Indy 500 rookie Carlos Munoz hits front row

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So far, Indianapolis 500 rookie Carlos Munoz is making this IndyCar thing look easy.

Munoz is making his big-league debut in the 97th running of The Greatest Spectacle in Racing, but there’s been no sign of first-time jitters for the young Colombian. Driving a fifth car for Andretti Autosport (the team he races for in IndyCar’s top feeder series, Firestone Indy Lights), he carried over the impressive speed he had in this week’s practice sessions and shot to the inside of the front row for next week’s “500” with an average of 228.342 miles per hour.

“I don’t have too many words to describe how happy I am, just a rookie to be in the front row, [it’s] just a dream,” said Munoz, who will be joined on the front row by another Andretti Autosport teammate, Marco Andretti (third, 228.261 mph). “I was like crossing my fingers that it rained [so] we can stay in the front row. I was happy with the car in the first qualifying [session], but we did a couple of changes and it worked out.

“…We didn’t expect [pole winner Ed] Carpenter to go so fast. He just did really good laps out there. I can’t say anything – just front row is perfect for the race. I have my teammate just on the side of me, I have great people around me with a lot of experience.”

Next weekend will be a busy one for Munoz as he’ll be migrating back and forth between his “500” duties and the Indy Lights series. On Thursday, the Lights camp will practice and qualify in preparation for their biggest race of the year, the Firestone Freedom 100, which will take place during Friday’s Carb Day festivities (Noon ET, NBC Sports Network). As the current FIL championship leader, Munoz will be participating.

However, while he admits that the weekend will be a trying one for him, he remains confident that he’ll be able to start up front in both events and perform well when it’s time to go racing.

“It’s going to be tough doing 600 miles in one weekend, but I think we have perfect cars in both Indy Lights and IndyCar, so I’m going to be hopefully in the front row in both categories,” he said.

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.”