Pagenaud survives bout with Rahal, wins at Barber

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Simon Pagenaud scored his second straight win in Sunday’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama through varying tire strategies, a bit of traffic, no further cautions after an interrupted start, and then a crazy and dramatic finish.

It took a Lap 86 pass of Graham Rahal at Turn 14, with Rahal’s car wounded with significant front wing damage, for him to make it back by to resume up front after controlling most of the race.

The driver of the No. 22 PPG Automotive Refinishes Team Penske Chevrolet led all but a handful of the 90 laps, losing out only on pit stop cycles, en route to his second straight win in the Verizon IndyCar Series.

It’s also his fourth finish of first or second in the first four races, and Pagenaud continues to extend his points lead.

Will Power ran second for the majority of the race, but was leapfrogged by Rahal in the final pit stop sequences.

Rahal then proceeded to go on a tear to catch up Pagenaud, gaining more than five seconds to get into the lead on Lap 81.

Pagenaud was slowed by traffic off Turn 6, and Rahal made his move to the lead into Turn 8, with Pagenaud then going through the gravel and into the lead, and Rahal’s car sustaining a bit of front wing damage.

While Rahal held the lead, his efforts were slowed by Jack Hawksworth, when he ran aground of him exiting Turn 6. Rahal tried to move to the inside to hold off Pagenaud, but wound up contacting Hawksworth and creating further damage.

Rahal’s car was wounded, and Pagenaud made it by on the inside for the lead. Rahal ended second but some 13.747 seconds behind.

Meanwhile Josef Newgarden made a late-race move of Will Power for third for the final podium position. Power got boxed in by a train of traffic and fell back.

Juan Pablo Montoya drove from last to fifth, primarily thanks to a storming first stint that saw him rise from 21st to seventh.

There were other notable moments in the 90-lap race, which ran without a yellow after the three attempts at the first start:

  • Contact between Sebastien Bourdais and Scott Dixon on Lap 3 pitched Dixon into a spin, although Bourdais would later blame Rahal for boxing him in (further story to come on NBC Sports later tonight).
  • Conor Daly ran ahead of the leaders for most of the second stint, with Pagenaud, Power and the rest of the pack unable to pass. Daly struggled with the balance most of the day and ended in 20th.
  • Chip Ganassi Racing finished eighth, ninth and 10th with Tony Kanaan, Charlie Kimball and Dixon – this marked Dixon’s first race off the podium in seven Barber races.
  • Hawksworth, who got in the way late, ended 19th. For both he and A.J. Foyt Enterprises teammate Takuma Sato, early weekend pace amounted to nothing in the race – Sato ended 13th.

The series is now off for two weeks before the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis on May 14.

Results are below:

BarberRace

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.”