NASCAR: Ryan Blaney tops lone Nationwide practice at Kansas

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A rainy morning at Kansas Speedway scratched what was to be the first of two scheduled NASCAR Nationwide Series practice sessions ahead of Saturday’s Kansas Lottery 300.

Instead, the NNS contingent only had one, 80-minute session this afternoon on the 1.5-mile oval to prepare for their main event.

Ryan Blaney, who has done well this year in a limited Nationwide Series role for Team Penske while running full-time in the Camping World Truck Series, was fastest in the Penske No. 22 at 180.048 mph.

Blaney will make two more starts for Penske in the Nationwide Series this season at Charlotte and Texas in the No. 12 car.

But for this weekend, he’ll seek to help the No. 22 team retain its lead in the owner’s championship – currently at 32 points over Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 54 team with five races left in 2014.

“We just need to go out now and perform the rest of the year and be a part of another championship effort,” Blaney said of that effort earlier in the week.

“That’s important to [team owner] Roger [Penske], to the guys on the team, to [sponsors] Discount Tire and Hertz, and to the guys in the shop who build these cars. Over these next five races, that is the team’s focus.”

Behind him was Roush Fenway Racing’s Chris Buescher with the second-fastest lap at 179.880 mph. Richard Childress Racing rookie Ty Dillon was third-fastest (179.456), with last week’s NNS winner Kyle Busch (179.235) and Trevor Bayne (179.122) completing the Top 5 speeds.

The practice had one major incident involving Corey Lajoie, who got loose going through Turn 1 and 2 and slapped the wall in the No. 98 Biagi-DenBeste Racing Ford. The resulting right-side damage was enough to cause his team to call for a backup car.

Busch, Tanner Berryhill, and Dakoda Armstrong also spun, with said spins occurring both unassisted and in the Turn 2 vicinity (Armstrong lost control of his car on the apron). However, none of the three found the wall.

NNS qualifying will take place tomorrow at 12:15 p.m. ET, followed by the big show shortly after 3:30 p.m. ET.

NASCAR Nationwide Series at Kansas – Friday Practice Times

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.”