Phoenix Saturday IndyCar, Indy Lights notes

Photo: Rising Star Racing

AVONDALE, Ariz. – Quick notes here from Phoenix as we are in the midst of a several hour break in-between the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires race and the Verizon IndyCar Series’ Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix , which begins at 8:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

The key items (What to Watch For) are linked here.

  • Several track presidents are here at Phoenix this weekend, which is part of standard recon for track presidents in advance of their own events later in the season. Pocono Raceway’s Brandon Igdalsky and Road America’s George Bruggenthies are here.
  • Bruggenthies told NBC Sports the Road America IndyCar date (June 23-26) doesn’t have a title sponsor yet, but has more meetings in the next month to work to finalize one. Ticket sales, though, are going well.
  • In a quick catch-up with Juncos Racing team principal Ricardo Juncos, he said the team’s new shop in Speedway, Ind. is progressing well, construction-wise. The team remains on target to open in September or October.
  • Despite tough races Saturday in Phoenix, both Belardi Auto Racing drivers Zach Veach and Felix Rosenqvist are pumped for Barber Motorsports Park later this month. Veach, in particular, stood out with several high line moves to advance from 16th up to eighth in the opening 40 laps – where he finished.
  • Arizona Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald got a ride in the two-seater earlier today. More info will come later, but a quick pic is at the top of this post.
  • NBCSN analysts Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy answered a handful of questions on Twitter today – you can find their answers via the @IndyCaronNBCSN account.
  • Gonna try a Facebook live video post an hour before we’re on air, for a quick preview of today’s race. You can find the link here.

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.”