BIRMINGHAM, Ala.— Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing had much to smile about Friday afternoon when Christian Lundgaard set the sixth fastest time during practice for the NTT IndyCar Series race at Barber Motorsports Park.
The Danish driver set his best lap of 1 minute, 7.0200 seconds in the No. 45 Honda on his 20th of 22 laps, just 0.359 seconds slower than session leader Scott McLaughlin. The team used one of their testing opportunities in March at Barber to work on their setups and it appears to have paid dividends.
“I think going into this race weekend we knew after our test earlier this season here that we were going to be more competitive, and obviously we proved it now, so I’m happy with that,” Lundgaard said. “But qualifying is tomorrow, the race is on Sunday, that’s what we’re going to focus on.
“We have not had a weekend this year, in my opinion, where we started the weekend off quick enough, just competitive enough, feeling great. I did today. I went straight out and I felt great.”
Lundgaard’s optimism is warranted. In the three IndyCar races so far this season, he placed 25th, 28th and 10th in each race’s opening practice session. The carnage of the season-opener on the streets of St. Petersburg rewarded Lundgaard with a ninth place finish, his best of the season so far.
“From my own experience in St. Pete, we struggled a lot in practice one,” Lundgaard said. “I never really felt like we recovered from that. So this is a great start to the weekend for us, then we’ll see what it leads to.”
Unloading off of the trailer with that kind of pace ahead of Sunday’s Children’s of Alabama Indy Grand Prix gives Lundgaard confidence, especially given his history with the track.
The 2017 Spanish F4 champion first drove an Indy car around the 17-turn, 2.3-mile natural terrain road course back in July of 2021. Lundgaard tested for RLL Racing ahead of a race debut at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, where he qualified fourth.
The second practice session at Barber Motorsports Park will be Saturday at 11:00 a.m. Central time with qualifying at 2:00 p.m. Central time. Both sessions will air live on Peacock with the race airing live on NBC on Sunday at 2:00 p.m., Central time.
Good start to the weekend for @lundgaardoff P6 in practice 1.
#INDYCAR // @RLLracing pic.twitter.com/6CH6XOiMfY
— NTT INDYCAR SERIES (@IndyCar) April 28, 2023