When Eastside Catholic Crusaders senior Benjamin Pedersen was just eight weeks old, his mother, Helle, took him to a racetrack in Denmark.
Pedersen, who lived in Denmark until his family moved to the United States when he was 4 years old, said he fell in love with the sport shortly thereafter.
“My dad wasn’t even home. He was out of town and he called to see how everything was going. He heard the car sounds in the background and asked my mom what was going on,” Pedersen said with a smile. “I know it’s kind of weird to say, but I think that is where it started to click for me. The sights and smells of being at a racetrack have been part of me ever since then. I have just been super passionate about it.”
In 2016, Pedersen signed his first professional contract to race in the FIA F4 US Championship Series. 2017 will be his second season racing professionally. Pedersen said he is sponsored by the DirtFish Rally School and races for the Global Racing group team.
He believes the world of race car driving is much more formidable than the masses realize.
“You definitely have to strategize. A lot of people don’t realize how physical it is driving a car. You pull up to around two to three times your body weight when you’re braking and turning. There is a huge mental side to it too. Our races are around 30 minutes long so if you are in third place and if you make one small mistake, a train of cars will go past you and then you’re in 10th place all of a sudden,” Pedersen said. “You really have to stay concentrated and can’t make any mistakes. That is a huge part of it. There is so much to learn within the sport. I’m just trying to learn as much as I can all the time.”
Pedersen said the most challenging aspect of being a professional race car driver is the business side of the operation.
“Ninety percent of the time being a professional race car driver is finding sponsors and doing the [public relations] work. The remaining 10 percent you are driving the car. Racing is big business,” he said.
Pedersen is currently in his offseason for racing but is preparing for the 2017 season to begin. The first race of 2017 is on April 8 in Homestead, Florida. Pedersen is planning on competing in races in Texas, Virginia, Ohio and Canada this year as well. The 17-year-old is keenly aware of the opportunity he has in front of him in the world of racing.
“I would definitely say racing is one of my biggest interests. It is one of those things that I’m really striving for to really see where it can take me,” he said. “It is a very unique and special opportunity.”
Pedersen said his parents, Christian and Helle, have played an instrumental role in where he is today.
“We just have a huge passion for racing in general as a family. As long as it has an engine, then we’re fine with it … ” Pedersen said with a smile. “My dad has played such a large role in my life. He teaches me how to approach races, he teaches me the business side behind it and he teaches me how to find sponsors and take care of sponsors. He really has guided me along the way. I’m really humbled by all the people who have helped me along the way. It is just a very humbling experience.”