The foundational piece for the future of AJ Foyt Racing was put in place at the beginning of the 2022 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season; it just came about in an unexpected way.
Benjamin Pedersen, who was announced by the team in a multiyear deal on Wednesday, spent the majority of the 2022 season atop the timing stand and in engineering debriefs, all while competing in Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires – the top feeder series into the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. The unique situation created a driver-in-waiting program similar to that of an intern, which wasn’t the original intention, according to team president Larry Foyt.
“It kind of just happened organically,” Foyt said. “It was just one of those things where we met each other, and I think there was a mutual interest in working together, and it was like, ‘Hey, look, why don't you come feel the team out and kind of see the way an INDYCAR weekend works and things like that.’ Just as the year progressed and we got to know each other, I think just the desire to work together became more and more, and it was like, ‘Yeah, this could be a really good fit.’ That's just where it kind of happened.”
Additionally, having the Danish-American signed for multiple years provides Foyt and Co. the opportunity to set a proper plan to improve on the team’s expectations moving forward.
“I think it's just been too many changes year to year,” Foyt said of the team’s struggles over the past few seasons. “Like I say, being able to announce this multiyear deal I think is very important for our company, just because you've got … INDYCAR is so tight, everything is so close, that if you can get the right driver and engineer working together, get them to really know each other, and we just haven't been able to put together that consistency. We've had different sponsorships, different engineers and different things over the past couple years.
“That's the biggest thing I'm excited about is getting to work with a driver knowing we're going into a multiyear program, building the program around him, something that suits him. I think that's going to take us a big step forward with the team.”
Pedersen, 23, put together a respectable resume in Indy Lights, recording one win, 11 podiums and one pole in 34 starts over the previous two seasons with Global Racing Group with HMD Motorsports. Although there is a desire to extract the maximum as an NTT INDYCAR SERIES rookie in 2023, the multiyear deal provides an opportunity to evolve.
“I think regardless if it were a one-year or multiple-year, we always want to do the best we can in every area, whether it's strategy or pit stops or qualifying pace,” Pedersen said.
“With a multiyear program, it lets us really build and have a foundation that we can establish that first year. For sure, there will be things that I can do better my first year, being that it is a rookie year in INDYCAR. But that's the beauty of having the multiyear agreement in place. Just trying to think of the long term within the program and making the car better, making myself better, the team better.
“It's pretty cool to be in an underdog position because you can only go forward with that. I'm really excited to be a part of that.”