Sam Hornish Jr. leads Joe Gibbs 1-2-3 in NNS quals at Talladega

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Looking to make the most of his opportunity with Joe Gibbs Racing in the Nationwide Series, Sam Hornish Jr. claimed the pole position for tomorrow’s NASCAR Nationwide Series Aaron’s 312 at Talladega Superspeedway.

Hornish (186.783 mph) led a JGR sweep of the top three starting positions, narrowly besting Elliott Sadler (186.776). With about 30 seconds remaining in the final round of qualifying, Hornish hit the top of the time sheets tucked in behind Sadler in the draft.

Alabama native and Camping World Truck Series regular Darrell “Bubba” Wallace (186.729) qualified third at .015 of a second behind the former Indianapolis 500 winner. Wallace had topped Round 2 with a lap of 50.831 seconds after barely advancing from Round 1.

“It definitely takes three teammates to be able to do that today – Elliott led the way and I just tried to maintain the gap between myself and Bubba and him,” Hornish said to Fox Sports.

Speaking of Round 1, that was stopped briefly for a single-car incident that probably should’ve been bigger. A mega run of momentum through Turn 4 for Kyle Larson ended with him trying – and failing – to thread the needle between Regan Smith on the outside and Tanner Berryhill on the inside.

The resulting contact sent Berryhill into Derrike Cope before Berryhill finally spun his No. 17 Dodge into the outside retaining wall. The green came back out with around 11 minutes left in the round, and the remainder played out without incident.

But when Round 1 was over, the red-hot JR Motorsports group of series points leader Chase Elliott, Regan Smith, and Kasey Kahne had all failed to make the draft work for them and did not advance to Round 2.

Tomorrow, Kahne will start 32nd, Smith 33rd, and Elliott farther back in 37th.

“I think everybody just got kind of antsy and we could never really decide where everybody wanted to go,” Elliott said to Fox. “It’s a long race tomorrow, so it’s not about your starting spot. We’ll make the most of where we’re at and try to improve tomorrow.”

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.”