Cooperation, healthy respect made Martin to Stewart deal possible

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When asked how many parties were needed to sign off on Mark Martin’s filling in for Tony Stewart for all but one of the remaining 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races, Stewart-Haas Racing competition director Greg Zipadelli was candidly vague.

“A lot,” Zipadelli said, without putting an actual number on it. “To be honest with you it just kind of happened. Everyone was very cooperative. Hat’s off to MWR. It’s them getting a jump start, too. It’s that simple, that casual of a conversation. It could help Stewart Haas Racing and MWR both.”

The breakdown of races for the rest of 2013 is Martin will run 12 of the 13 events for SHR, and his Michael Waltrip Racing teammate Brian Vickers will now run 12 of the final 13 in the No. 55 Aaron’s Toyota. The exception will be at Talladega as Austin Dillon (SHR) and Michael Waltrip (MWR) will take over the Nos. 14 and 55.

Martin expressed a wealth of gratitude for the opportunity. It’s his fifth different new team since he and Roush Racing parted ways at the end of 2006 (Ginn/DEI, Hendrick Motorsports, MWR, Joe Gibbs Racing).

“I’m incredibly honored,” Martin said. “The guy is so amazing; he’s the modern day A.J. Foyt. He drove anything and everything and was fast. Tony is a guy that really does that. We’ve been good friends for quite some time with amazing mutual respect. It’s an honor to be in this situation where we’re able to do this. I’m really, really sorry that it comes as his expense.

“One thing I do want to say, is that there is an amazing amount of cooperation to get this deal done by so many parties,” he added. “I haven’t seen this much cooperation in the past. It’s largely in part because the incredibly amount of respect in this sport for Tony Stewart.”

Pressed on 2014 plans, Martin wasn’t biting because he knows the mountainous task ahead the rest of this year.

“I don’t have a plan, and I have much less of a plan right now than a week ago,” Martin said. “I was part-time, and now I’m racing all but one race, with what I feel is a lot of challenges and pressure. I don’t want to think about 2014 at all right now.”

“But you know my motivation is not for points; it’s for racing. If I’m running 20th, I’ll bust my butt to run 19th.”

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.”