Race to Chase update: Logano enters discussion

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Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan was the 23rd of 26 regular season races before NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup. Joey Logano had the fastest car all weekend and despite cutting it close on fuel mileage, secured a pivotal first Sprint Cup win for Roger Penske and truly entered Chase contention after being on the fringe the last few races. Logano now sits 13th in points, 17 markers back of the top 10 and just 7 behind Martin Truex Jr. for the second Wild Card spot; each has one win.

Truex fell out of the top 10 on Sunday and was the only driver to lose more than one spot of the top 16 drivers. Kurt Busch’s latest top-five finish moved him up two spots to ninth, one spot behind Brad Keselowski, who had to take a conservative finish instead of gambling to try to win.

Here’s where things sit as of now:

1. Jimmie Johnson, 813 points, 4 wins
2. Clint Bowyer, 772, 0
3. Carl Edwards, 762, 1
4. Kevin Harvick, 749, 2
5. Kyle Busch, 706, 3
6. Matt Kenseth, 688, 4
7. Dale Earnhardt Jr., 679, 0
8. Brad Keselowski, 667, 0
9. Kurt Busch, 665, 0
10. Greg Biffle, 663, 1
11. Kasey Kahne, -4 behind Biffle, 2 wins
12. Martin Truex Jr., -10, 1
13. Joey Logano, -17, 1
14. Jeff Gordon, -26, 0
15. Ryan Newman, -27, 1
16. Jamie McMurray, -41, 0
17. Paul Menard, -64, 0
18. Tony Stewart, -69, 1
19. Aric Almirola, -76, 0
20. Jeff Burton, -102, 0

The top six still seem all but secure. Dale Earnhardt Jr. could use one more great run to solidify his status. Meanwhile it seems to be down to the top 15 for 12 spots, and Jeff Gordon needs a win to give himself any chance from here.

LOCKED IN: Johnson
VIRTUAL LOCKS: Bowyer, Edwards, Harvick, Kyle Busch, Kenseth
ALMOST LOCKS: Earnhardt Jr., Kahne
GOOD FOR NOW: Keselowski, Kurt Busch, Biffle, Truex

IN RANGE: Logano, Newman
OUT OF RANGE: Gordon
VIRTUALLY ELIMINATED: McMurray, Menard, Stewart, Almirola, Burton

PREVIOUS RACE TO CHASE UPDATES: Indianapolis, Pocono 2Watkins Glen

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.”