Chilton drawing on teammates’ experience in early test days

Photo: IndyCar

After his first two days of testing in the Verizon IndyCar Series, Max Chilton is fully soaking up the experience and guidance of his three teammates at Chip Ganassi Racing.

The 24-year-old Englishman has tested at Sonoma Raceway and most recently at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, the latter of which served as his maiden oval running in an IndyCar.

Even though he’s only just getting acclimated to the series and the team, the advice and intangibles provided by teammates Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan and Charlie Kimball – as well as team advisor Dario Franchitti – are quickly proving invaluable.

“It’s quite eerie how welcoming everyone is,” Chilton told assembled reporters during an IndyCar conference call today. “I understand why the teams are welcoming, but the drivers, I’m not used to that. The drivers get along, there might be a couple you have as sort of mates.

“Everyone in IndyCar, even with Indy Lights, the whole sort of (Mazda) Road to Indy process is so welcoming. All the drivers seem to be best mates and they don’t seem to have other friends. Their best friends are I guess their rivals on the track. That’s sort of taken me awhile to get my head around.

“Including my teammates, Tony, Scott and Charlie, are so welcoming. Scott is four-times champion. They’re willing to help as much as I need to sort of get me settled in learning the ovals and any tips I need. Even Tony came all the way down to L.A. just to do an eight-lap run at the start of the day on my Fontana test last Saturday just so I felt comfortable going flat out, knowing someone else had already done it in the same car that day. That’s amazing to have teammates like that already.”

Chilton expanded on that Fontana test, and Franchitti’s role within the team.

“Fontana, the test, it was sort of a faultless day. There was zero wind all day. Lovely. It was nice and warm, clear skies,” he said.

“T.K. got in the car and did an out and in lap, then an eight-lap run. He was flat out pretty quickly. I stood up in the stands with Dario Franchitti and a spotter just watching how it seemed.

“Dario, he’s there for the team’s sake. He has been before I joined. He’s nothing directly for me. He’s employed by the team to help out. He’s been doing that I think since his accident.

“Scott and T.K. were both mentioning to me they’ve learnt quite a lot of information from him last year with him being at the track helping out, even though they have just as much experience as Dario. Obviously you share things as teammates, but not everything. I think there were things that Dario kept back because he thought, Oh, I’ve got an advantage here. But now he is working for the drivers. They learnt from him last year.

“Having him around, giving us the secret tips, is a big help. He’s just such a genuine, lovely guy. He’s there for the right reasons, loves the sport. Yeah, I think he misses it a great deal. That’s why he loves coming back and hopefully helping out a fellow Brit trying to replicate what he’s done.”

AJ Foyt Racing promotes Benjamin Pedersen from Indy Lights to IndyCar for 2023 season

Benjamin Pedersen AJ Foyt
AJ Foyt Racing

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.”