INDIANAPOLIS — Another silly season wrinkle has been confirmed. Benjamin Pedersen was named as one of the drivers for AJ Foyt Racing on Wednesday.
AJ Foyt Racing Team President Larry Foyt has hired Pedersen, the 23-year-old Indy Lights veteran, to drive one of the team’s Chevrolet-powered Indy cars in the 2023 NTT INDYCAR Series.
The agreement spans multiple seasons as the team plans to develop the young rookie and is aligned to a longer-term plan for AJ Foyt Racing.
“I’m super excited to get going with the team,” said Pedersen, a dual citizen (Danish and American) who was born in Copenhagen, Denmark, raised in Seattle, Wash. and is currently living in Indianapolis. “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. INDYCAR has been my target goal since I started open wheel racing in 2016. The racing, atmosphere, fans, events, tracks, etc. are all awesome.”
Foyt’s interest in the young rookie began early in the season when a trusted colleague suggested Pedersen to him. Pedersen and Foyt met, and Pedersen started shadowing the team, which included standing on the No. 14 pit box, monitoring the radio and intercom communication during the practices and races plus sitting in on team meetings.
“We are really looking forward to having Benjamin as part of the team,” Foyt said. “His enthusiasm is infectious, and he is 100% 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.”
Pedersen moves to INDYCAR after two seasons in the Indy Lights Series where he claimed his first pole and victory at Portland (Ore.) International Raceway earlier this month. Having stood on the podium 11 times over the past two seasons, the young Dane spoke about the benefits of having participated in the top rung of the Road to Indy ladder series.
“The Indy Lights Series and car serves as the ultimate transition into INDYCAR,” he offered. “From a series perspective, Indy Lights goes to the INDYCAR events, so we share the same weekend format, points, rules, race director, etc. This makes the transition very natural to INDYCAR as all of these things will stay the same.
“From a car perspective, I can say firsthand that the Indy Lights car is a great car to transition from since it really rewards pushing to a high limit and almost over-driving a bit on the peak of the tire.”
Pedersen, who tested an Indy car for another team several months ago, noted the differences between the two formulas.
“When I had my debut Indy car test a few months ago, it was a very successful day topping the time charts and I found it very natural to transition into the Indy car,” said Pedersen, whose car will operate out of Foyt’s Speedway, Ind. shop. “The biggest differences were the brakes, dampers, tires, and aero. You have a much higher sensation of grip compared to the Indy Lights car and I actually felt the Indy car was a bit easier to drive in many regards. The carbon brakes are the biggest difference, and they allow you to brake so late and hard, and when combined with all the other things mentioned above, it’s nearly impossible to lock the brakes on the initial brake phase due to how much grip there is. It’s just a really enjoyable car to drive that really rewards attacking the brakes and also asking a lot of the tire laterally (side to side).”
The team will begin testing in January as they prepare for the 2023 season which will open on the Streets of St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, March 5th.
A Lot Of Turnover In This 14 Car
Pedersen wasn’t named for the 14 seat but all signs point to him getting it. One of the more iconic numbers in open wheel racing is the 14 car. AJ Foyt took this number for a very successful career. The thing is, since Foyt stepped out of the ride, they’ve struggled to make it competitive on a regular basis again.
This is the 3rd straight year we’ve seen a new driver in this ride with Pedersen the likely replacement, he will be following Sebastien Bourdais (2021) and Kyle Kirkwood (2021). In fact, Pedersen would be the 7th driver in the last 8 years to race this car since 2016.
Takuma Sato (2016)
Carlos Munoz (2017)
Tony Kanaan (2018-2019, part 2020)
Sebastien Bourdais (2020-2021)
Kyle Kirkwood (2022)
Sato is the last one to win for Foyt and this car in general back in Long Beach for the 2013 season. It’s winless in the last 164 races. Can Pedersen change that tune next season?
Pedersen Lands Ride Over Lundqvist
I get the notion that some will say that Linus Lundqvist and Benjamin Pedersen made the same amount of Indy Lights starts with the same team and same equipment, but one is moving up to a full-time INDYCAR ride and the other not.
Lundqvist made 34 starts and won 8 races, 9 poles, had 20 podiums, 30 top 5’s and 34 top 10 finishes among 346 laps led.
Pedersen made the same 34 starts with 1 win, 1 pole, 11 podiums, 16 top 5’s, 31 top 10’s and 36 laps led.
So why one over the other? Well, Lundqvist won the Indy Lights title for HMD and there’s a scenario to where the Swede could move up to an INDYCAR seat with them. More on this in the Silly Season report.
Pedersen has been around Foyt all season and learning from them all year. While this announcement was made just today, it was a foregone conclusion this was happening. Pedersen was a regular on the pit boxes, in the haulers, etc with Foyt.
No News On The 4 Car Yet
I feel like the news that Pedersen is coming aboard but doesn’t have a number tied to him is somewhat telling. It says that Dalton Kellett’s status could go either way. If Kellett was definitely back, I don’t see him changing numbers from 4 to 14 which would put Pedersen into the 14 ride. If he still has a chance of coming back, then Pedersen doesn’t get assigned a number too though as well.
Kellett is still mentioned as one of the potential drivers for the 4 seat but others are too. Kellett I’ve been told is in the mix for other rides even in IMSA for 2023 and that he may go down that route instead.
I’ve also been hearing Santino Ferrucci’s name being mentioned with Foyt which would be a better candidate for the 14 seat than Pedersen.
Most of the 2023 INDYCAR season has been solidified. We know when and where we’re racing. We know Colton Herta isn’t going to F1. We know Alex Palou is staying with Ganassi and Felix Rosenqvist will as a result remain with Arrow McLaren SP.
