Castroneves leads Indy 500 at halfway mark under third round of pit stops

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INDIANAPOLIS – Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan and Simon Pagenaud have been the three primary leaders thus far in the 99th Indianapolis 500, as the race reaches its halfway point of 100 laps complete, and 100 to go.

However it was Helio Castroneves who led the race after running a lap later on the third pit stop sequence at the halfway mark.

Thus far the three-time Indianapolis 500 champion has not been as on pace, or close to the lead trio, as expected. The same is true for teammate Will Power.

Following the frantic and chaotic start that saw nearly a half dozen cars taken out of contention, the race settled down for a fair bit as the leaders ran to their first stint.

Dixon, who led the majority of the opening 35 laps, was first to pit from the lead having burned more fuel out front. It’s a bit of a conundrum for Dixon, renowned as a fuel saving master, but following up on others who have struggled to save fuel once in the lead.

Any of Dixon, Pagenaud and Kanaan held the top spot until the halfway mark, before their stops.

Pagenaud’s Team Penske crew got the No. 22 Avaya Chevrolet out ahead of Dixon’s No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet on the second round of pit stops. But Kanaan got them both courtesy of a two-in-one pass for the lead into Turn 1 on Lap 73.

At Lap 100, Castroneves led from Pagenaud, Power, Dixon and Kimball.

Some big movers thus far have included Kimball (14th to fifth as of Lap 91), Juan Pablo Montoya (15th to seventh, and particularly impressive after incurring some right rear wheel guard damage early that dropped him to 30th), Graham Rahal (17th to eighth, top Honda) and NBCSN IndyCar analyst Townsend Bell (23rd to 14th in his only IndyCar start of the year).

Of note, the inside right front tire changer for Bryan Herta Autosport, Eric Wainscott, had both knees evaluated after an incident in pit lane. INDYCAR Race Control announced there would be a post-race review for the incident, involving the team’s rookie driver Gabby Chaves.

Also, the second accident of the race occurred when Bryan Clauson crashed on Lap 64 in the KVSH/Jonathan Byrd’s Racing Chevrolet exiting Turn 4.

Wainscott and Clauson were both checked, cleared and released.

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.”