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In the Hot Seat: Benjamin Pedersen

Benjamin Pedersen

Benjamin Pedersen looks to end his rookie campaign on a strong note heading into Portland. (Photo: Luis Torres | The Podium Finish)

It’ll be a homecoming weekend for AJ Foyt Racing’s Benjamin Pedersen, who is two rounds away from wrapping up his first INDYCAR season in the No. 55 Sexton Properties Chevrolet.

Heading into this Sunday’s Grand Prix of Portland, Pedersen has nothing but positive memories to discuss about Portland International Raceway. Specifically, last year’s Indy NXT race came to mind when he captured his maiden win. His jubilation is all you need to know what winning in Portland meant for the Danish-born turned Seattle native.

Although Pedersen has endured growing pains in INDYCAR, including a frustrating Lap 1 exit in last Sunday’s race at Gateway, there have been some positives. Most notably, Pedersen showed a strong, consistent pace throughout the Month of May and in the 107th running of the Indianapolis 500. The 24-year-old qualified 11th, and while a late-race crash ended his day, his overall efforts that month earned him Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year honors.

Outside of getting acclimated in an Indy car, Pedersen shared his passion for pickleball and what makes Portland so unique from a driver and crowd atmosphere perspective.

The Podium Finish caught up with Benjamin Pedersen in the latest edition of The Hot Seat leading up to his home race.

(Editor’s Note: This interview has been edited for clarity)

Luis Torres: We’ll start off with Portland where you’re coming back to the track where you got your Indy NXT, or at the time Indy Lights. What do you just simply remember from that day that has carried on with you?

Benjamin Pedersen: That was a very strong weekend for us last year. We won and we were literally the fastest in every session the whole weekend and kind of just a magical weekend. But I remember every session super clearly and the track very clearly. I’m just looking forward to coming back for INDYCAR now and transferring my knowledge from what I know of that track and giving the best possible result for when we come here.

Torres: With this being a track close to you, what do you feel like atmosphere is gonna be like knowing that the fans will have somebody to root for? Considering you grew up in the Pacific Northwest before moving to the Foyt camp and going to Indiana.

Pedersen: It’s gonna be a very special event as it was last year with the local support and I have a special helmet designed specifically for Portland-Seattle where I grew up only a couple hours away. I’m just looking forward to feeding off that. The vibes for me are always very good there and I really enjoy the track as well. So hopefully we just have a good car to back that up and to deliver a very strong result. So that’s the main focus.

Torres: Portland is unique in a way that compared to other road courses, it’s a flat circuit with a lot of techniques. Everybody likes to talk about Lap 1, Turn 1. A year ago, there wasn’t an incident compared to previous years. What makes Portland so unique? Is it because of the fact that it’s a flat road course?

Pedersen: Yeah, it’s a relatively short track. It’s extremely technical. So the lap times are very close to each other, but I think the drivers can make a big difference with how to get lap time out of the car. I think everyone that drives there really enjoys the flow of the track and usually the weather this time of year is beautiful there. I think everyone’s very excited. I’m definitely very excited and I can’t wait to come back home.

An elated Pedersen after becoming an Indy Lights winner at Portland. (Photo: Luis Torres | The Podium Finish)

Torres: We’re coming near the end of your first year in INDYCAR. What’s been the learning curve? Of course, you’ve had some highlights with the month of May, where you’ve shown competitive speed. Not the result you would’ve liked with the third and final red flag involving you on that restart. What you’ve learned the most this season?

Pedersen: We’ve had very good points throughout the year, like you said. The biggest thing is making sure the car is in the right window from a setup perspective. Everywhere we go, that’s our biggest struggle for both cars, me and (Santino Ferrucci). That’s honestly the biggest hurdle throughout the year is managing that and getting the car in the right window as soon as possible. Where I would say last year in Indy Lights, the car was a lot more constantly right away, extremely quick. Kind of a change in that regard.

Personally being my first year in INDYCAR, I know what changes affect the car a lot more now compared to when I started the year and what the car kind of likes and doesn’t like. So next year, I think we’ll have a completely different experience starting from the preseason and going through another season.