We know Penske is remaining status quo. So will Andretti Autosport. So will Rahal/Letterman/Lanigan Racing. So will Meyer Shank Racing. So will Ed Carpenter Racing. AMSP has Rosenqvist and Pato O’Ward coming back and Alexander Rossi as the 3rd driver.
That’s 6 teams solidified.
Foyt is set on 1 car and it sounds as if Dalton Kellett may take his funding elsewhere. Don’t sleep on Santino Ferrucci here with him being a prime candidate for the 14 and Pedersen to the 4…
So what’s left?
It’s down to Takuma Sato, Honda, JHR and really Paretta.
JHR looks to be heading towards Agustin Canapino’s direction as the front runner for the seat of the No. 78 Dallara-Chevrolet.
Honda then has a potential 2 engines left. Ganassi had 5 chassis last year, 4 full-time, 1 as Indy only. I don’t see them needing that Indy only anymore and can see them keeping a 4th for Johnson for whenever he wants to race.
So does that 1 open engine go to Dale Coyne Racing? We know both DCR and HMD want to expand to a 2nd team between them and pair it with the already existing Rick Ware Racing car. That’s dependent on an engine and Takuma Sato’s plans. If Sato returns, they want to use a 3rd seat for Linus Lundqvist. If Sato retires, then Lundqvist could move into the 51 and DCR/HMD won’t need that 3rd car after all.
That leaves 1 engine package still left from the old Vasser Sullivan entry.
Paretta wants to grow but I don’t see a scenario with Chevrolet to happen outside of ECR’s help. I know Ed Carpenter wants to race ovals only again so I can see this expanding to ECR/Paretta teaming up for all road/street courses.
Cusick and DragonSpeed want in too.
Is there enough engines to go around in the bow tie camp or should 1 of them look at Honda?
Both Chevy and Honda can produce 18 engines each for the Indy 500 but on a full-time level, they’re really not willing to add much more to the mix. It’s more or less just repurposing the engines that are already out there.
Chevy had 12 full time engines for 2022 and Honda 15. In those numbers, I counted the 3rd ECR engine as well as the 3rd at Foyt engine into Chevy’s allocation because the plan all along was for that Foyt entry to be full-time car anyhow and the 3rd ECR engine was used with Paretta.
On the part-time basis, Chevy engines were a 3rd at AMSP, one at DragonSpeed/Cusick and two at DRR. For Honda, they had 1 extra at Andretti and 1 at Ganassi.
AMSP is moving that 3rd to full-time. JHR is getting that one back from DragonSpeed/Cusick which means DRR holds the keys to the only 2 part-time engines from last year. Chevy could up their full-time engine program to 14 but has 12 accounted for right now (3 for Penske, 3 for AMSP, 2 for ECR, 2 for Foyt, 2 for JHR). Does it move up to 13 with ECR/Paretta? That leaves that 3rd Foyt engine from last year and where does it go?
For part-time, you get up to 15 with DRR’s duo and ECR for Carpenter. So what about the other 3? AMSP could get another engine to use for dare I say, Kyle Busch? That’s 16 engines for May at this point if all comes to fruition.
Honda right now has 14 full-time (4 Andretti, 3 Ganassi, 3 RLL, 2 MSR, 2 DCR). They can go to a 15th depending on Ganassi and DCR.
Andretti will use their part-time one again for Marco Andretti. That’s 16.
Combined, that’s 32 entries basically already known.
DragonSpeed/Cusick could make a run at the other Foyt engine or even AMSP for Kyle Busch? We know where Chevy would obviously like that to go under that scenario. What’s the Top Gun/RC Enerson saga?
Team Penske (3) – All 3 drivers are returning
Arrow McLaren SP (3) – They’ll use all 3 engines full-time next year with O’Ward, Rosenqvist and Rossi in them. Do they get a 4th for Kyle Busch?
Ed Carpenter Racing (3) – Both drivers are back. Ed is likely back on ovals. Do they pair on a grander scale with Paretta for 2023?
AJ Foyt Racing (3) – They had 3 engines this year but will they use all 3 next season?
Juncos Hollinger Racing (2) – They’ll have 2 cars next year with Callum Ilott in 1 of them and a TBA driver in the 2nd car.
Dreyer & Reinbold Racing (2) – I don’t get any indication that they’ll scale back to 1 or 0 cars in 2023 after a strong show this past May. I also don’t get any sense they’ll add more races outside of Indy either.
The Top Gun/RC Enerson saga has 1 engine. AJ Foyt has another but do they use all 3? That leaves 1 engine left. Cusick and Paretta are interested. Can they each secure 1?
Andretti Autosport (5) – They have 4 drivers signed for 2023 and all will be back. I’d expect Marco Andretti to return in the Indy only role again.
Chip Ganassi Racing (4) – I don’t see them running a 5th car for Indy only next year. They can let go of 1 of their chassis/engines now.
Rahal/Letterman/Lanigan Racing (3) – All 3 drivers are back in 2023.
Meyer Shank Racing (2) – They’ll have both drivers back. They’re eyeing expansion but I don’t see how that gets done yet.
Dale Coyne Racing (2) – They’re after a 3rd engine but can they secure it? Malukas is back but is Sato? They could have 1 seat open. If they don’t, then they want a 3rd engine for Linus Lundqvist.
There’s 1 engine left out there (Vasser Sullivan’s) that could be used. Then the rest gets interesting. Does Ganassi drop 1 of their engines and can DCR gain it? Does MSR secure a 3rd one to use part-time?