As the story goes, Global Racing Group with HMD Motorsports’ Benjamin Pedersen visited his first racetrack when he was only 4 weeks old, beginning a passion for racing that has taken him from his native Denmark to the Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires.
Now, Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires series rookie Pedersen has his ultimate dream, the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, in his sights.
“I can’t think of a better preparation for my ultimate goal or of a better place to be at this point in my career than the Road to Indy,” Pedersen said. “It’s been a natural transition.”
Pedersen, 21, spent much of his youth at Formula One races with his father, Christian. By age 4, he was racing motocross before progressing into karts, then race cars. Through his entire youth, Pedersen never lost sight of his objective.
“Since I started racing cars, my very clear goal was to get to the highest level of open-wheel racing,” Pedersen said. “There’s only two options for that: Formula One in Europe or INDYCAR in America. So, for that reason, when F4 came to the States, it was very appealing at the time, so we pursued that path.
Looking down the F1 road, Pedersen spent several years racing in F4 US Championship Powered by Honda, FR Americas, BRDC British F3 and FIA Formula 3, finishing in the top three in the final standings in the 2018 and 2019 FRA series seasons. He continued racing in British F3, not ready to turn his back on the European route, but always with an eye on the American ladder.
“In hindsight, the Road to Indy path into INDYCAR is so clear – the entire ladder system is much clearer than the road to F1 in Europe,” Pedersen said. “I’m really happy to be here. The Road to Indy family has been so welcoming, and I really like that we share every event and every track with INDYCAR.
‘I’ve known Romain Grosjean for about seven years, since he raced for the Lotus F1 team, and I was spending time with the team (Christian Pedersen was managing director of team partner Microsoft Dynamics). But it’s been great to get to know other drivers this year, like Charlie Kimball, who’s working on the NBC Indy Lights broadcasts. I met Tony Stewart at the Indy 500, and he knew what we were doing. And I’ve gotten to know Oliver Askew and Conor Daly.
“It’s really cool, to have that opportunity. They’ve been so welcoming to all of us drivers who look up to them. So, I can’t think of a better place to be right now.”
Pedersen and his GRG team had two aspects to adjust to in 2021: the Dallara IL-15 and the jump in power to 450 horsepower, and a wide range of both new racetracks and new disciplines, as he had never run either a street race or an oval before this year.
“I’ve moved up quickly in my career, which means I have had to get used to new cars fast, so that’s not a new thing for me,” Pedersen said. “The Dallara is very capable, and it has a lot more of everything than the other cars I’ve raced, but it wasn’t a huge challenge. The biggest thing has been getting used to street courses and the idea of my first oval, which I’m really excited about!”
Another natural transition for Pedersen is his pending move to the Indianapolis area. He and his family live near Seattle, but he’s looking forward to living both near his GRG team and in one of the national capitals of racing.
“I spent the Month of May in Indy and it was such a cool experience, so I’m really looking forward to it,” Pedersen said. “I’ll move at the end of the year, and it will be just another life chapter for me. I’m really excited about it – I know more people in Indy than Seattle now!”
As he continues to progress in his rookie Indy Lights season, Pedersen knows that an NTT INDYCAR SERIES test is not that much further down the road. But with his eyes firmly on the task at hand and the path clear, he’s happy to wait and see what develops.
“It’s a bit early to talk about it, though of course I know it’s the next step,” Pedersen said. “I’m not, not thinking about it, but I’m really focusing on this season, on getting better in the Indy Lights car. I’ve had two podiums (in the first race of the year at Barber and two weeks ago at Road America), and we had really good pace in Detroit – and I felt as though we really put on a good show.
“I’m working on putting qualifying together, but I know we have a good car. I’ll focus on the heat of moment but to get an INDYCAR test toward the end of the year is realistic. It’s great that it’s such a clear path, that there’s no doubt about what’s next, so that makes it easier to focus on what you’re doing right now.
“It also helps that all the INDYCAR team owners know that we’re all the next drivers who will move up to INDYCAR. If your goal is INDYCAR, this is the only place to be.”