Torres: Most definitely, I normally ask this to several drivers going into race day — how do you get yourself to laser focus? What gets you into the zone? Some drivers will have music, some just have their own train of thought on their own. What is your approach during race day?

Pedersen: Yeah, I think it’s different for everyone. For me, it’s, it’s not anything crazy. It’s not necessarily music or anything, but it’s just feeling the whole energy of wherever it is that we are.

For Portland, it’ll be very special because it’s a home event and then just feeding off the energy, the pre-race ceremonies and just the will to get a strong result is mainly what fuels me and how much work I put into it and how much I love the sport. So, I find it very easy to be motivated in that regard every day.

Torres: When it comes to working with your crew, what has been the morale knowing that you’re coming in as a rookie, but also have the crew of people that are also trying to grow the program, especially from a setup perspective that you mentioned earlier?

Pedersen: Like you’ve said, there’s been very high points throughout the year, especially for sure the month of May was the high. I think everyone really needed that. Then there have been other times where we just frankly are looking for the right answer in a very big way with a setup where both cars are just off pace and we just don’t have the grip that others do.

Everyone’s working really hard to find what this car likes so much in regards to the setup for making grip and trying to show up to any track we go to and be quick right away. That’s kind of the biggest hurdle for us being a small team. So that’s, to answer your question, the biggest thing.

Pedersen was this year’s Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year. (Photo: Luis Torres | The Podium Finish)

Torres: This is a little bit of a fun one, what hobby that you’ve just recently started that you’ve enjoyed doing when time permits?

Pedersen: I really enjoy playing pickleball. Another physical sport that’s pretty easy to play anywhere in the country. So yeah, lots of pickleball. It’s really good for hand-eye coordination. I enjoy playing singles and just like being active, so I really enjoy that.

Torres: You picked it up on your own or is it more or less you caught on with other drivers that also done pickleball? I think several drivers (e.g. Kyle Kirkwood, Colton Herta, Scott McLaughlin and Alex Palou) do it, but I’m curious about that.

Pedersen: Yeah, I think I was one of the first ones in the IndyCar paddock for sure, to start playing it. But I don’t remember how I started playing it. I think it was just with a friend that invited me and then I was hooked and really stayed with it. It’s definitely a sport that’s grown a lot for many people here in the United States. So yeah, I love it.

Torres: Final question, you’ve mentioned the excitement of being at your home track. What would you tell to young aspiring racers growing up in the Northwest? What advice would you give them?

Pedersen: If you’re very passionate about something and you love it, you can achieve it and work really hard for it. It doesn’t really matter where you necessarily grew up in the [United] States in regards to motorsport. You can make it a very long way.

It’s cool that INDYCAR comes to a city like Portland as well where motorsport isn’t necessarily a huge thing. But for Portland, that race has been there for a very long time and and very special to people in motorsport.

With two rounds remaining, Pedersen enters Portland 26th in points. (Photo: Luis Torres | The Podium Finish)

Editor’s Notes

Special thanks to Benjamin Pedersen for taking the time to talk and catch up with The Podium Finish. Also, special thanks to Jack Carney of Green Savoree Racing Promotions for coordinating this interview with Benjamin.

Be sure to keep up-to-date with Benjamin here on The Podium Finish and on his social media accounts on Instagram and X! Also, follow AJ Foyt Racing and their social media accounts on Facebook, Instagram and X! Finally, follow the Grand Prix of Portland on Facebook, Instagram and X!

Throughout my young motorsports media career, my number-one goal is to be a personnel that can be flexible with my writing and photography in the world of NASCAR and INDYCAR. Content delivery is vital because this is my main passion and what keeps me going. On the side, I also do sports production ranging from Seattle Kraken hockey to the 2023 NCAA Women's March Madness. All for the love of the game. With four National Motorsports Press Association photography awards, I'm not slowing down anytime soon. Outside of media, I'm super vocal about my musical tastes that goes from Metallica to HAIM. At times, there might be some Paul Thomas Anderson and Southern California references in my social media.

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