Brian France: Changes to new Chase format unlikely for at least 20 years

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Although there were several tweaks during the first 10 years of the Chase for the Sprint Cup, last month’s major changes to the format should last for the next 20 years.

That’s what NASCAR chairman/CEO Brian France told SportingNews.com in an interview earlier this week.

“I do think this will be a format we’ll be using 20 years from now because I think it is going to excite our fans,” France told writer Bob Pockrass.

The 2014 Chase will look little like its 10 preceding editions. Among the most significant changes:

* The Chase field will expand from 12 to 16 drivers.

* The Chase will feature three elimination rounds, with four drivers each being eliminated following each round, leaving a four-driver, winner-take-all (highest-finishing driver earns the championship) format heading into the season-ending race at Homestead. Drivers who win a race in a particular three-race segment are assured of advancing to the next round.

“Somebody can get knocked out of a round because they haven’t won one of those three or they’re not in the top eight or whatever it’s going to be,” France told SportingNews.com. “You’re going to see some strategies if you can knock out a really good team that has had two or three bad races in a row, I bet that’s going to be a factor.”

* Wins will be of utmost importance. Drivers who win at least one race during the 26-race regular season will most likely make the Chase (by winning the Daytona 500 on Sunday, Dale Earnhardt Jr. becomes Chase-eligible). The points leader at the end of the first 26 races, along with the 15 top-30 drivers who have won races, will make up the 16-driver Chase field. If more than 16 drivers win races in the first 26 races, those highest in points will qualify. If fewer than 16 drivers win races in the first 26 events, those winless drivers highest in points will round out the Chase field.

“Sometimes you have to evolve things and that’s probably the smoother way to do things,” France said of the new changes to the Chase. “This is exactly what we did. We evolved into the place it is now. I do think I would be really surprised if there were any significant changes in the foreseeable future.”

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.”