Post-race gun celebration at Texas may be changed

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Texas Motor Speedway’s iconic Victory Lane celebration that features the winning driver firing blanks from a pair of six-shooters may be altered for its upcoming Sprint Cup event on April 13.

With that race’s sponsorship coming from the National Rifle Association, track president and general manager Eddie Gossage is taking potential concerns from team owners and sponsors into account as he looks into possibly changing his post-race activities.

“I don’t want to affect some sponsor on a uniform somewhere that says, ‘I didn’t want that picture. I didn’t want my driver with a gun in his hand,'” Gossage told USA Today’s Nate Ryan yesterday. “Even though it’s a cap gun. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s sponsorship.”

Ryan reports that Gossage will talk with NASCAR team owners about the situation this weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and that the final call will likely be made by the winning owner at TMS on whether or not he wants his driver to fire the guns.

“We have to be sensitive to that, so we’ll let the team owner make the call,” Gossage said to Ryan. “They’re all friends of mine. I’ll be in Vegas and I’ll ask them, ‘What do you think?’ and do whatever the team owner wants to do.”

As expected, the announcement of the “NRA 500” at the 1.5-mile oval in Fort Worth has garnered attention in the sports world. It came roughly a week after Michael Waltrip ran a car in the Daytona 500 that supported a relief fund for victims of the Dec. 14, 2012 mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.

Considering the volatile nature of the gun control debate in America following the Newtown massacre, it’s safe to assume that some will question TMS’ decision to allow the NRA to sponsor its spring Cup race. Michelle Beadle and Dave Briggs of NBC Sports Network’s “The Crossover” (Weeknights, 6 pm ET) have weighed in on the topic, and you can check out what they have to say here.

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.”