Graham Rahal now trails Montoya by nine points in IndyCar standings

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Graham Rahal had to ask NBCSN reporter Katie Hargitt to make sure he heard right.

“Nine?” Rahal asked in victory lane of the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio after winning his second race of 2015.

Yes, nine. That is now the gap between Rahal and points leader Juan Pablo Montoya with two races left in the Verizon IndyCar season.

“Awesome, I feel pretty good now,” Rahal said.

It could have been 10 points, but leading the final lap gave Rahal the most led in the race with 23. Scott Dixon had 22.

But it could have been even more, if not for perfectly timed pit stops and cautions that “hosed” drivers like Scott Dixon and or irked Montoya.

Dixon, the pole-sitter, firmly controlled the race’s opening stages, which included a Lap 3 caution,  before a debris caution on Lap 21 brought the field back together in the middle of green flag pit stops.

The five-time winner at Mid-Ohio was stuck back in the pack and wouldn’t get back into the top five until the race’s end, where he would finish fourth.

“It’s tough when everyone has the same pace and everyone is on the same tire,” Dixon said. “With the new aero kits there’s just such a big wake behind the cars and it sometimes makes it tough to get around people.”

Dixon remains third in the championship standings, 34 behind Montoya and 25 behind Rahal.

But if anyone feels hosed, it’s Montoya, whose 42-point lead over Rahal all but disappeared in the dust of a Sage Karam spin that brought out a caution on Lap 66.

Rahal had pitted, but Montoya had yet to. The Indy 500 champion would then be buried in the field and would finish 11th.

“It’s kind of weird that all the Ganassi cars pitted and Sage spins,” Montoya told NBCSN. “So it is what it is. I don’t know if it was on purpose or not, but I hear the spin was really dodgy.”

When asked if he thought it was intentional, Montoya responded: “Karma is a bitch, so we’ll see.”

We’ll see how that situation and the points shake out in the final two races of the season at Pocono Raceway on Aug. 23 and at Sonoma Raceway on Aug. 30.

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.”