Driver opinions differ on expectations for DXC Technology 600

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While last year’s 600-kilometer affair at Texas Motor Speedway saw a return of pack racing, with the 22-car field unable to effectively separate from each other, Saturday night’s DXC Technology 600 (8:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN) could look completely different.

Based on a pair of practices from Friday, notably between 7:15 and 8:15 p.m. ET (6:15 and 7:15 local time), this year’s race at Texas may see car setup and tire wear at the forefront.

Pole sitter Josef Newgarden detailed that such a challenge is something he thrives on, and he embraces it if indeed that is what lies ahead.

“After you get 20, 30 laps on the tires, I think it will get tougher,” Newgarden explained. “Guys will have to work to maintain the balance they want in the car, maintain the tire life. As a racecar driver, you want that around a track like this, where you have to work to make the racecar better, to last for the full stint.”

However, Scott Dixon, who qualified seventh and was fastest in final practice, wasn’t quite as ready as to completely eliminate the possibility of a pace race, citing last year’s event as an example.

“It’s so tough to predict. You know, there was a bit of a group text going on earlier (on Friday) between a lot of the drivers. Last year nobody predicted it was going to be a pack race. I was watching the race last night, by the end of the first stint, it was pretty much a pack race,” Dixon explained.

He added, “I think it’s kind of a similar situation to what we found last year. Yeah, okay, the track has degraded a little bit, probably lost a little bit of grip. But Firestone in turn brought a little softer tire, which I think will help.”

Yet, while Newgarden and Dixon expressed optimism about the situation at hand, Tony Kanaan was much more pessimistic.

Kanaan, citing a lack of aerodynamic downforce this year along with problems with tire blistering – he was one of several drivers who experienced blistering in the near 100-degree heat during Friday practice – expressed a fear that the package may have gone too far the other way.

“I know a lot of people are debating on this or that. Yeah, it’s okay for us to drive the cars because that’s what we want. I just think it’s too extreme right now,” Kanaan lamented.

Conditions for Saturday night’s race could be somewhat different in comparison with Friday practice. Practice 1 was held in the middle of the day – 11:30 a.m. local time – and final practice finished up at 7:15 local time.

Saturday’s race begins at 7:45 p.m. local time (8:45 ET), and while the ambient temperature will be around 90 degrees, the nighttime conditions could see track temperatures cool, and even the slightest variance in track temps could have a drastic impact on the race, as the aforementioned Dixon indicated.

“Last year nobody thought it was going to be a pack race, and lo and behold first stint it was a pack race. We’ll see. The track temp is just so critical 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
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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.”