Lundgaard leads RLL revival in Indianapolis Grand Prix qualifying
Graham Rahal had a feeling the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team would show something different at the Indianapolis Grand Prix, and he was 100 percent correct as the three-car squad secured pole, fourth, and eight for Saturday’s 85-lap race.
Within RLL, it was Christian Lundgaard who was applying his first pole sticker on the rear wing endplate of the No. 45 Honda thanks to a lap of 1m09.3321s to lead a ridiculously close group in the Firestone Fast Six session. Arrow McLaren’s Felix Rosenqvist was just 0.0027s shy of matching Lundgaard with the No. 6 Chevrolet and Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou was only a fraction of a second behind the Dane — 0.0459s — in the No. 10 Honda.
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“What a great day to be in America,” Lundgaard said. “Once these days come, we expect to be here. And we need to reward ourselves. We also need to keep in mind that the race is tomorrow and we’d be pretty disappointed if we were second tomorrow.”
Jack Harvey in the No. 30 RLL Honda was less than 0.1s behind Lundgaard with a lap that was 0.0899s off pole, which secured fourth on the grid. The rest of the Fast Six was rounded out by Arrow McLaren’s Pato O’Ward in the No. 5 Chevy (+0.2102s) and Andretti Autosport’s Kyle Kirkwood, whose No. 27 Honda (+0.2971s) was well clear of his teammates who were 14th or lower.
Although Palou was the only Ganassi driver in the top six, the rest of the quartet wasn’t far behind with Marcus Ericsson (seventh), Scott Dixon (ninth), and Marcus Armstrong (11th) in decent starting spots. The same was true for Arrow McLaren’s Alexander Rossi (10th), as the entire RLL, McLaren, and CGR organizations placed all 10 drivers in the top 11. Team Penske’s Will Power capped the Fast 12 as the outfit fell well short of expectations with Josef Newgarden (13th) and Scott McLaughlin (16th) finding themselves with a lot of passing to do.
The biggest ballad of frustration was sung by a sizable group that included the A.J. Foyt Racing, Dale Coyne Racing, Ed Carpenter Racing, Juncos Hollinger Racing, and Meyer Shank Racing teams. Collectively, their 10 drivers missed out on making it into the Firestone Fast 12 and took every starting position between 17th and 27th, barring P18, which was claimed by a cursing Romain Grosjean from Andretti Autosport.
The opening round of knockout qualifying separated 13 drivers into haves and have nots, with the fastest six, led by Lundgaard, Rahal, Rosenqvist, Power, Armstrong and Ericsson as those who made it through to the next round.
The surprise was reserved for Newgarden, who was knocked out on the final lap by Rosenqvist. Along with Newgarden (who starts 13th), Devlin DeFrancesco (15th), Rinus VeeKay (17th), Simon Pagenaud (19th), Conor Daly (21th), Benjamin Pedersen (23th), and Agustin Canapino (25th) were locked into their positions.
The remainder of the field saw its 14 drivers pared down to six with O’Ward, Rossi, Palou, Harvey, Kirkwood and Dixon moving into the Fast 12. Like Newgarden, there were a number of surprises among those who were knocked out, led by defending race winner Colton Herta (14th), Scott McLaughlin (16th), Grosjean (18th), David Malukas (20th), Sting Ray Robb (22th), Callum Ilott (24th), Helio Castroneves (26th), and Santino Ferrucci (27th).
The Fast 12 was led by Palou, Lundgaard, O’Ward, Rosenqvist, Harvey and Kirkwood, who knocked Ericsson out on his final lap. Behind Ericsson (seventh), it was Rahal, Dixon, Rossi, Armstrong and Power.
An incredible battle for pole ensued and just as it looked like Rosenqvist would nab his second of the young season, Lundgaard spoiled his plans.
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