Kyle Larson will make World of Outlaws 2021 debut at Bristol Motor Speedway

Larson Outlaws Bristol
Trent Gower, World of Outlaws

Kyle Larson will make his 2021 debut in the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series this weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway after winning 12 times in 26 starts on the circuit last year.

Larson should be well prepared for Bristol because he took part in the inaugural Food City Dirt Race NASCAR Cup race March 29 on the high-banked half-mile oval in Tennessee. Larson was one of the favorites to win before his No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet was damaged in a Lap 54 crash after Christopher Bell spun directly in his path.

“Dirt racing is super important to me,” Larson said in a release. “It’s what I grew up doing. I’ve known it all my life.”

Larson, who will attempt the $25,000 main event Saturday with the Outlaws before heading to Talladega Superspeedway for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Sereis race, has continued to race on dirt in 2021 after joining Hendrick.

He won the Tommy Hinnershitz Classic at Williams Grove Speedway in Mechanicsburg, Pa. in the All Star Circuit of Champions on April 16 and set quick time at Hagerstown (Md.) Speedway in a Late Model the next night before an engine problem sidelined him and kept him out of the main event.

Larson finished second in a Late Model Race at Tazewell (Tenn.) Speedway on April 3.

In 2020, Larson ran 97 features in various dirt track series, posting 46 wins in Sprint Cars, Midgets, Silver Crown and Late Models.

“It’s going to be ultra-fast racing for sure,” Larson said. “I mean you’ve got sprint cars at over 900 horsepower weighing 1,400 pounds vs. a Cup car at 3,500 pounds and around 750 horsepower. I think lap times will be crazy fast — like 12 seconds. I still think it’ll be fairly similar to other half-miles, though. I just don’t think the pace will slow off as much as it does at other places because you have the banking and the load to carry speed throughout the night.”

This will be Larson’s first start of 2021 with the Outlaws. Last year’s packed schedule of dirt track racing allowed him to keep his instincts sharply honed. At Bristol, he will compete against some of the greatest sprint car drivers in the field, including his brother-in-law and current points leader Brad Sweet.

“I think it’s way different because last year I was racing almost every day of the week, and we built a huge notebook and I was fresh as a driver,” Larson said. “Now, this is only my second race back in Sprint Car since November so there’s some rust there. The Outlaws are just so much more aggressive than the All Stars with double-file restarts and such. It’s the little things you have to perfect to be good with the World of Outlaws.”

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.”