Ford, Ganassi riding high following three straight IMSA wins

Photo: Ford Chip Ganassi Racing
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Victory for Joey Hand and Dirk Mueller on Saturday’s Northeast Grand Prix from Lime Rock Park continued a hot summer stretch for the Ford Chip Ganassi Racing outfit.

Hand and Mueller, in their No. 66 Ford GT, previously won the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen on July 1. Teammates Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook, winners of the Rolex 24 at Daytona back in January, also won at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park on July 8.

Combine all of that with the Hand/Mueller victory at Lime Rock Park last weekend, and it’s three wins in a row for Ford and Ganassi.

And Saturday’s win was particularly dramatic, as Hand had to close down a gap of 12 seconds to then leader Jan Magnussen, in the No. 3 Corvette C7.R For Corvette Racing.

Hand managed to get onto Mangussen’s back bumper as they worked through GT Daytona (GTD) traffic, and then had to outduel him in the final laps.

But, when Magnussen drifted wide onto the grass exiting the final corner, it was all Hand needed to seize control of the lead, and he cruised to victory from there.

“It’s just amazing,” said Hand after Saturday’s victory. “We knew (Lime Rock) was going to be about being around at the end.  We knew tire longevity was going to be key here, and you have to be impressed with Michelin and our tires.  They went the distance when we needed them to because I was 12 seconds down there, and that set of tires, we were hard on them.  I could see I was reeling him in (No. 3 Corvette).  He was struggling in traffic and I was making some moves in traffic that were really aggressive, including getting in a full-on battle with the leading GTD cars.  It’s the last stint and you have no choice.”

Mueller was equally as elated, particularly of what the win means in terms of the championship standings, a point he was sure to highlight.

“This Ford Chip Ganassi Racing team just impresses me, weekend to weekend,” said Mueller.  “It’s such a big family.  It’s great.  I feel a little bad for (Westbrook and Briscoe in the No. 67), since they had a little trouble there today, but this win means so much to me and the team.  It’s our first overall win as a team, and a big win in terms of the championship. ”

Indeed, Saturday’s win proved to be very significant in the GTLM title chase, as it vaulted Hand and Mueller into the GTLM lead. However, it is only by one point over Magnussen and Antonio Garcia, and their Ford/Ganassi teammates Westbrook and Briscoe are only one further point back in third.

In short, three points separate the top three in GTLM leaving Lime Rock Park. A Corvette lineup has won the last two GTLM driver’s championships, but three wins in a row, and four on the season, leave Ford and Ganassi poised with a pair of efforts in position to dethrone them.

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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.”