Martin’s been one of Vickers’ strongest advocates for full-time return


Brian Vickers mentioned it in brief on Tuesday, when he was announced as full-time driver of the No. 55 Aaron’s Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing from 2014. But Mark Martin’s guidance and mentorship has played a major role during his time in driving part-time with MWR to this point.

“Mark is just a phenomenal person.  Been a great mentor.  He’s gone through a lot in his life,” Vickers said in a media teleconference on Wednesday. “Leaning on him, having someone to lean on like that, and Michael as well, both of them have been great for me.  It’s led to this opportunity now for two more years.”

Vickers was asked how much input Martin provided when it came to selecting him as the No. 55 driver for 2014.

“That’s a great question and probably a better question for him and the folks at MWR,” Vickers admitted.  “I can’t thank him enough for this.  He’s not only been an encouragement and support for me, he’s been an advocate, to my knowledge, behind the scenes.

“I can’t really speak to say what he has or hasn’t said or done or hasn’t done.  But I’ve had many people come to me and say, ‘Wow, Mark has been saying good things about you.’  That means a lot. Someone that carries so much respect in this sport, anytime they have something positive to say, people listen, especially to a guy like Mark Martin.”

Martin’s plans for 2014 are undetermined. Several times Martin has planned on “riding off into the sunset,” retiring after an illustrious career that has everything but a NASCAR Cup championship on his resume.

AJ Foyt Racing promotes Benjamin Pedersen from Indy Lights to IndyCar for 2023 season

Benjamin Pedersen AJ Foyt
AJ Foyt Racing

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.”