Third-place finish at Pocono lifts spirits for Kurt Busch

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To say it’s been a rough year thus far for Kurt Busch is an understatement.

Sure, he won earlier in the season at Martinsville, but five DNFs (three crashes, two motor failures) have played a major part in the reason why he’s sitting 27th in the Sprint Cup standings now instead of near the top 10.

In addition, out of the first 14 races this season, Busch has recorded 10 finishes of 20th or worse (plus an 11th finish of 18th place).

But a dejected team and driver had their spirits buoyed in Sunday’s Pocono 400, where the elder Busch brother finished third, tying for his second-best showing of the season behind Martinsville (other third-place finish was at Fontana).

He was the highest finishing driver in the four-car Stewart-Haas Racing stable.

“It was a great top-5 run,” Busch told TNT after the race. “Qualifying, throughout the race, the finish, restarts were good to us and just thanks to Daniel (crew chief Daniel Knost) for leading us in a new direction today. I feel like we shed some new team skin today and ran upfront.”

Could this be the start of the long-awaited and hoped-for turnaround for Busch and the No. 41 SHR Chevrolet team?

He can only hope.

“We just need to start building this chemistry as a team if we want to be a championship contender,” Busch said.

“Today was a perfect type of day.”

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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.”