: steinbrennerracing.com <https://paulryanmedia.us7.lis
Twitter: twitter.com/devlindefran <https://paulryanmedia.us7.lis
Instagram: instagram.com/devlindefran <https://paulryanmedia.us7.lis
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DEVLIN DEFRANCESCO Q&A
Q: HOW MUCH ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO YOUR INDYCAR DEBUT?
A: “I’m super excited to drive St. Pete this year. The IndyCar is amazing to drive. I think the brakes are the biggest difference between the IndyCar and the Indy Lights car at this track. I expect the IndyCar to be easier to drive over the bumps.
“The biggest challenge for me, I think, will be adapting to the reds and having to save fuel – things like that. It is a bigger, heavier car, so a couple of corners may be a little trickier. But all in all, I’m super excited for what’s to come.”
Q: WHAT WILL YOU BE ABLE TO LEARN FROM YOUR TEAM AND TEAMMATES AT ST. PETERSBURG?
A: “The brilliant thing about being part of the Andretti four-car stable is being able to learn from my vastly experienced teammates and tap into that data.
“As a rookie entering the championship, this is massive for me. You really couldn’t hope for a better situation to be in. The team has had great success at St. Pete in the past, Colton won here last year, and I will have some great reference points to get started with.
“Colton was massively helpful for me in offering advice in Indy Lights last year, and I’ll certainly be looking to follow in his, Alexander and Romain’s footsteps.”
Q: THERE IS NOT A LOT OF TESTING IN INDYCAR AND ONLY TWO 45-MINUTE PRACTICE SESSIONS BEFORE QUALIFYING – HOW ELSE HAVE YOU PREPARED FOR THIS WEEKEND?
A: “I would have loved to have a heap of test days under my belt, but the rules don’t permit that. I’ve certainly been doing a lot of laps on my simulator at home and also a few days on the HPD simulator in Indianapolis.
“It certainly has given me a bit of an idea as to what to expect. I loved the track last year in Indy Lights, and I’m really looking forward to seeing what it is like to drive in INDYCAR.”
Q: WITH LONGER RACES, MORE POWER, AND MORE G FORCES, HOW BIG A CHALLENGE PHYSICALLY IS STEPPING UP TO INDYCAR?
A: “In a way, the INDYCAR is actually a little bit easier to drive than the Indy Lights car. The steering is heavy, but despite being a little guy – physically, I haven’t found it too difficult. Having said that – let’s see how I feel after 100 laps next Sunday.
“But to prepare for that, I have certainly been putting in the work. My trainer in Miami is an Australian ex-Olympic boxer, and he has been kicking my butt for nearly a year now.
“Preparations didn’t just start after the end of the Lights season – my training has been pretty intense for a long time, and I’m in the best shape of my life.
“But there is no substitute for laps – that will be the real test, but I have done everything I can to be as prepared as I possibly could be.”
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Q: HOW BIG A MOMENT IS THIS FOR YOUR FAMILY?
A: “It’s huge. I owe everything to my parents. Ever since I first drove a kart as a six-year-old, this is all I’ve ever wanted to do.
“I know I gave Mom and Dad a huge fright when I was born. I was in a hell of a rush to arrive into this world, and I’ve been going flat out ever since.
“They have helped me every step of the way and my job now is to help reward them by doing the best job I can possibly do.
“I know INDYCAR is going to be an enormous challenge but I can’t wait to get started.”
Q: WHAT IS IT LIKE TO DRIVE FOR TWO OF THE BIGGEST NAMES IN SPORT WITH ANDRETTI AND STEINBRENNER?
A: “Oh that is just massive. It is an absolute honor to drive under the Andretti banner and even more special for me and my family because of our Italian heritage.
“The Andretti family has done it all and what Michael has now built with Andretti Autosport is just amazing – INDYCAR, Formula E, Extreme E, Australian Supercars, IMSA, and more.
“They know how to win and every time they hit the track, they do it right.
“The Steinbrenner family obviously has an enormous legacy in the sport of baseball and I’m thrilled with the opportunity to represent them and help George build his own legacy in a completely different sport.
“To play a role in helping him do this is a huge honor.”