IndyCar unveils 2019 schedule, adds Circuit of the Americas to 17-race slate

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Even though the 2018 season still has one race to go, IndyCar officials are already thinking about next year, announcing the series’ 2019 schedule Tuesday morning.

The number of races will remain the same at 17 events. However, there will be two venue changes: Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas, will replace ISM Raceway in Phoenix on the schedule, and Laguna Seca will assume the season-ending race in place of Sonoma Raceway.

All events will be carried by the NBC Sports Group, including NBC and NBCSN, and will be highlighted by the 103rd Running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 26, 2019.

COTA has long been mentioned as a potential venue for IndyCar. The 3.426-mile permanent road course becomes the second-longest track on the circuit, behind Road America (4.048 miles) in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.

COTA becomes the second track in the state of Texas to host an IndyCar race, the other being longtime series host Texas Motor Speedway (has hosted 30 races since 1997), which recently reached agreement on a new four-year deal with the sanctioning body.

“COTA is one of the finest motorsports facilities in the world and Austin is a happening city,” said Mark Miles, president and CEO of Hulman & Co., which owns IndyCar and Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “This a natural fit for the IndyCar Series.

“Indy car racing has a large and passionate fan base in Texas with a hunger to attend more races. This added date will allow us to deliver both oval and road course events to the state in a single season.”

AddedCOTA founder and chairman Bobby Epstein, “It’s going to be spectacular. Our entire team at COTA is excited to welcome the teams, drivers and visitors to our great city, and we know Austin will give them a warm welcome.”

There will be a nearly three-month window between the March 24 event at COTA and the Saturday night, June 8 event at TMS.

The other addition to the 2019 schedule, which was announced last month, is the 2.238-mile WeatherTech Laguna Seca Raceway permanent road course near Monterey, California.

IndyCar returns to Laguna Seca after a 15-year absence. Indy cars have contested 22 races there over the years, the last being in 2004.

The rest of the series remains the same as 2018 in terms of venues, starting for the ninth consecutive year with the Grand Prix on the Streets of St. Petersburg (Florida) on March 10.

All told, there will once again be a wide breath of diversity on the schedule, with races on seven permanent road courses, five temporary street courses and five ovals.

“IndyCar has worked to deliver a consistency and cadence to the schedule and that is reflected again in 2019,” Miles said. “We’ve added races at a pair of tracks that know how to put on fantastic events, while returning to tracks where INDYCAR has longstanding relationships on familiar race dates.

“The diversity of next year’s schedule will continue to make what we believe is the most challenging and competitive championship in motorsports.”

The other major element to note is NBC Sports Group’s coverage of the entire series in 2019, the first of a three-year multimedia rights deal with IndyCar.

Eight of next season’s races will air on the NBC network, highlighted by the Indy 500. The other nine races will be carried on NBCSN.

Additional exclusive content will available on NBC Sports Gold, the direct-to-consumer product that will bring subscribers closer to IndyCar racing than ever before.

Here’s how the 2019 IndyCar schedule looks:

Date: Track

March 10: Streets of St. Petersburg, Florida

March 24: Circuit of the Americas, Austin, Texas

April 7: Barber Motorsports Park, Birmingham, Alabama

April 14: Streets of Long Beach, California

May 11: IndyCar Grand Prix, Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course

May 26: 103rd Indianapolis 500, Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval

June 1: Streets of Detroit, Race 1, Detroit, Michigan

June 2: Streets of Detroit, Race 2, Detroit, Michigan

June 8: Texas Motor Speedway, Fort Worth, Texas*

June 23: Road America, Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin

July 14: Streets of Toronto, Canada

July 20: Iowa Speedway, Newton, Iowa*

July 28: Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Lexington, Ohio

Aug. 18: Pocono Raceway, Long Pond, Pennsylvania

Aug. 24: Gateway Motorsports Park, Madison, Illinois*

Sept. 1: Portland International Raceway, Portland, Oregon

Sept. 22: WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, Salinas, California

(*-night race)
(Schedule subject to change)

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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.”