IndyCar: Barber Practice 2 sees Hunter-Reay on top again

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The good news for the Verizon IndyCar Series field in practice two for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama was that it ran relatively smoothly, with only one red flag interruption due to debris at Turn 14.

The bad news was that times didn’t improve much from the morning session at Barber Motorsports Park, owing mainly to higher track temperatures.

Ryan Hunter-Reay went to a 1:08.7836 to lead his second straight session, after also pacing the frequently interrupted first practice earlier Friday. His Practice 1 time was 1:08.8470.

The driver of the No. 28 DHL Honda for Andretti Autosport, and defending race winner, seeks a bounce back this weekend after his contact with Josef Newgarden at Long Beach two weeks ago.

“The track was good – this is quite a bit hotter than we’re used to here at Barber,” he said. “It takes some getting used to and the track conditions have certainly changed, but we’ve tested here quite a bit – we tested here in the offseason and we definitely can’t get enough of Barber. It’s going to be a little bit hotter (tomorrow) and the track temp is going to go up, so we’ll look at what we did her last year preparing for qualifying. The Andretti Autosport car is great right now, we’re not where we want to be yet, but I expect to see all four of us up front (tomorrow).”

KVSH Racing’s Sebastien Bourdais was second at 1:08.9311 in the No. 11 Hydroxycut Chevrolet, with two-time Barber winner Will Power third at 1:09.0704 in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet.

James Hinchcliffe in the No. 27 United Fiber & Data Honda for Andretti Autosport was fourth at 1:09.0036 with inaugural Barber winner Helio Castroneves fifth in the No. 3 AAA Team Penske Chevrolet at 1:09.0586.

Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing’s Newgarden fell to sixth in the No. 67 Honda at 1:09.0877, after ending second this morning, and Scott Dixon, a four-time Barber runner-up who didn’t complete a lap in first practice, was seventh at 1:09.1484 in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet.

Simon Pagenaud, Ryan Briscoe and Carlos Munoz completed the top 10.

VERIZON INDYCAR SERIES PRACTICE 2 RESULTS

COMBINED PRACTICE RESULTS

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.”