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AJ Foyt Racing promotes Benjamin Pedersen from Indy Lights to IndyCar for 2023 season Jimmie Johnson open to racing Rolex 24 at Daytona in lower category to earn first watch

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Benjamin Pedersen is the first driver to be honored by Indy Lights. in IndyCar for next season as AJ Foyt Racing confirmed on Wednesday that he will be part of their 2023 roster.

Pedersen, a 23-year-old Danish-US citizen, spent last season driving the full Indy Lights schedule for HMD Motorsports. Linus Lundqvist, his teammate, won the Lights title and Pedersen finished fifth in the final standings. Pedersen earned his only win earlier this month when he led every lap after pole position in Portland.

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Pedersen also drove four races for HMD in 2021, finishing second in his debut. Pedersen came to the attention of AJ Foyt Racing team president Larry Foyt through a “trusted colleague” and Pedersen spent most of last season keeping an eye on the IndyCar team.

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His progress in IndyCar is ahead of all four drivers who have finished ahead of him in the Indy Lights standings, including champion Lundqvist.

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“We really hope that Benjamin will become part of our team,” said Larry Foyt. “His enthusiasm is infectious and he is 100 percent dedicated to IndyCar, AJ Foyt Racing and goes above and beyond to win races.

“It was great to have him join the team last season and everyone is excited to get going when testing starts. It’s also great to have a multi-year program that will help him and the team grow together.”

Voith did not give Pedersen’s car number. Kyle Kirkwood spent his first season driving the No. 14 flagship AJ Foyt, but Kirkwood moves to Andretti Autosport. The team has yet to announce if Dalton Kellett will return for a fourth season, and Tatiana Calderon’s third car has been withdrawn from competition after seven races due to non-payment from sponsors. The closure of the Calderón team removed the only semi-regular female driver from the IndyCar field.

Pedersen, however, signed an agreement that Foyt said “spans several seasons as the team plans to develop the young rookie and is in line with AJ Foyt Racing’s long-term plan.”

Pedersen was born in Copenhagen but grew up in Seattle and currently lives in Indianapolis. He said that his time following the IndyCar team gave him a boost in training as a rookie.

“I spent a lot of time with AJ Foyt Racing this season learning the ins and outs of moving to IndyCar and it was a real pleasure to do so with my Indy Lights season,” said Pedersen. “IndyCar has been my goal since I started racing open wheels in 2016. The racing, the atmosphere, the fans, the events, the tracks, etc. are all amazing.”

Jimmie Johnson may make his last prototype start on Saturday, but he can still race Rolex 24 sports cars at Dayton and Le Mans in 2023.

Now that he’s fully dedicated to racing the NTT IndyCar Series, Johnson said this week his top three priorities for 2023 are: 1) racing the Indy 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 on the same day (commonly known as “The Double” ); 2) 24 Hours of Le Mans and 3) Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Winning the Rolex 24 has long been a goal for Johnson, who finished second overall three times out of nine starts in the inaugural season of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship at Daytona International Speedway.

IMSA SEASON FINALE: Details for watching Petit Le Mans

They were all in the top category, but after an overhaul and rebranding of the IMSA class (from DPi to GTP) next season, there doesn’t seem to be room for Johnson to return to the No. 48 Ally Cadillac. Johnson will team with Kamui Kobayashi and Mike Rockenfeller in Saturday’s Minor Le Mans season finale, concluding the second season of Action Express endurance racing.

“I know the situation with a new class of prototypes coming out, and frankly, there just aren’t enough cars or seats available,” the seven-time Cup Series champion said during a Zoom press conference on Tuesday. “So I don’t see an opportunity in the top division, but I’m open to other divisions and would like to finally earn one of those hours.”

This could mean that Johnson (who bought an engraved Rolex watch after winning the Daytona 500 in 2006 but wants to earn the signature trophy in sports car racing) will drive an LMP2 or LMP3 or possibly a GT car for the first time at Daytona next year. Next year he will have a major Carvana sponsorship that he will likely be able to bring to the team.

