IMSA: Simpson tops opening day of Road America practice

Photo courtesy of IMSA
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ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – The No. 85 JDC-Miller Motorsports Oreca 07 Gibson topped the charts in the first day of practice for the Continental Tire Road Race Showcase, as the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship heads to Road America.

Stephen Simpson’s lap of 1:55.057 was best on a rainy day at the Elkhart Lake track, the rain finally relenting in the second of two one-hour practice sessions in the afternoon.

Simpson and co-driver Misha Goikhberg have impressed all season for the John Church-led team, an elusive first win thus proving the only thing they haven’t accomplished. They sit third in the Prototype points standings heading into this weekend’s race.

The pair of Action Express Racing Cadillac DPi-V.Rs (from Mustang Sampling Racing and Whelen Engineering Racing) were next, ahead of the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Ligier JS P217 Gibson – first of the Ligiers with Olivier Pla and Jose Gutierrez back in that car this week.

The new Ligier racing this weekend, the No. 90 VISIT FLORIDA Racing Ligier JS P217 Gibson, topped the morning session with Renger van der Zande and Marc Goossens at 1:59.977.

The second session times were more representative with a smaller amount of rain.

Ford Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 66 Ford GT (GT Le Mans) and the No. 54 CORE autosport Porsche 911 GT3 R (GT Daytona) topped the GT classes in the second session, while Performance Tech Motorsports led both PC sessions.

There were no major incidents during the day, the only real issues being that the No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Audi R8 LMS and No. 2 Tequila Patron ESM Nissan Onroak DPis didn’t run in the morning session.

Of note, the 3GT Racing Lexus RC F GT3 lineups are switched up this weekend. Scott Pruett moves to the No. 15 Lexus he’ll now share with Jack Hawksworth, while Robert Alon goes to the No. 14 Lexus with Sage Karam. Also, the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE has been removed from the entry list. The team was incorrectly listed and is yet to confirm its race return to action for any further races this year.

Third practice runs at 8:55 a.m. CT and local time on Saturday.

RESULTS: Practice 1, Practice 2

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.”