IndyCar starting lineup for 2021 season opener at Barber Motorsports Park

IndyCar Barber starting lineup
Chris Owens/IndyCar
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The 2021 NTT IndyCar Series season will begin at Barber Motorsports Park with a rising star on the point of the starting lineup Sunday’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama (3 p.m., NBC).

Pato O’Ward, 21, set a track record Saturday to capture his second career pole position and will lead the field to green in the 90-lap race. The Mexican driver is seeking his first victory after coming close several times last season (notably in his most recent start from the pole at Road America last July).

“I want to win races,” O’Ward said. “I want to challenge for the championship the whole year. We want to constantly be at the top. Not just myself, but the whole team. We want to give these vets like (Josef) Newgarden and (Scott) Dixon that already have multiple championships under their belt something to think of, a little bit of more stress than what they might have the past few years.

“Last year, I mean, we were close to winning four races at least. I think this year we just have to arrive with a very similar mentality. I’m really happy with what we got to achieve last year. But we just need to take that next step.”

BLACKS OR REDS? Click here for the starting lineup with inital tire designation

The Arrow McLaren SP driver, who finished fourth in the 2020 points standings of his first full season, will start alongside 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi, who qualified a career best on the 17-turn, 2.3-mile road course east of Birmingham, Alabama.

“It’s good to start here,” said Rossi, who is coming off a winless 2020. “Barber hasn’t really been a good track for us before. This was always going to be a little bit of a question mark, like, ‘Are we still going to be able to be OK here?’ It’s definitely better. We’ll have a long think about it and make sure we have a good race car and fight for the win.”

Alex Palou, 24, tied a career best starting spot in his debut with Chip Ganassi Racing in the No. 10 Dallara-Honda. Will Power, a two-time winner at Barber, will start on the outside of the second row.

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Six-time and defending series champion Scott Dixon, who is seeking his first victory at Barber after six runner-up finishes, will start fifth alongside Ganassi teammate Marcus Ericsson in the third row.

Jimmie Johnson will start 21st in his IndyCar debut after the seven-time NASCAR Cup champion enjoyed an exhilarating first day of practice and qualifying Saturday that left him smiling.

Here’s the IndyCar starting lineup Sunday in the Honda Grand Prix of Alabama (Position, car number, driver, manufacturer, time):


ROW 1

1. (5) Pato O’Ward, Chevrolet, 01:05.8479 (125.744 mph)
2. (27) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 01:05.9177 (125.611)

ROW 2

3. (10) Alex Palou, Honda, 01:06.0538 (125.352)
4. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 01:06.1186 (125.230)

ROW 3

5. (9) Scott Dixon, Honda, 01:06.3976 (124.703)
6. (8) Marcus Ericsson, Honda, 01:06.4102 (124.680)

ROW 4

7. (51) Romain Grosjean, Honda, 01:05.7643 (125.904)
8. (2) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 01:05.7902 (125.855)

ROW 5

9. (26) Colton Herta, Honda, 01:05.7957 (125.844)
10. (20) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 01:05.9118 (125.622)

ROW 6

11. (60) Jack Harvey, Honda, 01:05.9634 (125.524)
12. (3) Scott McLaughlin, Chevrolet, 01:06.7226 (124.096)

ROW 7

13. (18) Ed Jones, Honda, 01:06.5578 (124.403)
14. (21) Rinus VeeKay, Chevrolet, 01:06.4770 (124.554)

ROW 8

15. (22) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 01:06.6480 (124.235)
16. (14) Sebastien Bourdais, Chevrolet, 01:06.5035 (124.505)

ROW 9

17. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 01:06.8512 (123.857)
18. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 01:06.8489 (123.861)

ROW 10

19. (30) Takuma Sato, Honda, 01:07.1026 (123.393)
20. (59) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 01:07.0021 (123.578)

ROW 11

21. (48) Jimmie Johnson, Honda, 01:07.7092 (122.288)
22. (7) Felix Rosenqvist, Chevrolet, 01:07.0254 (123.535)

ROW 12

23. (4) Dalton Kellett, Chevrolet, 01:07.8100 (122.106)
24. (29) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, No Time (No Speed)

QUALIFYING RESULTSClick here for the full rundown

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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.”