Fans put Tony Stewart on “NASCAR ’14” game cover

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Despite missing the final months of the 2013 season, Tony Stewart hasn’t been forgotten by NASCAR Nation. The latest sign of that came this morning, when it was announced that the three-time Sprint Cup champion had won a fan vote to earn the cover for the upcoming “NASCAR ’14” video game.

NASCAR says over 700,000 votes came in for the Facebook competition and that Stewart – who had his season end when he broke his right leg in a sprint car crash back in August – garnered nearly one-fifth of all the votes.

According to the Associated Press, he took 69 percent of the vote in the final round to beat four-time Cup champ Jeff Gordon for the cover.

“Being selected by the fans to be on the cover of NASCAR ‘14 is a huge honor,” Stewart said in a NASCAR release. “It’s been a long couple of months, but my fans’ passion has been one of the driving factors in helping me rehab and my ability to prepare for returning to the race car in February.”

Throughout Stewart’s recovery, his legion of fans have rallied around him and especially so on social media, where the #SmokeWillRise Twitter hashtag has now become ubiquitous among NASCAR followers. Now, his fans on Facebook have enabled him to earn a third NASCAR video game cover.

Back in September, Stewart noted how grateful he’s been for the support during his first media conference since the accident.

“I know there’s a lot of fans that haven’t been able to talk to us that are supportive, and that’s the stuff…When I’m having a bad day at therapy and I don’t feel like doing it or it hurts and you don’t want to go those extra 10 minutes or whatever, that’s the things that you put in your mind that help keep you motivated and wanting to push to get through this and get healthy,” he said at the time.

“Because it’s not just for me, it’s for 200 people here at Stewart-Haas Racing…It’s for our fans. It’s for the people that support us every week that miss me being in the race car.”

And there are plenty of those people that are waiting for him to get back to doing what he does best.

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.”