PWC: EFFORT Racing announces hiatus; it opens up a lot of questions

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This news came down late Friday and by the power of taking a few hours off before the rest of the month of May (slacking, I know), it meant I hadn’t got to writing it until today.

Nonetheless, it’s still a bit of bad news.

EFFORT Racing announced late Friday night that it would be taking a hiatus from Pirelli World Challenge competition for the rest of the 2016 season, but with “every intention” of continuing into 2017. The team cited the current oil prices (currently $45 a barrel) as the reason for the dropout.

“It is with great disappointment that we announce a halt to our 2016 season,” EFFORT owner Chuck Toups said in a release. “We want to thank our fans for their wonderful support and salute our competitors in the series as they continue their run to the Pirelli World Challenge crown. We couldn’t be on the sharp end of the grid without our all-star crew, and the excellent support provided by Porsche. We’ve already started the development of our 2017 program to reclaim the top spot in the championship.”

This leaves Patrick Long and Michael Lewis – who combined have won three of the first seven races in GT this season – temporarily sidelined, along with the talented crew led by team manager Erin Gahagan and technical director Stefan Pfeiffer.

Long told DailySportsCar’s Stephen Kilbey he remains hopeful of getting something put together prior to the next rounds of the season at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, May 19-22. But he noted he wasn’t as surprised as the rest of the world seemed to be when the announcement dropped.

“They’re a great, small team, who do a lot with a little, so this news doesn’t surprise me if I’m perfectly honest,” Long told Kilbey from this past weekend’s FIA World Endurance Championship 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps.

What this news does do is open up a heckuva lot more questions about how this all went down.

  • Why now?
  • How much money would the team have needed to continue just this season?
  • Can they bounce back and make a return in 2017, as they’ve outlined in the release? Announcing a hiatus is often the beginning of end for race teams.
  • Who can challenge Cadillac Racing for this year’s GT championship now? EFFORT and its pair of talented drivers were the best collective bet. Outside of K-PAX Racing’s Alvaro Parente in the McLaren 650S GT3 run by Flying Lizard Motorsports, there’s not a lot of threats to the establishment.
  • Will this hurt the prestige of the series when one of its established, top teams – and a class-winning and race-winning team in that – goes away on short and immediate notice?
  • What happens to the crew from here?

All told, the news drop on Friday night was only the beginning of the story of what’s next for EFFORT from here.

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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

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.”