Supercross Preview: East meets West in 250 showdown

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“East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,” wrote Rudyard Kipling in 1889. Some 130 years later, the AMA Supercross is out to prove him wrong in the 250 class.

Kipling’s tale of an epic showdown between two strong men standing face to face “tho’ they come (from) the ends of the earth” will play out in Atlanta as the best of the East, Austin Forkner takes on Adam Cianciarulo and the rest of the Western contingent.

Last week, Forkner added another weekend to his perfect start and enters with three wins. In five starts in the West division, Cianciarulo also has three victories and another pair of top-fives to his credit. The two bring their respective points’ lead into the battle that only one can win. And if not Forkner or Cianciarulo, Shane McElrath (West), Jordon Smith, Justin Cooper and Chase Sexton (East) also bring perfect records of top-five finishes to the weekend.

This will be the first of two matchups between the East and West divisions in the 250 class. The other will be in the season finale in Las Vegas.

In the 450 class, Cooper Webb will try to protect a lead that stands at six points over Ken Roczen. Last week Webb finished second  to Eli Tomac, but managed to gain a little ground over Roczen in fourth.

Justin Barcia will miss his first round of the season after crashing on his test track in Florida. The winner of the opening round in Anaheim, he has finished in the top 10 in all but one race since.

Schedule:

Qualifying: 1 p.m. on NBC Sports, Gold
Race: Live, 7 p.m. on NBC Sports, Gold and NBCSN

Last Week:

Eli Tomac got back on track with his second win of the year over Cooper Webb and Chad Reed in the 450 class.
Austin Forkner remained perfect with a win over Jordon Smith and Chase Sexton in the 250 class.

Last Year:

This was a Triple Crown event.
Jason Anderson (2-1-4) beat Marvin Musquin (4-5-1) and Eli Tomac (5-3-2) in the 450 class.
In 250s, Austin Forkner (4-2-3) won over Zach Osborne (1-3-5) and Jordon Smith (3-4-6) in the 250 class.

Winners

450s:
[4] Cooper Webb (Anaheim II, Oakland, Minneapolis, and Arlington)
[2] Eli Tomac (San Diego and Detroit)
[1] Justin Barcia (Anaheim I)
[1] Blake Baggett (Glendale)

250 West:
[3] Adam Cianciarulo (Glendale, Oakland and San Diego)
[1] Colt Nichols (Anaheim I)
[1] Shane McElrath (Anaheim II)

250 East:
[3] Austin Forkner (Minneapolis, Arlington and Detroit)

Top-5s

450s:
Ken Roczen (8)
Marvin Musquin (6)
Eli Tomac (6)
Cooper Webb (6)
Blake Baggett (4)
Dean Wilson (2)
Joey Savatgy (2)
Chad Reed (2)
Justin Barcia (1)
Jason Anderson (1)
Justin Bogle (1)
Justin Brayton (1)

250 West:
Shane McElrath (5)
Adam Cianciarulo (5)
Colt Nichols (4)
RJ Hampshire (3)
Dylan Ferrandis (3)
James Decotis (2)
Jacob Hayes (1)
Garrett Marchbanks (1)
Jess Pettis (1)

250 East:
Austin Forkner (3)
Jordon Smith (3)
Justin Cooper (3)
Chase Sexton (3)
Martin Davalos (2)
Alex Martin (1)

Points Leaders

450s:
Cooper Webb (173)
Ken Roczen (167)
Marvin Musquin (161)
Eli Tomac (160)
Dean Wilson (122)

250 West:
Adam Cianciarulo (114)
Shane McElrath (106)
Colt Nichols (104)
Dylan Ferrandis (102)
RJ Hampshire (75)

250 East:
Austin Forkner (78)
Jordon Smith (65)
Justin Cooper (63)
Chase Sexton (60)
Alex Martin (51)

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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.”