Excitement across the board on Sunday

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This weekend was the first of 2013 that featured all three of the main series we cover here at MotorSportsTalk – Formula One, IndyCar, and NASCAR. And it was every bit as compelling as we could’ve hoped for.

In Formula One, the Malaysian Grand Prix was packed with drama, from Fernando Alonso and Ferrari’s wing gamble going horrifically bad to Sebastian Vettel defying team orders and taking the race for himself – much to the annoyance of his teammate, Mark Webber, whose angry “Multi 21, Seb” comment in post-race instantly became one of the more memorable quotes we’ll see this season. Say what you will about the concept of team orders, but Sepang’s conclusion will only heighten anticipation for the next round at Shanghai (Sun., Apr. 14 at 2:30 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Network).

Then in IndyCar’s season opener at St. Petersburg, we saw the popular James Hinchcliffe (pictured) hold off Helio Castroneves for his first series victory and Simona de Silvestro fight like mad in the final laps to secure her first career podium. While de Silvestro couldn’t quite hold off her rivals and eventually finished sixth, she showed the talent that she’s always possessed but couldn’t completely exploit until now. Give a call to Marco Andretti as well for his podium run, which comes after a year of struggling badly on the road/street circuits, and to Chevrolet for continuing to deliver for its drivers in the engine department.

Last but not least, NASCAR had a wild finish to its day in Southern California when Kyle Busch scooted by a wrecking Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin on the last lap to win at Auto Club Speedway. Then along came Tony Stewart, who proceeded to fight Logano momentarily on pit road for what he saw as a block from “Sliced Bread” on the final restart. Unfortunately, Hamlin’s eventual hit against an inside wall would send him to the hospital, and now he has to deal with a compression fracture on his L1 vertebrae. But while that put a damper on things, it can still be argued that Sunday’s race was the best that NASCAR has put on at the two-mile oval.

All in all, if you’re a race fan, then you were fully served by the excitement across the three series on Sunday.

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.”