Chevrolet VP has open mind about possible Dale Earmhardt Jr. – Graham Rahal car swap

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The ball – or in this case, the steering wheel – is in Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s court now.

If Junior truly wants to swap rides in an exhibition with fellow National Guard-sponsored Graham Rahal and his IndyCar open-wheeler, he’ll have to ask first.

That’s what Jim Campbell, Chevrolet VP/Performance Vehicles and Motorsports, told The Associated Press.

Campbell said the manufacturer would keep an open mind if Earnhardt officially stepped forward to swap rides with Rahal.

“If we get a proposal, we’ll take a look at it and we’ll look at it with an open set of eyes. The rest is hypothetical,” Campbell told AP. “Broadly speaking about any Chevy driver that is currently on our roster, if they decided to go race in another category or series, of course we’d love to see them in Chevys. There’s no doubt about that.

“In some cases it works out like that, and in some cases it doesn’t.”

Earnhardt said last week that he didn’t think the swap would happen because he drives for Chevy while Rahal drives a Honda-powered IndyCar, which is Chevy’s chief rival in the open-wheel series.

“I think the fact (Rahal) has a relationship with a different manufacturer is going to make it challenging – if not impossible – for me to drive that particular car,” Earnhardt said.

Thus far, there has been no official response from Honda officials whether the manufacturer would allow such a swap. But Rahal, who originally proposed the idea with a tweet to Earnhardt at last week’s Sprint Cup race at Fontana, Calif., remains hopeful that the exhibition trade can occur.

The two drivers would likely drive each other’s cars for a few laps at a site to be determined.

Fan interest, especially on Twitter, has been highly in favor of the proposed deal. National Guard officials said the idea has their support, as well.

Earnhardt may have been a bit premature in pooh-poohing the idea. Fellow Chevrolet-powered Sprint Cup driver Kurt Busch will drive a Honda in this year’s Indianapolis 500, and then fly to Charlotte to race his Chevy later that evening in NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600.

Busch had originally tested an Indy car with Andretti Autosport last year, when the team was powered by Chevrolet. However, it is powered by Honda this season.

Still, while Chevy officials originally encouraged Busch to drive for Chevrolet-powered IndyCar teams such as those owned by Chip Ganassi and Roger Penske, he ultimately chose to stay with the Andretti camp, and Chevy acquiesced the one-off Indy 500 run with Busch in a Honda.

“We had a great two-year run with Andretti Autosport and when he did his original test, Andretti was with Chevy,” Campbell said. “The conversation started when it was a Chevy team, and it just kept going. We’d certainly have liked to see Kurt in a Chevy for the 500, it just didn’t work out.”

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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.”