TUSC: Action Express tops in opening test at Sebring

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The weekend was a big one for Formula One and NASCAR, but it was also important for the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, which staged its first open test of the winter at Sebring International Raceway. Topping the overall charts on both days of the test was the No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette Daytona Prototype (pictured, from this past August at Road America).

On Saturday, Joao Barbosa led the way with an unofficial time of 1 minute, 53.266 seconds (118.871 miles per hour), and then on Sunday, IndyCar pilot Sebastien Bourdais took the No. 5 to P1 on the charts with a 1 minute, 53.748-second blitz (118.367 mph) around the famous Florida road course.

Both Barbosa and Bourdais were impressed with the newly modified Daytona Prototypes, which now feature bits such as a new diffuser, carbon brakes and a double-element rear wing.

“We were just bottoming out a little bit on the bumps in the first few laps, but we addressed that and the car felt really great,” Barbosa said to IMSA.com. “For the first few laps we have around here with carbon brakes, new aero and all the new stuff, it felt really good.”

“It’s a quicker car,” chimed in Bourdais. “I think we’ll gain about three seconds at Daytona. If we balance it, maybe there’s a bit more in it. The rear diffuser really helps set the back of the car down. These cars didn’t have much downforce before, but they have significantly more now.”

In all, over 2,800 laps and 10,000 miles were run in the two-day session at Sebring. Now, the TUSC heads to Daytona International Speedway for another two days of testing starting tomorrow.

The TUSC officially begins its inaugural season at Daytona with the Rolex 24 on Jan. 23-26, 2014.

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.”