PWC: Parente edges Long for Long Beach pole

Photo: PWC

LONG BEACH, Calif. – Defending Long Beach winner Alvaro Parente has taken the pole position for Sunday’s 50-minute single race of the Pirelli World Challenge season, driving his No. 9 K-PAX Racing McLaren 650S GT3.

Parente uncorked a 1:18.883 lap time around the 1.968-mile street circuit, exactly one tenth clear of sparring partner and California native Patrick Long, driving the No. 58 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R.

Parente won this race last year after Johnny O’Connell was moved to second post-race, following an overboost penalty. Parente’s pole time last year was a 1:18.947 to O’Connell’s 1:18.955, but O’Connell passed him early en route to the win on the road.

Bryan Sellers was third in the second of three K-PAX McLarens, with Ferrari driver and St. Petersburg polesitter Daniel Mancinelli fourth and fellow Ferrari driver Alex Riberas fifth.

The pair of Cadillac Racing Cadillac ATS-V.Rs struggled with Michael Cooper ninth and O’Connell only 12th on the grid.

PWC veteran James Sofronas took his No. 14 GMG Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R to the GTA class pole position, good enough for 14th overall.

The pair of RealTime Racing Acura NSX GT3s in their home race qualified 10th and 13th, Peter Kox ahead of Ryan Eversley on this occasion.

Mancinelli, who drew the ire of several competitors at St. Petersburg, speared Tim Pappas’ No. 54 Black Swan Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 at Turn 10 during the session. Pappas resumed but it was another incident where it appeared Mancinelli missed his braking window.

Adderly Fong did not qualify the No. 88 Bentley Team Absolute Bentley Continental GT3 after an accident in the practice session just before qualifying. Fong attempted to pass another car around the outside of Turn 10, but the two collided, which pitched Fong into the wall. The team will need to repair the right side of the car.

The race runs Sunday morning at 10 a.m. PT and local time.

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.”