Wednesday, September 21, 2022

"Less Is More" Describes The Intrigue In The 2022 NTT INDYCAR SERIES Championship Season

Australian born Will Power ascends the throne as king in the House Of Penske as he ascends a throne in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES to become the all-time record-holder in the number of pre-race pole positions achieved - eclipsing Mario Andretti's 67 Pole positions (1997 Michigan International Raceway) at number 68 - in the highest level of professional open-wheel racing out of North America. Here Power is about to climb out of his Team Penske prepared Chevrolet-Powered, Firestone clad Dallara while he zips up his driving suit before meeting the media for photos and interviews. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2022) 

"Less Is More" Describes The Intrigue In The 2022 NTT INDYCAR SERIES Championship Season

Yes! House Of Penske driver Will Power won a second series season championship in his stellar professional open-wheel racing career.  

Many, including Will himself, attributes the application of a different attitude he decided to bring to the work process and the track each event weekend during the course of a 17 race season that just concluded at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey. This overarching template in his professional approach could be labelled ... Less Is More.

The Lord of the House Of Penske, Roger Penske, congratulates the Verizon 5G team in it's accomplishment to help Will Power achieve capturing his 68th NTT P1 Pole Award setting a record that, if history is any indicator, may last another nearly 30 years. Mario Andretti set the mark of 67 P1 Pole Awards in 1993 at the age of 54, whereas Will Power set this modern day mark as he is in his 41st year circling the Sun ... where will his record-setting mark end? Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2022)

For example, take the results found at the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey ... after he smoked the field in the three round Knockout Qualifications format and landed a record-setting 68th NTT P1 Pole Award - Chip Ganassi Racing's Alex Palou wins the race followed by Penske Racing's Josef Newgarden who started P25 and is P2 ... Will Power finishes P3, he didn't have to win at all costs and captures his 2nd NTT INDYCAR SERIES Championship with only one win in 17 races, but always finishing and finishing high - Less Is More.

It became a talking-point throughout this season that Will seemed to be sporting a less intense, less critical, less abrasive presence (to himself) as he would pursue his duties as one of three very expert drivers racing open-wheel cars for Team Penske. Power's House Of Penske teammates are second year driver and 2021 Indianapolis 500 as well as NTT INDYCAR SERIES Rookie of the Year New Zealand born Scott McLaughlin and American born two-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion, claiming titles in 2017 his first season with Team Penske and again in 2019 Josef Newgarden.


In the post-race interview, Will probably summed it up best when he answered this query:

Q. I wanted to ask when you decided to go to this playing the long game thing, were they fully behind you doing that, or were there days when Dave or Robby or Ron were like, s--- we could have won that race?

WILL POWER: "Look, you're never disappointed. Looking from a championship perspective, every time you get a podium, that's not the day you're looking back on it. You're looking back on the day you finished 19th like at Road America. They're the days that lose championships. Top threes don't. We got a lot of them this year. Anytime I got a top four, I was pretty happy.

But in the past I would have been really pissed off. When your teammates are winning, that was a big change. It's like, I don't care. I'm going to weather their storm while they're having a good run, and just -- that in itself was a mental change. It's like, I'm not getting pissed off with a top four, where before I would have been, just after the race, just seething." - Less Is More.

Will Power begins his run down the front straight after negotiating Turn 11 at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. This is the last time these cars will be racing on this surface since the famed track that features a turn known as "The Corkscrew" will all be repaved and become a track with a different, grippier personality. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2022)

Throughout the season, especially just beyond the halfway point, the story wasn't how many multiple times a driver won the NTT P1 Pole Award position to start the race(s) in an event weekend, no, the story was far from this occurrence, since there wasn't a repeat pole winner through the first nine race events in a seventeen race season. No repeat P1 Pole Award in 9 race events - Less Is More.

Speaking of competitiveness, especially given the NTT INDYCAR SERIES racing platform formula applied for potentials of equal performance, Will Power noted in the following exchange:

Q. When you look at it today and just using Dixon as the example as someone who qualifies midfield and you're just further up the road, again, it's that same thing, the series is so equal, people look at it and go, he's midfield but it's thousands of seconds separating you guys in qualifying.

WILL POWER: It is. When we were at Portland, It was like seven tenths covered 20 cars. Seven tenths covering 20 cars. You're never going to see that in something like Formula 1. Never. It's the ultimate driver's series. It's the ultimate driver's series." - Less Is More.

In this post Portland driver's ranking by points, it is interesting to note that the driver that will not have a mathematical chance at winning the season championship is the reigning 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES Season Champion Alex Palou. At the time he was going to compete in the last race of the season, he had contract commitments with two teams, his current contract with Chip Ganassi Racing and Arrow McLaren SP. At the end of the season, Alex is hoping to be in a position where Less Is More. UPDATE - Alex Palou agrees to remain at Chip Ganassi Racing driving the No. 10 Honda-Dallara for the 2023 season with the added provision that he is free to participate in a Formula 1 driver's test outside of his NTT INDYCAR SERIES obligations - Less Became More. Image Credit: NCIS (2022)

Take this example of the competition between teams. 

