Josef Newgarden is playing the IndyCar silly season game really well

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Upon speaking to Josef Newgarden at Mid-Ohio a couple weeks ago, I made the comment after we were done with our official conversation that he’s risen to become the domino in the Verizon IndyCar Series silly season for 2015 – a role previously held by Simon Pagenaud (2014) and Ryan Hunter-Reay (2012) in recent years.

It’s a lofty title and one the 24-year-old American rising star is fully worthy of, having finally become a race winner this season and with several options theoretically in play for him in 2016. Newgarden is on a one-year deal with CFH Racing for 2015 with a one-year option to continue next season.

The one thing he told me pretty definitively is that the racing in IndyCar is “the best racing on the planet right now,” and while he’s been mentioned as a possibility for Haas F1 Team next year, that’s more of a long shot for him at this stage.

With a two-week lull in the IndyCar schedule, the news has primarily been about schedule changes (Road America in, Phoenix maybe in, Fontana out) and lawsuits (Andretti vs. Andretti, because that doesn’t make anyone’s head hurt). But there hasn’t been any movement on the driver front.

Luckily, Newgarden has amped up his already strong social media game lately with a couple tweets you might not necessarily expect to see from a driver currently racing with CFH Racing.

First up was this one last week, that the four-year IndyCar veteran has a new street car, from Bobby Rahal BMW.

Graham Rahal offered this follow-up volley in return:

He’s also retweeted Newgarden a handful of times here in the last week.

But that’s not the only entity outside CFH appearing on Newgarden’s timeline.  Newgarden went home to Nashville last weekend and took in a Tim McGraw concert.

“Thanks for the love @BigMachine,” says part of his tweet.

Big Machine, of course, is Big Machine Records – a sponsor at Chip Ganassi Racing Teams, which has adorned Sage Karam’s car for the 2015 season. Taylor Swift is also a Big Machine artist, and her likeness was on Tony Kanaan’s chariot at Detroit – on the same weekend T-Swift played Ford Field there.

Lest that be the only form of Big Machine back-and-forth, Newgarden also had a test in what appeared to be an old NASCAR Truck in Nashville thanks to Scott Borchetta, who is President/CEO of the Big Machine Label Group.

Twitter has caught on, including notable IndyCar link hound Matt Archuleta (@indy44).

It’s pretty fascinating to watch, because Newgarden is playing the game really well in making public positive declarations about other outlets.

That, or it’s a freaky series of coincidences all coming back-to-back.

My idea? Since the IndyCar season is coming to a close here in two weeks, why not have the Newgarden Courtship play out as some form of reality show, maybe over a four or six-week period, since those seem to attract more viewers than they realistically should?

Have teams continue putting out their best offerings to sign him, and have Newgarden extend a Sharpie to teams he wants to carry on with to the next episode. Have the stakes get higher with every successive week.

Then, when it finally comes time to sign, Newgarden extends the final Sharpie and signs on the dotted line.

It would help pass the time… at least for the first month of what is shaping up to be another looooong offseason.

UPDATE: Who says Newgarden’s current team isn’t getting the love? In this faux commercial for Fuzzy’s Vodka, the non-drinking Nashville native can play a pretty good pitchman.

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.”