INDIANAPOLIS — After some early season frustrations, Christian Lundgaard set the fastest time during NTT IndyCar Series qualifying for Saturday’s GMR Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
The Danish racer turned a fastest lap of 1 minute, 9.3321 seconds to average 126.643 mph in the No. 45 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda. Lundgaard had to sweat a late charge by Felix Rosenqvist as the Swedish driver turned a lap that was just .0027 seconds slower than Lundgaard’s pole-winning lap around the 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course.
“I was hoping for this, but honestly I wasn’t quite expecting it, so it’s awesome to be here now,” Lundgaard said on pit road. “Every time we come here to IMS, at least this way, we’ve been quick. Coming into this year I was confident. The last time I drove on this track I finished second, I was second in both practice sessions this morning so I wanted to up it one (position) and I did.”
Rosenqvist’s No. 6 Arrrow McLaren Chevrolet was the only car on track as the Firestone Fast Six ended, coming just short of securing his third pole position at the IMS road course.
“I think the Arrow McLaren cars are just super good,” Rosenqvist said on pit road. “Pato and Rossi were always up there all day as well so it just came down to nailing a lap at the end. I made a mistake in the snake, just a little wobble there. I just went for it and I was like all or nothing and a little wobble and kind of set the car up in a bad way for [Turn] 10, but hey, big congrats to Christian.”
Rosenqvist’s lap put him ahead of Alex Palou and Jack Harvey on the second row while Pato O’Ward and Kyle Kirkwood respectively qualified fifth and sixth.
Qualifying began with the field split into their customary two groups for round one, with the fastest six cars in each group advancing to round two. Lundgaard was fastest in the first group ahead of Graham Rahal, Rosenqvist, Marcus Armstrong, Will Power and Marcus Ericsson in sixth.
Group two was full of contenders as O’Ward led Alexander Rossi, Palou, Harvey, Kirkwood and Scott Dixon into the second round. Those failing to advance from group two include Barber Motorsports Park winner Scott McLaughlin, Romain Grosjean and defending IMS road course winner Colton Herta.
In round two, the fastest six drivers advanced to the Firestone Fast Six, leaving positions seven through 12 to Ericsson, Rahal, Dixon, Rossi, Armstrong and Power, respectively.
It was a remarkable turnaround for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing as all three of their cars made the second round of qualifying. The Zionsville, Ind.-based team had only one single-digit qualifying result (Lundgaard in sixth at Barber) all year before going to Indianapolis, where all three cars qualified in the top-10 for the first time since the IndyCar race at Kentucky Speedway in August of 2005.
Lundgaard attributed his change in form to a recent small vacation he took before going to Barber Motorsports Park. The 2017 Spanish F4 champion went to Alabama a few days early before the most recent IndyCar race and played some golf to distract him from the day job.
“My Dad asked me before going to Barber if I could take a different approach to a weekend so you don’t focus too much on the engineering aspect of things,” Lundgaard said. “I drove down to Barber a few days early, played some golf, didn’t think about any racing and we were competitive that weekend, so I mean it worked here as well now. I actually haven’t played any golf lately since Barber so I might need to go play a round tonight before tomorrow.”
That distraction resulted in a sixth place finish at the first permanent road course race of the 2023 IndyCar season.
The GMR Grand Prix will be Saturday, May 13th and will air live on NBC at 3:30 p.m. ET.