MRTI: Jamin, Franzoni, Urrutia win USF2000, Pro Mazda in NOLA

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Both the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda series returned to NOLA Motorsports Park, site of three of each of their races in the Cooper Tires Winterfest in February.

USF2000 led the way with two races, one on Saturday in dry conditions and one early Sunday in the wet. Pro Mazda only had one race, which was pushed back from Saturday to Sunday following weather delays, with the second race canceled and due to be made up at another round this season.

In the pair of USF2000 races, Nico Jamin and Victor Franzoni split the victories. Jamin won Saturday’s Round 3, his first win in the series for Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing. Teammate Aaron Telitz was second for the third straight race, with Jake Eidson (Pabst Racing), the double St. Petersburg winner, in third.

Sunday’s Round 4 saw Telitz dominating early before falling victim to an odd – and rare – halfshaft break on an upshift. The retirement cost him a shot at his first win of the year and promoted Franzoni (Afterburner Autosport) to his first win of the year. Franzoni also won one of the three Winterfest races, with Eidson scoring the other two. Franzoni won from Jamin and Eidson on Sunday.

Eidson currently leads Jamin, 108-101, heading into Barber Motorsports Park in two weeks.

Pro Mazda saw Uruguayan rookie Santiago Urrutia, an unheralded F3/GP3 veteran, score his first win of the season. Urrutia pounced on pole-sitting Malaysian Weiron Tan on the first lap, then controlled the pace to score an accomplished victory for Team Pelfrey.

Pelfrey’s Winterfest driver, Jack Aitken, won two of the three Pro Mazda races here in Winterfest, with Tan winning the other race. Tan (Andretti Autosport) and Timothe Buret (Juncos Racing) completed the podium in what was the only Pro Mazda race of the weekend.

Neil Alberico (Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing) still holds the points lead despite a sixth-place finish; the St. Petersburg double winner is up by four points, 79-75, over Urrutia heading to Barber.

RESULTS: Pro Mazda
RESULTS: USF2000

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.”