The rest of the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion’s schedule for 2023 is also yet to be finalized. But it looks like Johnson is almost ready for his 24 Hours of Le Mans debut in the Garage 56 Next Gen Camaro, which will be jointly exhibited by Hendrick Motorsports and NASCAR.

“The rest is just early,” he said. “In the coming weeks, talks will continue on all fronts. I still feel like I’m shortlisted for the Garage 56 program at Le Mans next year and hope to get some clarity on that in the coming weeks or months. So I would like to have more to report at this point. It’s really about not going back to IndyCar full-time and now that I’ve made that decision and reported this news, I really feel like I’m going to get some support and be able to solidify my schedule for my 23rd year.” .

Depending on the interest it attracts, its options should be wide open. After racing Honda for the past two years and Chevrolet for his 20-plus years in NASCAR, Johnson is not under contract with any manufacturer or team next year.

Here’s what else Johnson had to say about what he wants to do on the 23rd:

indycar: Although his IndyCar record has been much better on the ovals, Johnson seems ready for any part-time schedule.

“I’m running out of specific events that are wishlist races (in IndyCar) and to be honest, that’s what led to my decision not to return full time,” Johnson said. “But I’m still open to the tracks that are important to me, the races that are important to me, and doing it with the people and teams that are important to me, so if anything works out with Chip (Ganassi), it’s a mixed bag. highway and street package. courses and some ovals, I’m open to that. I’m only open to the Double or just the Indy 500. I really have a blank sheet of paper and can’t wait to see what meaningful opportunities evolve and make sense.”

Although he is free to communicate with other teams, Johnson said returning with Chip Ganassi Racing would be his first choice after racing with the team from 2021.

“Actually, I only talked to Chip,” he said. “I really feel like I’m part of the CGR family. If I’m in IndyCar, I really want to be there. I know this team. I know his inner workings. I really feel like we’re working hard to continue the relationship together, so that would really be my intention, if I could put something together and get back to IndyCar, I’d love to have it there.”

NASCAR: Johnson again mentioned that, being a former winner of The Clash and All-Star Race previously granted him a long-term right for these events (NASCAR has since changed its criteria) so the Los Angeles and North Wilkesboro, NC shows are on his radar.

“I have a few more years before I am eligible for the Clash and All-Star Race, so I’m surprised no one has asked or pushed for it yet,” he said. “I guess I was busy with IndyCar and people think I have a busy schedule. But looking ahead, these would be easy opportunities to come back, but to be honest, I haven’t had a serious serious conversation with anyone yet on any of those fronts.

“I would like to go to Wilkesboro. I have never ridden this race track. Lowe’s corporate office was a little further down the street, so I drove past it many times. A few years ago I went on a long bike ride with Matt Kenseth and a few friends and actually rode my bike around the track. So I would love to get back in a real racing car someday and compete, and I hope the opportunity comes up.”

Project 91 from Trackhouse Racing (which allowed Kimi Räikkönen to race in the Watkins Glen International Cup) would give Johnson the opportunity to return to stock cars.

“Justin was a long time friend of mine and someone I keep in touch with, and he definitely let me know that a Project 91 car is available if I’m interested,” Johnson said. “So I will need to continue these conversations.”

– “Double”: Attempting to become the first driver since Kurt Busch in 2014 to drive 1,100 miles at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway on the same day, Johnson believes the logistics should be easier. Namely, he won’t have a full-time job with either IndyCar or NASCAR, and the reduced Cup schedule for training and qualifying should free up more time.

“When drivers have done this in the past, we have had a lot more activity on the track for both series, especially from NASCAR,” Johnson said. “I think the way the NASCAR format works now, less time issues. So I really feel like I have the potential to apply myself and have enough time physically to do it. I really think the shortened schedule and ditching the full IndyCar schedule will give me the time I need before and after to seriously focus and dedicate everything I can and should have done to give my best performance in both races.”


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