Veach continues second half surge, finishes fifth at Gateway

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Zach Veach’s rookie season in the Verizon IndyCar Series has very much been a learning experience, especially considering that he only ran two races in 2017 – at Barber Motorsports Park (subbing for the injured JR Hildebrand at Ed Carpenter Racing) and the Indianapolis 500.

That learning curve was been highlighted by only one top ten finish in the first 11 races of 2018, a fourth at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, although he has been improving as the year went on – strong showings at Texas Motor Speedway and Iowa Speedway saw him run inside the top 10 before wall contact hamstrung his efforts in both races.

However, entering Saturday night’s Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at Gateway Motorsports Park, Veach was on a streak of three top 10s in a row – seventh at the Honda Indy Toronto, 10th at the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio, and sixth at the ABC Supply 500.

And Saturday night at Gateway may have been his best race of the year. Starting 16th, Veach was immediately on the charge and worked his way up to 10th in the opening laps.

He continued to methodically work his way forward, cracking the top five in the second half of the race and battling with the lead group in the final stint. He also led his first laps in an IndyCar race during a cycle of pit stops.

Veach eventually finished fifth, his second top five of the year, to extend his top 10 streak to four in a row. And with momentum on his side now, Veach is eager to keep things going.

“I really wish we could go back to St. Petersburg right now and start this season over,” he quipped after the race while discussing his progress. “I’ve got to give credit to my Group 1001 guys and, of course, my Andretti Autosport teammates. Those guys have helped me so much this year, just teaching me little by little. It’s finally starting to come together and I’m just so thankful for that.”

Veach enters the final two races of the season ranked 15th in the standings.

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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.”