Christian Lundgaard, IndyCar’s newest winner, is optimistic that Rahal Letterman Lanigan Honda will be in the frame in the battle for pole position and for victory this weekend at Portland International Raceway.
The 22-year-old Dane was a significant threat to Team Penske’s dominance in qualifying and the race last year at the 1.964-mile road course in the Pacific Northwest. Only a bad pitstop and a late-race mistake undid his chances of a second career podium, and since then he has savored his first IndyCar victory at Toronto this year, and a couple of pole positions.
No less significantly, he’s seen the Bobby Rahal/David Letterman/Mike Lanigan-owned team improve its form on road and street courses throughout the year, so he believes this weekend’s BITNILE.COM Grand Prix of Portland is another chance to take on Chip Ganassi Racing and Team Penske as equals.
“Sure, the potential is there for us,” he told RACER. “We were a little surprised by our pace here last year, even though [teammate] Graham Rahal was fifth quick in 2021. And now the step forward we’ve taken on road courses this year – and on street circuits, we’re getting there, too – and because we were fast here last year, I think this is now one of the tracks we come expecting to fight for the pole and the win, along with Indy road course.”
One of Lundgaard’s most impressive drives this year – at a time when RLL’s fortunes were at a very low ebb – came at Barber Motorsports Park in April, qualifying and finishing sixth. He believes the team has made a step forward even since then.
“I would say so, yes, because we were definitely more competitive at Road America and Mid-Ohio than we were last year,” he said. “Now we have another two road courses to finish this season, so that’s good. As you say, we were very competitive here last year.
“But I think we’ll be competitive at the last two races – Laguna Seca as well.”
Last year at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, Lundgaard clinched Rookie of the Year honors with a storming drive from 16th on the grid to finish fifth, beaten only by one Ganassi car, two Penskes and an Arrow McLaren.
Lundgaard has earned much kudos this year for appearing always able to wrangle speed out of his car, his onboard footage suggesting that extracting the requisite pace is a struggle. In short, he is overachieving.
But the Dane rejected that notion, saying: “A race car shouldn’t be easy to handle. An easy car is never a fast car and that’s been proven. Only the Penskes look like they’re driving on rails while also being fast, but it’s all about extracting the time from the car, and I think I have been good at that this year at certain tracks, whereas at other tracks it’s been slightly tougher.”