IndyCar: Scott Pruett named Grand Marshal of Long Beach Grand Prix

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Scott Pruett may be done racing a race car, but he’s not done with racing by any means.

The Hall of Fame driver will serve as grand marshal for the 44th Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on Sunday, April 15. He’ll cap off a weekend of activities by giving the command for drivers to start engines prior to the Verizon IndyCar Series race.

There’s a unique connection between Pruett and Long Beach. It was on the famous street circuit 36 years ago that Pruett won the 1982 Bridgestone Pro/Kart Challenge, one of the first wins in his racing career (he’d also win the same race a second time).

From there, the rest became history as Pruett went on to win countless races and championships, and was enshrined in the World Karting Association Hall of Fame, the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame and the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America.

Pruett, who turns 58 on March 24, competed in his last race in January’s Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona, leaving behind an outstanding legacy.

He earned more than 75 race wins in his career, including five Rolex 24 overall victories. Other wins include the 12 Hours of Sebring and a class win in the 24 Hours of LeMans.

His other wins or career highpoints included:

  • CART: Michigan 1995, Australia 1997.
  • IROC: Riverside 1988, Daytona 1991.
  • NASCAR: Three top-4 finishes.
  • TRANS AM: 24 wins and three championships (1987, 1994 and 2003).
  • GRAND AM: 41 wins and five championships (2004, 2008, 2010, 2011 and 2012).

“We are absolutely delighted to have Scott serve as Grand Marshal this year,” Jim Michaelian, President and CEO of the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach, said in a media release. “His racing career has been intertwined with the events here in Long Beach over the years, and it is entirely appropriate that we recognize his contributions to our success here as well as to the entire world of motor sports.”

Along with his career kick-off win 36 years ago at Long Beach, Pruett has won several other races there in his career, including the 1987 Trans-Am race, the 2001 Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race and the 2006 Grand-Am race.

In addition, he competed in nine IndyCar races there, with best finishes of second in 1995 and third in 1997.

“Long Beach has always been a very special place for me,” said Pruett, who continues as a goodwill ambassador for Lexus in retirement. “I remember, for my 16th birthday, some dear friends gave me tickets and brought me down.

“Watching those F1 cars and meeting Niki Lauda was a dream come true. Little did I know at the time, what an impact this great track would have on me. I am truly honored to be the 2018 Grand Marshal.”

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AJ Foyt Racing promotes Benjamin Pedersen from Indy Lights to IndyCar for 2023 season

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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.”