Will Power tops morning practice at Sao Paulo

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On a quest to return to Victory Lane, Will Power led the opening practice session this morning for the Itaipava Sao Paulo Indy 300 presented by Nestle.

Power, who is the three-time defending champion at Sao Paulo, posted a quick lap of 1 minute, 21.8517 seconds in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. He was one of two drivers to break the 1:22 mark in the session, with the other being Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing’s Josef Newgarden (1 minute, 21.8976 seconds) in his No. 67 Honda.

The session ended with Schmidt Hamilton Motorsports driver Simon Pagenaud slamming the wall near Turn 2 of the 2.5-mile street circuit, causing  damage to the left side of his No. 77 Honda.  NBC Sports Network’s Kevin Lee has tweeted from Brazil that the Frenchman is OK after the incident.

Sebastien Bourdais was third-fastest for Dragon Racing (1 minute, 22.0495 seconds), followed by Target Chip Ganassi Racing’s Dario Franchitti in fourth (1 minute, 22.0543 seconds) and Panther Racing’s JR Hildebrand in fifth (1 minute, 22.1400 seconds). Tony Kanaan led the Brazilian contingent with the sixth-fastest time this morning for KV Racing Technology (1 minute, 22.1496 seconds).

Kanaan has torn ligaments in his right hand thanks to an incident two weeks ago at Long Beach, but has been cleared to race by IndyCar medical director Dr. Michael Olinger and is ready to make his 200th career start in the IZOD IndyCar Series this weekend in front of his countrymen.

Pagenaud, Long Beach winner Takuma Sato, Justin Wilson and points leader Helio Castroneves — a native of Sao Paulo — completed the Top 10.

The IndyCars will have another practice later this morning at 11:05 a.m. ET, followed by qualifying at 1:35 p.m. ET (NBC Sports Network will broadcast that session Sunday morning at 1 a.m. ET).

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.”