Sights, sounds and speeds from preseason IndyCar testing Monday at Sebring session

Johnson Laguna Seca IndyCar
Jimmie Johnson

Sebring International Raceway roared to life Monday with NTT IndyCar Series preseason testing as several drivers (including newcomer Jimmie Johnson) posted speeds while getting ready for a season opener that still is three months away.

Because it’s a private test, IndyCar didn’t provide official speeds from the session. But social media accounts were humming with photos and videos from the test at historic road course in Sebring, Florida.

Johnson, who tested last Nov. 2 at Barber Motorsports Park (where the 2021 season is slated to open April 11), was back in the Carvana-sponsored No. 48 Dallara-Honda with Chip Ganassi Racing, which also had teammates Scott Dixon, Marcus Ericsson and Alex Palou on hand.

Helio Castroneves, who is running a partial 2021 schedule with Meyer Shank Racing that includes the Indianapolis 500, also posted an Instagram video from the test.

Sebastien Bourdais and Dalton Kellett from AJ Foyt Racing also were testing, as was Carlin Racing with Max Chilton.

Andretti Autosport, which recently announced it would be fielding four cars in 2021 with the scaling back of Marco Andretti’s schedule, posted that its cars would be on track Tuesday at Sebring.

“Here at Sebring, having a great day getting a fair amount of laps in the race car,” Johnson said in a video posted by Carvana Racing. “Really just trying to understand how to slow the car down and maximize the car in the braking zones. My teammates have been great working really well with me helping me get up to speed. Having a ton of fun.

“So proud to have the Carvana colors on the race car and a lot of equipment in place and looking good and very excited for the 2021 car unveil coming down the pipeline before long.”

According to Autosport, Johnson turned a session-high 160 laps with a best lap of 53.691 seconds. Dixon led the session with a 52.350-second lap. Johnson ranked last among seven drivers and was more than a half-second off the sixth-fastest speed posted by Dalton Kellett (52.692 seconds).

That was an improvement over the Barber test, where Johnson had been nearly 3 seconds off the top speed after shaving “seconds” off his lap time over the course of the day. Johnson also tested Nov. 10 at Laguna Seca Raceway but otherwise has been limited to simulator work and driving in cars from other series on road courses such as Sebring because of IndyCar’s restrictive testing policy.

Monday’s test was the start of a busy week in Florida for Johnson, who will be on track Friday at Daytona International Speedway as testing begins for the Rolex 24 at Daytona on Jan. 30-31. Johnson will be driving for Action Express in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season opener.

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

Benjamin Pedersen AJ Foyt
AJ Foyt Racing

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.”