AJ Foyt Racing signs Benjamin Pedersen to multi-year IndyCar deal, second seat still unclear

Following a particularly tough season where the team’s two full-season drivers finished last and second-to-last in points, AJ Foyt Racing made its first driver announcement of the offseason Wednesday. The team confirmed that Benjamin Pedersen will join its roster in 2023, though Foyt hasn’t yet assigned him a car number, as it continues to mull options for his teammate,

Pedersen, the dual Danish and American citizen who just capped his second season in Indy Lights, signed a multi-year deal, according to the release.

“I’m super excited to get going with the team,” Pedersen said in a release. “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.”

From 2016-20, Pedersen raced in various Formula 4- and Formula 3-level series in the U.S. and Europe before linking his Global Racing Group team with HMD Motorsports. In his first of two Indy Lights seasons, Pedersen logged six podiums across 20 races and finished 4th in points. In Year 2, the 23-year-old finished runner-up in three of his first five races but finished 6th or worse in the next five.

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He stopped his slide with a 3rd-place finish at WWT Raceway, followed by his first career pole and victory at Portland. All the while, Pedersen could often be seen on one of Foyt’s pit stands during shared IndyCar race weekends.

Given Foyt’s minimum of one vacancy due to Kyle Kirkwood’s one-year stint with the team before leaving for Andretti Autosport, Pedersen’s addition seemed like only a matter of time, particularly with the sizable budget he’s known to be capable of bringing.

“We are really looking forward to having Benjamin as part of the team,” team president Larry Foyt said in the release. “His enthusiasm is infectious, and he is 100% committed to IndyCar, AJ Foyt Racing and in doing the best he can to win races."

Where this leaves Foyt, IndyCar Silly Season

After initially starting the 2022 campaign with three full-time cars – the last split between JR Hildebrand and Tatiana Calderon – Foyt dropped down to two at midseason when a primary partner, ROKiT, fell behind on payments. Though Foyt wouldn’t shutdown the idea of three full-time cars in 2023, should it find another primary sponsor, it’s not expected with the scarcity of full-time Chevy engine leases.

A. J. Foyt Enterprises driver Dalton Kellett (4) prepares to get in his car Monday, May 23, 2022, during practice for the 106th running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway
A. J. Foyt Enterprises driver Dalton Kellett (4) prepares to get in his car Monday, May 23, 2022, during practice for the 106th running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Foyt remains in talks with Dalton Kellett about running things back for a fourth season in 2023, though after two seasons finishing last among full-season drivers, its unclear whether both sides will be able to come to terms. Notably, Wednesday’s release from Foyt stated that Pedersen’s IndyCar entry for next year, whether it be the No. 4 or the No. 14, will be run out of the team’s Indianapolis shop. That’s where Kellett's No. 4 car has been located, while the Texas-based shop handled the No. 14 of Sebastien Bourdais (2021) and Kyle Kirkwood (2022).

Should Kellett not return, Foyt will likely have to wait until the other full-season Silly Season holes are filled at Chip Ganassi Racing (No. 48), Dale Coyne Racing (No. 51 and a potential third car) and Juncos Hollinger Racing (No. 78). Earlier this week, Jimmie Johnson announced he won’t return for a second full IndyCar season, leaving the future of his CGR ride uncertain. It's not immediately clear whether Ganassi will fill out a full-season program for the car or not.

Should they opt not to, it opens the door for Coyne to add a third full-time car – likely a second partnered entry with HMD Motorsports. Coyne told IndyStar earlier this week he hopes to get answers on Ganassi’s plans – and in turn Honda’s plans for its final full-season engine lease – in a matter of weeks. Known to be on his radar include his driver in the No. 51 this year, Takuma Sato, as well as Indy Lights champ Linus Lundqvist.

JHR has had Argentinian driver Agustin Canapino in the shop recently in what appeared to be preparation for an upcoming IndyCar test. Should Lundqvist lose out on an opportunity with DCR, he’d likely be on Ricardo Juncos’ short list as well. This year’s 2nd and 3rd-place Indy Lights finishers Sting Ray Robb and Matthew Brabham are also known to be looking for rides for next season, though neither is believed to currently have a full-season budget to offer for a prospective team. Also on the fringes, Stefan Wilson and RC Enerson are actively looking for opportunities with their respective backers, though a series source told IndyStar recently that Foyt turned down an offer from Wilson and his backer Don Cusick for a potential 2023 campaign.

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: IndyCar: AJ Foyt Racing signs Benjamin Pedersen to multi-year deal