INDIANAPOLIS — Will Power could barely see second place finisher Christian Lundgaard ahead of him at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
The Danish rookie started sixth out of 25 cars and finished second for his first career IndyCar Series podium finish. Alexander Rossi won by 3.5441 seconds ahead of Lundgaard, snapping an 1,133 day winless streak in Saturday’s Gallagher Grand Prix.
Lundgaard was 11.304 seconds ahead of Power on the road after 85 laps on the 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course.
“I could only see him as a dot in the distance. He took off. He was too fast,” Power said of Lundgaard in the post-race press conference.
The 2017 Spanish F4 champion climbed from sixth to fourth at the start of the race, nearly getting third from Josef Newgarden. Lundgaard moved to third place in his first stint before pitting on Lap 14. Lundgaard was third again after the drivers that pitted under the first caution period pitted under green.
The Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing crew’s strategy changed in a heartbeat. Simon Pagenaud ran out of fuel and stalled on Lap 35 near Turn 10. The No. 30 Honda had to pit the following lap before race control called for a full course caution, closing the pits.
Lundgaard was third behind Colton Herta and Rossi before Herta drove too far over the Turn 8 curb on Lap 42. That curb damaged the clutch, causing the No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda to slow dramatically.
Rossi now led Lundgaard and steadily grew his race lead once lapped traffic was no longer in the way. The 2016 Indianapolis 500 winner brought his car to victory lane to end what was a near-perfect weekend.
This was Lundgaard’s first podium finish in his 14th IndyCar start, a year after qualifying fourth on debut at the IMS road course last August. It was also Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s first podium since Texas in May of 2021.
“We knew coming into this weekend that this was the track we were going to be at least the most competitive at, together with perhaps Toronto where we ended up being very competitive,” Lundgaard said. “We came into this event knowing we were going to have a car that was able to finish in the good end of the top 10.”
“I wouldn’t say we overachieved, but we for sure got everything out of the package we had.”
Lundgaard was adamant that he and the team had to execute, especially after his second race at Iowa Speedway ended prematurely with a brake issue. After Lundgaard was not pleased with his setup in Friday’s practice session, the crew put on last year’s setup for the summer race at IMS.
The first #INDYCAR podium for rookie @lundgaardoff.
Listen to the pilot of the No. 30 car.#GallagherGP // @IMS // @FollowAndretti pic.twitter.com/qontGwqr4S
— NTT INDYCAR SERIES (@IndyCar) July 30, 2022
“That specific car is a car I developed myself with absolutely no knowledge,” Lundgaard said. “I came in last year and just qualified this car, and it seemed to be quick. Keeping that car for this year I think was a benefit for us and for me myself knowing the car very well. We have tried to bring it to other tracks and it didn’t seem to work, so that’s something we need to figure out.”
Lundgaard’s result moves him up one spot to 15th place in points and he still leads the IndyCar Rookie of the Year standings. That result also gave the race winner an opportunity to compliment the 21-year-old.
“Everyone in this series is good enough to go out there and win a race, so you’ve got to treat them as if it’s Scott (Dixon) or Josef (Newgarden) or Will (Power),” Rossi said. “It doesn’t matter, you can’t take anything for granted. (Lundgaard) made sure that he kept the pressure on all race. Like, we were a fast car, and he kept the gap between two and four seconds. So, a huge hats off to Christian and RLL and the effort that they did, and to get a Honda one-two is pretty cool.”
The next IndyCar Series race is the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix on the streets of Nashville on Sunday, August 7th. The live NBC broadcast starts at 3:00 p.m. ET with the race starting 30 minutes later.