Castroneves leads first IndyCar test session at PIR

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AVONDALE, Ariz. – Helio Castroneves edged ahead of Team Penske teammate Will Power to end fastest in the first three-hour test session of the day at Phoenix International Raceway, the Verizon IndyCar Series Test in the West, a.k.a. “PrixView.”

Castroneves, in the No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet, set a best time of 19.5858 seconds – or 187.850 mph – around the one-mile oval to lead the 21-car field.

It’s an unofficial track record as speeds and times from a test don’t go into the record books. But it was ahead of Arie Luyendyk’s official mark, set in 1996, on the old layout, at 19.608 seconds and a speed of 183.599 mph.

With Castroneves on top, it interrupted the usual IndyCar spring training storyline of teammate Will Power dominating, whether it’s at Sebring, Barber or now Phoenix.

The driver of the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet set a best time of 19.5931 seconds, or 187.780 mph, around the one-mile oval, which was second in the 21-car field.

The first three hours of testing featured five yellow flag periods for just over 40 minutes, but no incidents. The yellow flag periods were only for track inspection and debris.

Basically all runs were single-car runs, and there wasn’t much passing. It appears to be a one-groove track.

Josef Newgarden interrupted the Team Penske party at the top of the pylon, with 186.942 mph his best speed in the No. 21 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet for Ed Carpenter Racing in third place.

Juan Pablo Montoya was fourth, while Simon Pagenaud, who was the first driver in the 184 mph-range this morning, ended sixth in the session.

Graham Rahal was best Honda in the session at 185.349 mph, or 19.8501 seconds, in the No. 15 Steak ‘n Shake Honda for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.

Of note, Gabby Chaves was 11th overall and third Honda in his first session with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.

Times and speeds are below:

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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.”