Weekend round-up: Nationwide in Daytona, sports cars in Northeast

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This past weekend was one of the busiest across the motorsports landscape, beyond the German Grand Prix (the second race of Formula One’s back-to-back weekends), IndyCar’s return to Pocono and NASCAR’s annual fireworks show/demolition derby/restrictor plate race in Daytona.

  • NASCAR’s Nationwide Series opened the weekend at Daytona and Matt Kenseth edged James Buescher, who had won the February race at Daytona in 2012, for the win on Friday night. Kenseth is pictured right leading Kurt Busch, in the “Days of Thunder” throwback livery. Neither is competing for that series’ championship; the top five is separated by only 17 points with points leader Regan Smith just six points ahead of Sam Hornish Jr.
  • In the last NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series race before a week off and its annual summer three-race “Western swing,” Khalid alBalooshi (Top Fuel), Johnny Gray (Funny Car), Mike Edwards (Pro Stock), and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) scored victories at the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals in Norwalk, Ohio.
  • As written by my colleague Chris Estrada on Saturday, the American Le Mans Series had its first race since Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in May. Class winners were: P1: Klaus Graf and Lucas Luhr (Muscle Milk Pickett Racing HPD ARX-03a), P2: Ryan Briscoe and Scott Tucker (Level 5 Motorsports HPD ARX-03b), GT: John Edwards and Dirk Mueller (BMW Team RLL BMW Z4), PC: Bruno Junqueira and Duncan Ende (RSR Racing ORECA FLM09) and GTC: Spencer Pumpelly and Nelson Canache (Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche GT3 Cup).
  • The Pirelli World Challenge resumed at Lime Rock Park after a month’s hiatus since Detroit, sharing the weekend with ALMS. Five total races took place with Mike Skeen and Johnny O’Connell winning Rounds 8 and 9 of GT, Lawson Aschenbach and Jack Baldwin taking Rounds 8 and 9 of GTS, Brett Sandberg (Rounds 4 and 5) and Ryan Winchester (Round 6) scoring TC victories and Robbie Davis (Rounds 4 and 5) and Joel Lipperini (Round 6) adding TCB class wins to their season totals. See the full race broadcast on July 20 at 4 p.m. EDT on NBC Sports Network.

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.”