Before the last race of the 2022 season in Monterey, California, a very proper and kind mutual admiration society broke out in a ZOOM Call between the top operations managers of the two teams that had drivers that were mathematically viable to win the 2022 NTT INDYCAR SERIES Season Championship. 

To be clear, Penske Racing's Tim Cindric and Chip Ganassi Racing's (CGR) Mike Hull had a lot of professional clout at stake in the then upcoming challenge to close out the season. Will Power led the points chase at the time with a tied 20 point margin over two drivers, his teammate Josef Newgarden and CGR 6 time NTT INDYCAR Champion Scott Dixon. The other two drivers in contention in order are CGR's and winner of INDYCAR's biggest event prize, the 106th Indianapolis 500, Marcus Ericsson at 39 points behind and another Team Penske teammate second season driver Scott McLaughlin at 41 points to overcome. 

Again, a lot of professional clout to manage.

<<< Pre-Finale ZOOM Call Press Conference >>>

The most interesting part of the conversation Tim and Mike shared with each other was found in the following exchange:

Q. Because of what's at stake here, the respect level, the rivalry, is it a situation where the two of you can be friendly but you can't really be friends until maybe your careers are over?

MIKE HULL: My career is closer than Tim's into being over, I'll say that (smiling).

TIM CINDRIC: If we don't win on Sunday, Mike, I might call you for a job (laughter).

MIKE HULL: Or vice versa. Maybe I'll think about a second career.

Tim and I had a go at each other a few years at Edmonton. That taught me something. It taught me that I was too intense. Since that time I've learned that the respect comes in the results.

Tim, I hope I don't have to call you up. I've got your number. I hope you don't see a call from me Sunday afternoon at 4:00 (smiling).

I'm just thankful and looking forward to this thing. I never thought I'd be lucky enough to be in a position to be able to say that.

I know you're the same. You grew up around motor racing. I did, too, in different decades. We're now in the same decade together and this is a lot of fun.
ENDS

With all that was on the line, both needed their drivers to win the race, an impossibility, but in the end these two giants in racing didn't have to call one another for a job - they just split the difference. 

Mike Hull took the race win with the reigning 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES Season Champion Alex Palou, and while Tim Cindric didn't win the race, he placed two drivers on the podium with Josef Newgarden at P2 and Will Power at P3 thereby secures the 2022 NTT INDYCAR SERIES Season Championship, with 16 points to spare, and will take home the Astor Cup for the second time - Less Is More.

The Astor Cup, the grand prize for winning the NTT INDYCAR SERIES Season Championship, sits atop the famed turn known as The Corkscrew. Will Power holds this prize the day after he finished on the Podium at P3 to finish the 2022 season (a season for the ages) by just 16 points away from his nearest competitor after beginning the race weekend with a 20 point margin - Less Is More. Image Credit: WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca via FB/META (2022)

Think about the NTT INDYCAR SERIES sanctioning body itself. 

This was a year that was able to see many high points. All broadcasts and live streaming were carried exclusively through NBC Universal broadcast properties. The growing popularity of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES was reflected in the most-watched season in six years on television, with viewership up 5 percent over 2021. The season averaged a Total Audience Delivery of 1.30 million viewers across NBC, USA Network, Peacock and NBC Sports digital platforms, the best in NBC Sports history.

Half of the season’s 16 races on television delivered more than 1 million viewers, the highest mark since 2008. A record 14 of 17 races were on NBC network television in 2022, and selected series races also were televised by Telemundo Deportes on Universo.

This was the most streamed INDYCAR season on record as well, with exponential growth compared to 2021. A series race, the Honda Indy Toronto, was streamed exclusively for the first time, and the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge was the most streamed INDYCAR SERIES race ever. 

Having a single corporate broadcast/streaming partner with many recognizable portals allowed fans to find a presentation of an INDYCAR event featured on most any weekend during the season as opposed to having to look up which broadcast partner might be carrying content ... so access was assumptively simple as being at one's controller or fingertips - Less Is More.

Lastly, there was a grand event venue success though the focus on sponsorship and promotion by a primary sponsor to the race weekend. 

Perhaps the biggest success story of the 2022 schedule was the revitalization of INDYCAR racing at Iowa Speedway after a one-year COVID Protocol hiatus. The Hy-Vee INDYCAR Race Weekend featured a doubleheader for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES and a single event for Indy Lights on the fast oval. A successful promotion with enthusiastic title partner Hy-Vee, which included four concerts with country and pop music superstars at the track, resulted in big crowds despite stifling summer heat. 

A single stand-out sponsor based upon the marketing of high-turnover consumer goods, that took control of all of the trappings of an INDYCAR event weekend, beyond being just a title sponsor, delivered measurable results - Less Is More.
[ht: WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, Penske Entertainment, NCIS, The Comeback]


Looking forward to next season, are we seeing additional opportunities to implement a lesser path so as to deliver more and more benefits to the drivers, teams, sponsors and the overall series sanctioning body? 

