March 30 in Motorsports History: Will Power begins title run at St. Pete

0 Comments

The 2014 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg marked the first race for the IndyCar Series with Verizon as a title sponsor. Fittingly, it was the driver of the No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet who won.

Will Power triumphed on the 14-turn street circuit for the second time of his career on this date in 2014. The victory was first of three for the Aussie in a season which he finally won his first championship after three consecutive runner-up points finishes in 2010-12.

Takuma Sato started from the pole position and led 28 of the first 30 laps, but Power, who started fourth, took the lead on Lap 31.

The Team Penske driver made a small error in the race’s first restart on Lap 82. Expecting the green flag to wave later than it did, Power was slow to accelerate. In fact, he was so slow that several cars behind him bunched together and made contact, causing another yellow.

Some of Power’s competitors criticized his move, believing he was attempting to brake-check his teammate and third-place finisher Helio Castroneves on the restart, which Power denied.

“They threw the green early. I thought we were meant to go in that (restart) zone,” Power told ESPN. “I was surprised. I didn’t even know what happened behind me.

“I didn’t touch my brake at all. You can look at my data. I didn’t touch it all.”

It was the first of seven podium finishes in 2014 for Power.

“(I’m) pretty stoked to get the first win for Verizon as a series sponsor with the Verizon car, so it’s a great day,” Power said.

Also on this date:

1969: George Follmer won the Jimmy Bryan 150 at Phoenix International Raceway, his lone victory in the USAC Champ Car Series. Follmer later went on to become a champion in both Can-Am and Trans-Am.

1980: Nelson Piquet led every lap from the pole to win the Grand Prix of the United States at Long Beach, his first victory in F1. However, Piquet’s victory was overshadowed by a horrific crash involving Clay Regazzoni, whose brakes failed before an impact with Ricardo Zunino’s car (which had been left abandoned in an access road). Regazzoni was paralyzed from the waist down in the accident.

2000: Colton Herta was born in Valencia, California. During Herta’s 2019 rookie season, he became IndyCar’s youngest race winner (at Circuit of The Americas) and pole winner (Road America). He also is the first driver born in the 2000s to start an IndyCar race.

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter

AJ Foyt Racing promotes Benjamin Pedersen from Indy Lights to IndyCar for 2023 season

Benjamin Pedersen AJ Foyt
AJ Foyt Racing
4 Comments

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.”