Austin Forkner: When hyperbole simply isn’t enough

SupercrossLIVE.com
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There are times when hyperbole is simply not enough.

Austin Forkner was perfect through the first two rounds of the Supercross 250 East schedule, winning every heat and feature he entered, and it was quickly noted that no one had ever gotten off to as strong a start.

The rush to proclaim his perfection was because a Triple Crown at Ford Field in Detroit lurked next on the schedule.

Since the debut of the Triple Crown in 2018 – an event in which three Main Events are averaged to provide an overall winner – no one had managed to sweep all three races. Surely that would put an end to Forkner’s perfection. This format had not been particularly kind to him in 2018.

Forkner gave the field a glimmer of hope in qualification when he allowed Chase Sexton to post a faster time in the second session. Then, he let Jordon Smith lead the first lap of Main 1. It would turn out to be the only lap another rider would lead all evening. Forkner took the lead from Smith on Lap 2 and stretched his advantage to more than 10 seconds at the checkers.

Forkner led the next two Mains flag-to-flag to add another first to his record. One week after being hailed as the first rider to be perfect in the opening two rounds of a 250 Supercross season, he became the first rider ever to sweep a Triple Crown – and in the process, extended his perfection to three rounds.

Forkner’s success fits in the context of the Supercross season as a whole. In the 450 class, Cooper Webb seemingly came from nowhere to lead the division after finishing ninth in the standings last year. Forkner was fourth in the East standings in 2018, but nearly 60 points (the equivalent of about 2.5 races) behind the champion Zach Osborne

What are the odds of Forkner extending his winning streak to four? That depends on exactly what statistic one credits most.

Forkner and the Supercross East riders head to Atlanta this weekend. Last year, this was Round 3 of their season and it was a Triple Crown event. Forkner won his second consecutive race ahead of Zach Osborne. While he took the overall victory, Forkner failed to win any of the mains with a best of second in Main 2. By comparison, Osborne won Main 1 and tied in points, but Forkner won the tiebreaker because he had the best finish – a third to Osborne’s fifth – in the final main.

Atlanta is the first of two Showdown events pitting the best East rider against the best of the West. Last year, Forkner finished sixth in a Showdown race at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Ind. He missed the second Showdown at Las Vegas after sustaining an injury at Minneapolis in another Triple Crown event, so it is unclear how he will fare against that group of riders.

There’s a great thing about records, however; no matter how Round 4 plays out, no one can take away Forkner’s achievement. He remains the most perfect rider this deep into a season even if he struggles in Atlanta. At least until a more perfect rider comes along in the future.

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.”