Marc Marquez returns from MotoGP injury to COTA, a track he’s dominated

Marquez returns MotoGP COTA
Jose Breton / Getty Images

With his confidence level diminished by a brutal crash in Round 2 of the MotoGP season, Marc Marquez makes his return from injury to the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas, a track on which he has seven wins in eight events. The only MotoGP race Marquez has not won in the history of the United States Grand Prix went to Alex Rins in 2019.

Anyone who has not yet seen the crash of Marquez high siding off his Honda in warmups for the Indonesian Grand Prix will need to shoo the children from the room and brace before clicking on the Twitter link below. Marquez was unable to mount up for that race and missed last week’s Argentina Grand Prix, but his quick return to the bike is a testament to the protective gear used by MotoGP.

Marquez finished fifth in the season opening Grand Prix of Qatar. With 11, he is 34 points out of first with 17 rounds remaining and has a step hill to climb if he wants to repeat his 2019 championship. For this weekend, the most important goal is to regain his comfort on the bike.

“I’m happy to be here and to race again – to be fit again, this is important,” Marquez said in a Friday press conference from the track. “It’s true that the confidence is not very high at the moment. I have a good memory of (the crash), but we arrive at a very big moment from a very big crash. A bit injured, but I (am back) from that injury earlier than I expected.

“Step by step. It’s time to rebuild the confidence and time to ride the bike again.”

Marquez beat eventual champion Fabio Quartararo to the line by more than four seconds.

And he has not lost much speed. In the first practice session of the weekend, Marquez posted the fifth fastest lap of 2:04.469, less than half a second off the leader’s pace.

The fastest rider in that session was the only man to beat Marquez at COTA. Rins posted a lap of 02:04.007.

Last week’s Argentina Grand Prix winner, Aleix Esparago is looking forward to the United States Grand Prix to continue his momentum.

“After the victory, on the flight coming to America with my friend, I was thinking that after a long career in the championship – more than half my life in the paddock – I was not able to win,” Esparago said. “After the victory in Argentina, we have to make it memorable, so we got a new tattoo with the date of the victory. I think it’s a very good way to understand how difficult it was so that we will never forget.”

Raúl Fernández won in Moto2, but it was a great day for fifth-place American Cameron Beaubier, who scored the first top-five on his home circuit. He went on to score another top-five two weeks later in Portimão, Portugal.

Joe Roberts was not quite as fortunate in this race last season. He finished 18th, 32 seconds behind the leader.

Last year for Beaubier was up and down. His five top-10s were evenly distributed throughout the season. Roberts scored five of his six top-10s in the first seven rounds before finishing outside the top 15 in three of the final five races.

So far in 2022, Roberts has finished between eighth and 13th. Beaubier’s results are even more closely grouped, between ninth and 12th.

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.”