Rahal upbeat after first Honda IndyCar test of 2016

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Graham Rahal relished the opportunity to get back behind the wheel on Wednesday as he joined the three Andretti Autosport drivers at Sebring for the first IndyCar test of 2016.

As part of the allocated test running between now and the beginning of the new season in St. Petersburg on March 13, Rahal took to the track for the Rahal Letterman Lanigan team to evaluate part of the new Honda aero package among other updates.

Writing in his debrief column for the Verizon IndyCar Series website, Rahal said that although he felt positive about what had been achieved at Sebring, there was still plenty of work to be done ahead of the new season.

“It was good to get back in the car at Sebring on Wednesday. I thought it was a very positive day, a day with a lot of learning,” Rahal said.

“When we get the new aero kit, just as we did last year, there’s so much to be found and understood and a lot of development to go. Really, today was that sort of day for us. There definitely is a lot of work to be done.

“As far as comparing the first test of 2016 to the first test last year and the new aero package, I’d say for us it was similar. But again, these are early days for us and the development of it, and we didn’t really have the full 2016 kit.

“Our car was good, but there were little parts and pieces that we didn’t have yet. Also, with the way the engines are changing, both from a Chevy and Honda perspective for this year, there’s still a lot to be added to the equation.

“But we had a good start overall. I think we feel positive about where we are and our goal is obviously to keep up the competitiveness and the form of the team that we had last year.”

Rahal enjoyed his strongest IndyCar season to date in 2015, scoring two race wins and remaining in contention for the championship until the final round of the year at Sonoma before ultimately finishing fourth in the standings.

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.”