Brickyard flashback: NASCAR’s “tire gate” in ’08

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Sprinkled in among the highlights of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s more than 100 years in existence are a few bad, loud clunkers.

And this year marks five years since NASCAR’s worst day at the track.

The 2008 Allstate 400 at the Brickyard was a perfect combination of a new car (the Car of Tomorrow), Goodyear’s tire compounds to match and its meshing – or lack thereof – with the diamond-ground IMS track surface unable to work in harmony.

What it meant was a plethora of competition cautions, roughly every 10 to 12 laps, over the 160-lap race. The first accident on the day occurred when Michael Waltrip crashed on Lap 4, so the first of nine competition cautions flew on Lap 14.

Jimmie Johnson won but it ranks among his most hollow victories, if not the most hollow.

It was the second difficult event for a series at IMS in a four-year period, following another tire-related debacle in 2005 for the Formula One race there. Michelin couldn’t guarantee the safety of its tires through the banked Turn 13, oval Turn 1, and when no compromise was reached between the FIA, the teams and Michelin for a fix, the Michelin runners (14 of 20) withdrew following the formation lap.

While NASCAR’s show at IMS has had nowhere to go but up since 2008, the attendance numbers have fallen off dramatically. This year marks the second attempt at an IMS Super Weekend, with the NASCAR Nationwide Series and GRAND-AM’s Rolex and Continental Tire championships joining Cup at the track.

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.”