Although Santino Ferrucci has never raced stock cars before, a well-known former NASCAR driver has played an important part in shaping his career.

Ferrucci, of Woodbury, Conn., has been a Haas F1 Team development driver since the outfit first entered Formula One in 2016. And although having an American driver in its ranks sounds like an ideal situation for the American group, Gene Haas’ team apparently picked Ferrucci up thanks in part to the other half of NASCAR team Stewart-Haas Racing’s namesake.

“Actually, that was all Tony (Stewart),” Ferrucci told NESN Fuel. “I didn’t meet Gene until last year, but I’ve always known Tony, his right-hand man.

“Tony’s a racer, we get along really well. I love him. I’ve just had a good relationship with him for the last five years now.”

The 19-year-old’s relationship with “Smoke” dates back to 2011, when Ferrucci was part of the McLaren Young Driver Programme, and Stewart participated in a seat swap at Watkins Glen International with then-McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton. Stewart then invited Ferrucci to attend the NASCAR race at Watkins Glen later that year, and they hit it off fairly quickly.

“The Watkins Glen thing, I kind of laugh because it feels like yesterday,” Ferrucci said. “And that was when we started talking about road courses, his IndyCar life and what he used to do, and stuff like that.”

Although Ferrucci acknowledged that Gene Haas’ F1 and NASCAR operations are kept independent of each other, it’s clear that Haas values Stewart’s ability to judge a racer’s talent, whether they drive stock cars or single-seaters.

Thumbnail photo via Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images