Jones makes it an Indy Lights hat trick with win in Long Beach

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LONG BEACH, Calif. – Ed Jones has taken his third victory in as many Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires races to open the 2015 season, but today’s triumph at Long Beach wasn’t nearly as straightforward as his pole-to-flag romps in St. Petersburg.

Jones, driver of the No. 11 Carlin Dallara IL15-Mazda, started fourth but quickly made it up to second following a sizeable first-lap accident involving Kyle Kaiser (No. 18 Juncos Racing) and polesitter Jack Harvey (No. 42 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports).

Kaiser ran up and onto the back of Harvey heading into Turn 1, with second-starting Spencer Pigot (No. 12 Juncos Racing) trapped on the outside and Felix Serralles (No. 4 Belardi Auto Racing) diving to the inside and emerging with the lead. Kaiser was done on the spot, while Harvey limped around to the pit lane sans rear wing.

On the Lap 4 restart, Serralles got the jump but Jones quickly passed him on the restart.

While Jones took the lead, Pigot, who’d fallen to fifth in the first lap fracas, began his comeback charge, making a number of excellent passes for position into Turn 9.

A mid-race caution in the 42-lap race for another incident between the luckless Harvey in a repaired car and Serralles’ teammate Juan Piedrahita – both stuck in the tires at Turn 8 – brought the 3-second gap between Jones and Pigot down to nothing.

But despite Pigot’s dogged charge, Jones held on for the win. Serralles was third for his first Indy Lights podium.

Post-race, the podium finishers described their views of the Turn 1 incident, which was the key moment of the race.

“We weren’t so quick on Friday and qualifying was so close,” Jones said. “It was so easy to make a mistake, and with only a tenth from first to fourth. So it could have been any of us on pole.

“We were on wrong side of the pace. I don’t think we had the pace of Spencer, so we took the opportunity. The start was the key factor to make up positions. I built a gap over Felix. The safety car came out, closed the gap, and it put Spencer right behind.

“For the last half of the race it was extremely hard. You have to use push-to-pass more strategically. I’d only use it when I saw Spencer was quite close. You could feel the difference. At St. Pete it was minimal.”

Pigot recapped his viewpoint and his recovery.

“Yeah it was looking good. I was side by side with Jack. Then I braked late and saw him flying by,” Pigot said. “Then I saw Kyle on the back of him. It forced me out wide with nowhere to go. I ended up fifth. It’s a good result to come back to second.

“It felt really good. The only place I could get a good run was out of 8 into 9. You had to square up the entry and put down the power. I got a little close a few times. I think we bumped wheels a few times. We had hard, aggressive, somewhat clean racing. We both got through it, so it was good.”

Serralles noted his vantage point and the restart.

“Everyone was a bit close, especially Jack and Kyle,” he said. “I decided whether to go left or right. Luckily I stayed left. Kyle went over the back and I was able to go through. It’s a good result. We struggled on pace at St. Pete. I missed a test day at Barber because I was sick. We’re getting quicker.

“It’s just different coming from European racing when the pace car leaves and you go when the leader goes. Here it’s when you see the green flag. I kind of waited but it allowed him to get a good run.”

The Indy Lights field moves to Barber Motorsports Park for a doubleheader weekend, for Rounds 4 and 5 of the championship.

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.”