Newman still in position to advance to Homestead; Kenseth now on outside looking in

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Like everyone else in the field, Chase contenders Ryan Newman and Matt Kenseth were looking to make as much hay as they could when the AAA Texas 500 restarted with 17 laps to go.

But shortly after the green flag flew, Newman and Kenseth made contact in the middle of the tri-oval as Brian Vickers and Kyle Busch jockeyed with them to their inside and outside (pictured right).

Somehow, the four-wide situation didn’t end in a crash. But the contact between Newman and Kenseth left the former with a tire rub, while the latter ceded valuable track position.

While Newman recovered to finish 15th following two more cautions and two green-white-checkered attempts, Kenseth ultimately faded to 25th place.

Newman now sits third on the Chase Grid with an 11-point cushion, while Kenseth has fallen out of the top four advance positions for the Sprint Cup Championship Race; he and Carl Edwards are now one point behind fourth-place Jeff Gordon.

“We did not get the finish we deserved, but it is what it is,” said Newman. “We raced in the Top-5 all day until we got hit hard and it caused a tire rub. Timing worked out for us and we were able to rally back.

“I have to thank the pit crew today, they were on their game. It was a solid team effort for us and I look forward to Phoenix. We have a shot at advancing to the final Championship Round and that’s all this Richard Childress Racing team can ask for.”

However, Newman wasn’t entirely thrilled with NASCAR over the amount of debris cautions it threw during the second half of the race. In the first 167 laps, only one yellow flew and that was for debris. But in the final 167 laps, 12 yellows came out and six of them involved debris.

To Newman, the amount of yellows were “totally unnecessary.”

“We need to keep racing,” he said. “And it’s sad to see, but that’s the way they’ve been playing it.”

As for Kenseth, he had recovered from a slow pit stop under a yellow at Lap 252 that knocked him back to 18th and took the 17-to-go restart in 10th prior to his contact with Newman.

Kenseth couldn’t overcome that and he’s now on the bad side of the cutoff. But he says his mindset going into the Eliminator Round finale at Phoenix International Raceway next weekend remained the same.

“Obviously, today was a disaster as far as where we finished and how at the end of the race I couldn’t pass cars that got lapped earlier in the race – by the end of the race,” he said. “So, it was a poor performance on the scoreboard. [But] just the same approach going to Phoenix, just go there and try to do the best job we can.”

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.”