Fittipaldi flies to Long Beach IMSA pole

Photo courtesy of IMSA

LONG BEACH, Calif. – Christian Fittipaldi took the No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP to the overall pole position for Saturday’s BUBBA burger Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Beach, Round 3 of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season, in a slightly abnormal qualifying session.

Fittipaldi, in the car he shares with Joao Barbosa, posted a 1:14.962.

He is just ahead of another Corvette DP, this time the defending race-winning No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing entry qualified by Ricky Taylor.

Mazda’s practice pace proved no fluke with Tom Long getting the No. 70 Mazda Prototype within 0.679 of a second of overall pole.

Thing was, both Mazdas had a strange moment during qualifying after Marc Goossens spun the No. 90 Visit Florida Racing Corvette DP at Turn 11.

Goossens lost control of his car at the hairpin, then was hit by Tristan Nunez’s Mazda. Tom Long made it through around the outside without damage himself.

Misha Goikhberg (PC) and Bill Auberlen (GTLM) were the other two class polesitters, with the PC pole decided on an oddity.

James French was fastest during the session at 1:17.910 in the Performance Tech Motorsports Oreca FLM09, over Jon Bennett in the CORE autosport car at 1:18.623.

However, contact between Robert Alon in the PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports car and Mark Kvamme in the No. 88 Starworks Motorsport car left Kvamme’s car stranded and needing a flatbed to come back to the pits.

The incident meant the PC session did not meet its 10 minute minimum green flag time, and the grid set by driver points.

That would have moved Alon to pole; alas, with Alon penalized to the back of the grid for causing a red flag, it bumped second-placed Misha Goikhberg to pole in the JDC/Miller Motorsports entry he shares with Stephen Simpson.

The GTLM qualifying battle was a shootout with Auberlen securing his second straight pole both this season, and at Long Beach.

Last year Auberlen took the class pole here in the BMW Z4 GTLM at 1:17.268, and was within 0.004 of a second of that time this year.

In the No. 25 BMW Team RLL BMW M6 GTLM he shares with Dirk Werner, he posted a best time of 1:17.272 today.

He edged Earl Bamber, who per IMSA Radio pitted for a tire pressure change, by just 0.003 of a second. Bamber clocked a 1:17.275 in the No. 912 Porsche North America Porsche 911 RSR.

The qualifying order is linked here.

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.”