Racing News

Smallest baby born at Sunnybrook signs big IndyCar racing contract

Written by Norris McDonald

Devlin DeFrancesco of Toronto (above) confers with team boss Michael Andretti (left). CREDIT: Andretti Autosport

The smallest baby ever born at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre signed a one-year contract Thursday to drive for Andretti Autosport in the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series.

Devlin DeFrancesco, 21, of Toronto – he makes his U.S. home in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. – weighed one pound at birth and his eyes were fused shut. He was so small and sickly that he received the Last Rites of the Roman Catholic Church.

But with the help of an incubator and the nursing staff at Women’s College Hospital, where he was moved, DeFrancesco eventually overcame the setback of being born 15 weeks premature and was allowed to go home for good.

“It’s a dream come true,” he said about signing the contract. “I can hardly wait to get going.”

DeFrancesco began kart racing at age 6, winning the Canadian championship twice. He initially went to Europe to learn to race formula cars and returned to North America two years ago to get involved in the Road to Indy racing ladder.

He graduated from the Indy Lights class this fall and tested an IndyCar for team owner Michael Andretti a week ago.  When the 2022 season opens in St. Petersburg, Fla., next March, he will be on a team with veterans Colton Herta and` Alexandre Rossi and ex-Formula One star Romain Grosjean.

Said Michael Andretti, who partnered with George Steinbrenner IV in financing a car for DeFrancesco: “Devlin has been a great addition to our Indy Lights program and showed a lot of growth and strength at the recent test days. I think he’ll continue to grow with IndyCar and I’m really glad that we could partner with George and the Steinbrenner Racing Team for the No. 29 (car).”

Steinbrenner, grandson of the late New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, who partnered with oil man Pat Patrick in the running of several Indianapolis 500s in the 1970s, said: “Two years ago, we started a journey with Devlin  with the intent of one day taking him to the NTT IndyCar Series and I’m thrilled that day has come.”

IndyCar racing is so horrendously expensive that it is not unusual for a team principal like Michael Andretti to partner with other teams in order to field cars and drivers. As well as his partnership; with Steinbrenner to run DeFrancesco, he also works with Brian Herta Racing to enter a car for Colton Herta.

Sponsorship, of course, is also important and one of DeFrancesco’s main backers is Kimoa, the fashion and accessories brand that was fouhded by two-time F1 world champion Fernando Alonso.

To say that DeFranceso is excited would be an understatement. He’s particularly looking forward to racing in the Indianapolis 500 next May and the Honda Indy Toronto, which is scheduled for next July.

To read the rest of this story, go to thestar.com/wheels