Ed Jones shining in rookie season with Coyne

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It’s hard to believe Verizon IndyCar Series rookie Ed Jones had never run an IndyCar race prior to last month’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. With two top tens (tenth and sixth) to his name in the first two races, Jones has been driving with the poise and consistency of a veteran, not the dramatics of a young driver desperate make a name for himself.

As a result, Jones is indeed starting to make a name for himself. In fact, the British driver is putting himself in good company. The last time an IndyCar rookie scored top tens in each of his first two starts was in 1993, and the driver was Nigel Mansell. That year, Mansell scored a victory on debut in Australia before finishing third in Long Beach. A race at Phoenix Raceway split the two, but Mansell missed the event due to a concussion after a practice crash.

Jones’ finishes are not going to garner the headline’s that Mansell’s did. But, they are no less impressive. Team owner Dale Coyne is elated with Jones’ opening races. “Ed did a phenomenal job. You have to watch Ed during the race. Sebastien couldn’t get around Marco Andretti in the first stint at St. Pete, but Ed got around Andretti in the second stint at St. Pete, and Ed got around Rahal here,” Coyne said of his rookie driver. “He’s passing people on the track. He’s racing really well. He got a sixth here, he should have had a sixth at St. Pete but he got it here and he’s doing a very good job. I’m very happy with Ed’s progress.”

Jones was a little more muted in his comments, and directed a lot of the credit to Coyne and the team he has built. Still, Jones is gaining confidence with every race. “It’s great to be in the top 10 again with a sixth. Another great effort by the team as well with Seb finishing second,” he said of the team’s Long Beach outing. “I said this at St. Pete, it shows the effort that Dale has put into the team with the drivers, engineers, the development, the whole package to take the team to another level this year and the proof is the first two races. It’s clear to see. I’m really excited. We made big jumps this weekend from St. Pete and I can’t wait to get to Barber to make even more.”

Currently, Jones sits seventh in the championship, two points clear of former champion and Indy 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay.

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.”