Talladega renames backstretch after NASCAR’s famed “Alabama Gang”

4 Comments

Today, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers will be racing at over 200 miles per hour through the 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway, which now includes a special tribute to NASCAR’s most famous figures from the Heart of Dixie, the “Alabama Gang.”

The back straight of NASCAR’s biggest oval was renamed “The Alabama Gang Superstretch” ahead of this weekend’s NASCAR festivities in honor of its original members, Bobby and Donnie Allison, and Red Farmer.

“No honor is too big for The Alabama Gang,” track president Grant Lynch said in a statement. “What we are doing in naming The Alabama Gang Superstretch is unprecedented in our sport. During our events, from TV cameras and still photography, fans will be able to see this accolade for some of our favorite people in the world.

“The gang has meant so much to NASCAR, Talladega Superspeedway and the state of Alabama, and this is just a small token of our appreciation.”

Talladega was often a successful track for both the original and later members of the Alabama Gang. Cheered on by the locals, Bobby, Donnie and Red combined for eight ‘Dega wins in their driving careers.

“When you won Talladega, there was something extra special about it,” Donnie said in his own thoughts. “It was a huge deal to us, our family and friends.”

Other Alabama Gang competitors that won at ‘Dega include Neil Bonnett and one of Bobby’s sons, Davey, who earned eight wins there (three in Sprint Cup, four in ARCA, one in IROC).

These days, up-and-comers Justin Allison (Donnie’s grandson) and Robbie Allison (Davey’s son and Bobby’s grandson) are continuing the group’s legacy.

AJ Foyt Racing promotes Benjamin Pedersen from Indy Lights to IndyCar for 2023 season

Benjamin Pedersen AJ Foyt
AJ Foyt Racing
4 Comments

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.”