Benjamin Pedersen trained for a year for this moment – his first time driving an NTT INDYCAR SERIES car – and it paid off in impressive ways for the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires driver.
Pedersen hopped in a Juncos Hollinger Racing Chevrolet on Monday at Sebring International Raceway and said he turned the fastest lap of the afternoon, besting all three Rahal Letterman Lanigan cars that were also on track during new tire runs at the end of the session.
“It was an awesome day,” Pedersen said. “My first day in an Indy car, and it was probably a very, very good debut for an INDYCAR test day, that's for sure.
“It's very confidence inspiring, but at the end of the day we've put in a lot of hard work. I started training specifically for an Indy car a year ago, knowing that would be the next step, so my physical level in the car yesterday felt really strong. There's been a lot of hard work going into it. So, in that way, it's really nice to see that it paid off.”
Pedersen’s strong afternoon run in Sebring, Florida, came after a solid morning of testing that saw him complete the team’s wish list for the entire day by midday.
From there, Juncos Hollinger Racing used Pedersen to gather data for the rest of the season while also giving him more experience behind the wheel of an NTT INDYCAR SERIES car.
Pedersen has been immersed in AJ Foyt Racing and Kyle Kirkwood’s No. 14 ROKiT Chevrolet team all season. He’s often on the pit stand, and he’s even included in team meetings as he learns the ins-and-outs of North America’s premier open-wheel series.
Pedersen, from Copenhagen, Denmark, acclimated to the more powerful single-seater car very quickly Monday, he said, because of his time this year immersed in the Foyt team, which he called a “massive help.”
If anything surprised him or caught him off guard, it was the powerful carbon brakes of the INDYCAR SERIES car compared to the steel brakes on the Indy Lights car he drives on a weekly basis, where he’s third in the championship, 97 points behind leader Linus Lundqvist.
“You're traveling a lot faster than you are in the Indy Lights car approaching every corner, and the car just slows down so efficiently,” he said. “So, it's getting to know kind of how to use carbon brakes with a lot more aggressive mindset toward how you attack the brakes.
“It just rewards you the harder you attack the brake, and it's really impressive how a heavier car like an Indy car compared to the Lights car is able to slow down with all the aero, the brakes, the tires, the dampers. It's a really impressive feeling.”
Pedersen said he is trying to secure more INDYCAR tests and full-time driving opportunities in the series for 2023. While it’s nothing he is ready to announce now, Pedersen said, “We’re definitely in the works with everything for next year for INDYCAR.”
As for now, Pedersen’s focus is getting back to Indy Lights and trying to score a win in the No. 24 Global Racing Group with HMD Motorsports car, which is back in action this Sunday for the Indy Lights at Mid-Ohio (10:35 a.m. ET, live on Peacock Premium).