Graham Rahal leads final warmup in Sao Paulo

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On his 18th and final lap of the session, Graham Rahal went to the top of the time sheets in this morning’s warmup before the Sao Paulo Indy 300 (11 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Network/NBC Sports Live Extra) with a lap of 1 minute, 21.2494 seconds in the No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Honda. If there are no late penalties to alter the starting grid, Rahal is expected to start from 19th position in today’s race.

Front row starter E.J. Viso continued to show speed in the 30-minute warmup, going P2 with a time of 1 minute, 21.2920 seconds in the No. 5 Andretti Autosport Chevrolet. Target Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon was third-fastest (1 minute, 21.3284 seconds), followed by Panther Racing’s J.R. Hildebrand in fourth (1 minute, 21.3911 seconds) and Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing’s Josef Newgarden in fifth (1 minute, 21.4902 seconds).

Amongst the other notables: Three-time defending Sao Paulo champion Will Power was sixth-fastest, Long Beach winner Takuma Sato was 18th, and today’s pole sitter, Ryan Hunter-Reay, was 22nd.

James Jakes warmed up in a backup No. 16 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Honda after his primary entry caught fire during yesterday’s qualifying session. Per Patrick Stephan of Trackside Online and the IMS Radio Network, Jakes’ issues on Saturday were caused by a cracked exhaust header, which led to the fire damaging some of the bodywork on the car.

However, the original engine survived the ordeal intact, so while the Englishman is in a new machine, he won’t be subjected to any grid penalties.

Watch today’s Sao Paulo Indy 300 online and on your mobile device.

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.”