Stewart, Harvick ready to bounce back

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Two big names are hoping to shake off a disappointing Daytona 500 and gain some positive momentum this weekend at Phoenix.

Tony Stewart and Kevin Harvick were pegged as contenders to win “The Great American Race” before they both got caught in a nine-car crash on Lap 34 last Sunday at Daytona. Now, they must dig their way out of the hole on Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway.

Fortunately for Stewart, he’s been in this situation before and it worked out pretty well for him back then.

“We’ve left [Daytona] 43rd (in points) and won a championship in ’02,” said Stewart, who qualified sixth for the Subway Fresh Fit 500k. “So, you just put it behind you and it’s no different than if you get in a wreck on any other week. You can’t change it. So, you’ve got to focus on what you can change and that’s the week ahead.”

As for Harvick, his triumph in the Sprint Cup Series’ most recent visit to Phoenix has him hoping for more good things this time around. But with the introduction of the Generation-6 cars, he and his Richard Childress Racing team know that they’re in for a real test.

“This year we have a new car and a lot of new things to deal with, you to have an open mind on how to approach the weekend,” said Harvick, who is racing in today’s Nationwide Series event at PIR and will go off from seventh on the grid Sunday.

“Obviously, running the NASCAR Nationwide Series race will help by providing a little extra track time, but Phoenix was a good track for us last year. We finished first and second in the two races last season, so we’re going back expecting that we’ll run just as well.”

Stewart has one Sprint Cup win at PIR, but comes off finishes of 22nd and 19th at the one-mile oval last season. Harvick, on the other hand, has collected three top-5 results in his last four Phoenix outings, including the aforementioned victory last fall.

AJ Foyt Racing promotes Benjamin Pedersen from Indy Lights to IndyCar for 2023 season

Benjamin Pedersen AJ Foyt
AJ Foyt Racing
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Benjamin Pedersen is the first driver to land a promotion from Indy Lights into IndyCar for next season as AJ Foyt Racing confirmed Wednesday he’ll be part of its 2023 lineup.

Pedersen, a 23-year-old dual citizen of Denmark and the United States, spent last season running 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 from the pole at Portland.

Pedersen also ran four races for HMD in 2021 with back-to-back runner-up finishes in his debut. Pedersen landed on AJ Foyt Racing team president Larry Foyt’s radar through a “trusted colleague” and Pedersen spent most of last season shadowing the IndyCar team.

His promotion to IndyCar comes ahead of all four drivers who finished ahead of him in the Indy Lights standings, including champion Lundqvist.

“We are really looking forward to having Benjamin as part of the team,” Larry Foyt said. “His enthusiasm is infectious, and he is 100 percent committed to IndyCar, AJ Foyt Racing, and doing the best he can to win races.

“It’s been great to have him embedded with the team this past season, and everyone is excited to hit the ground running when testing begins. It is also great to have a multi-year program in place, which will help him and the team grow together.”

Foyt did not announce a car number for Pedersen. Kyle Kirkwood spent his rookie season driving AJ Foyt’s flagship No. 14 but Kirkwood is moving to Andretti Autosport. The team has not yet announced if Dalton Kellett will return for a fourth season, and a third car for Tatiana Calderon was pulled from competition after seven races because of sponsorship non-payment. Shutting down Calderon’s team removed the only semi-regular female driver from the IndyCar field.

Pedersen, however, was signed to an agreement Foyt said “spans multiple seasons as the team plans to develop the young rookie and is aligned to a longer-term plan for AJ Foyt Racing.”

Pedersen was born in Copenhagen but raised in Seattle and currently lives in Indianapolis. He said his time shadowing the IndyCar team has given him a jump on his rookie preparations.

“I’ve spent a lot of time this season with AJ Foyt Racing learning the ins and outs of making the jump to IndyCar and it’s been really nice to do that in conjunction with my Indy Lights season,” Pedersen said. “IndyCar has been my target goal since I started open wheel racing in 2016. The racing, atmosphere, fans, events, tracks, etc. are all awesome.”