Benjamin Pedersen is making his NTT INDYCAR SERIES debut this weekend in the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding, driving the No. 55 AJ Foyt Racing/Sexton Properties Chevrolet of AJ Foyt Racing. The 23-year-old Danish-American, who competed last year in INDY NXT by Firestone, has an interesting background, having been raised in Seattle since he was 4.
Q: What will be the things you need to focus on as a series rookie?
Benjamin Pedersen: (This) is my first INDYCAR race, but I do have experience at this track running in INDY NXT last year, which was a big help. We had good success last year with a podium (finishing second), and I want to carry that positive energy into this race and just do the best job we can as a team. That said, the big things to accomplish as a rookie are finishing the race, getting the experience of doing a full-distance INDYCAR SERIES race and maximizing the car we have as a team. The most important things for me to focus on are the new things I will experience making the jump to INDYCAR, including pit stops, the in-and-out laps on pit stops – those are new to me -- saving fuel, and applying strategy.
Q: What was your first exposure to racing?
BP: Even though I don't remember it, I was at a racetrack for the first time when my mom took me -- I was only 6 weeks old in Denmark. I always joke that that's when it started, even though I don't remember it. My dad wasn't even home. We went to support a family member.
Q: Do you remember the first race you attended as a youngster where you knew what was going on?
BP: It was a Formula One race in Silverstone, which is a pretty cool event to go to for your first-ever race experience. I think it was 2012.
Q: When did you know you wanted to race cars for a living?
BP: I knew that from the time I was 15 when I started going into car racing. I have always had a huge passion for racing, and at that time I knew this was where I wanted to make my living. It was a no-brainer for me to make this decision when I got the opportunity to pursue it.
Q: How have you prepared in the offseason for your first year competing in INDYCAR?
BP: It would be a long list of things I have done to prepare and really went in depth. First of all, last year I was with AJ Foyt Racing at every opportunity I had to shadow the team while I was still competing full-time in INDY NXT. So, the preparations had already started a year ago in that regard. I was basically a driver for A.J. Foyt’s team, but I just didn't drive the race car. I was a part of every meeting and spent as much time with the team as I could. Training has been a big part of my preparation, doing some different forms of training, plus heat training and enduring longer training sessions. I have done a lot of (simulator) time. I have also been spending as much time with the team at the shop as possible, whether it has been doing pit stop practice or going through everything we can together to build a foundation for this season. There are so many things that have gone into this year in preparing for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES.
Q: What has surprised you the most after getting to know A.J. Foyt?
BP: A.J.'s memory is incredible. You can ask him about any event, and he can go on for hours about it from everything to the setup they ran to what happened in the race. The fact he can remember every little detail is so impressive.
Q: What are you most looking forward to this year?
BP: I am looking forward to working with a brand-new team (to me), seeing how INDYCAR works from a strategy perspective, pit stops, just everything about it and understanding how it plays out compared to any junior formulas that I have done. Honestly, I'm just looking forward to driving. That is what I love the most.
Q: Being fluent in Danish but living in America since age 4, how do you remain fluent?
BP: I speak Danish with my parents. We talk every day, and that is our way of communication primarily. Growing up with Danish in the household, it was very natural for me to go back and forth between Danish and English without even thinking about it.
Q: What is your favorite Danish food that you’d like to introduce to fans?
BP: Denmark is well known for pastries. There is one called the Danish Kringle, which is one of my favorite things. It's like an almond croissant.
NBC, Peacock and Telemundo Deportes on Universo will air Sunday’s season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding beginning at noon ET.