With the announcement that the NTT INDYCAR SERIES plans on holding a test at Southern California's premiere private racing facility in the Coachella Valley town of Thermal - The Thermal Club, utilized by MotoAmerica, BMW, Truspeed AutosportGMG Motorsports, various driver development operations, and of course ... just plain motorsports enthusiast who would rather drive a car than drive a ball (as in golf). 

A pre-season test by INDYCAR on "Private Pavements" located at a private racing facility as opposed to a recognized event track raced during a championship season - Less Is More.

... notes from The EDJE


FEATURED ARTICLE >>>







TAGS: NTT INDYCAR SERIES, 2022, WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, Will Power, Roger Penske, Team Penske, House Of Penske, Chip Ganassi Racing, Mike Hull, Tim Cindric, The Thermal Club, The EDJE

Sunday, September 4, 2022

NTT INDYCAR SERIES Rookie Of The Year Conversations With Lundgaard, Malukas, & IndyLights Lunqvist In Tow

Linus Lundqvist, David Malukas, & Christian Lundgaard pictured here (L to R) as they were coming through the Eurpoean training ground series in Portugal (2016). Image Credit: NTT INDYCAR SERIES and Penske Entertainment via ZOOM Call (2022)

NTT INDYCAR SERIES Rookie Of The Year Conversations With Lundgaard, Malukas, & IndyLights Lunqvist In Tow

With two races left to be run at Portland and Laguna Seca (both very different dedicated road courses), the NTT INDYCAR SERIES finds itself with the most competitive championship points race given the points system that has been at play for the last 20 years. This level of competitiveness has further trickled down to the entry level drivers who are also in a tight points gathering championship primarily waged between Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing's Christian Lundgaard and DALE COYNE RACING W/ HMD MOTORSPORTS' David Malukas.

As we look into the coming challenge at the short road course at Portland International Raceway, the NTT INDYCAR SERIES held an interactive digital press conference via ZOOM Call with these two contenders for Rookie Of The Year and a competitive friend of theirs who happens to be leading the IndyLights feeders racing series points championship where the spoils include a scholarship funding for a seat within the NTT INDYCAR SERIES for 2023 - HMD MOTORSPORTS W/ DALE COYNE's Linus Lundqvist.

NTT INDYCAR SERIES Moderator David Furst commences ZOOM Call press conference between the gathered online motorsports press and Swedish born Christian Lundgaard, American David Malukas, and Linus Lundqvist who also ahils from Sweeden [click image to launch ZOOM Call video]Image Credit: NTT INDYCAR SERIES and Penske Entertainment via ZOOM Call (2022)

NTT INDYCAR SERIES News Conference - Wednesday, August 31, 2022
Christian Lundgaard | David Malukas | Linus Lundqvist
Press Conference

THE MODERATOR: Welcome, everyone. This weekend the penultimate round of the 2022 INDYCAR SERIES championship. Both series head to Portland International Raceway for the Grand Prix of Portland. We have a group of INDYCAR's next generation today.

One leads the Rookie of the Year standings with six top 10s and a second on the IMS road course this summer, great to have Christian Lundgaard.

Meanwhile the other driver, just 11 points behind in the Rookie of the Year battle, third closest rookie battle in the last 10 years, coming off an incredibly impressive second-place finish, it's David Malukas.

Our third guest is competing in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES next season. Got a shot at clinching the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires championship this Sunday. He's up by 108 points or more, we welcome in Linus Lundqvist.

To all three, thanks for doing this today. Should be a lot of fun.

Let's start with Christian. Two races remain, coming off the test at Laguna Seca Monday. How do you feel heading into the final two races?

CHRISTIAN LUNDGAARD: Yeah, looking at the test at Laguna, I wasn't as comfortable as Graham. We never really seemed to have the pace that we wanted to have. Looking at the whole season, I think we've been more comfortable on street circuits and road courses that we have on ovals for different reasons. We didn't have a very good race in St. Louis. Again, Graham seemed to have the pace. The car seemed to be quite edgy there.

We need to make the most of it. David is on our tail. We got the last the last two races and have to score the maximum points we can. I'm sure we will have a good end to the season.

THE MODERATOR: David, pretty clear your genuine excitement about a podium at World Wide Technology Raceway afterwards. How much momentum has that given yourself and the team as you head to the final two?

DAVID MALUKAS: I feel like ever since the month of May came around, I feel like that's when we kind of flipped a switch, starting getting a lot better with the car, strategy, the racing, continued to go forward.

After getting podium, having a really good race there and at Gateway, I think it's only helped it that much more.

We also had a really good test at Laguna on Monday. I don't know. I feel like this West Coast swing might be good for us. It's been so tight. The field is just so strong. It's like we're going to still have to be at 110% if we want to get anything done.

THE MODERATOR: I have a picture I'm going to try to share.

CHRISTIAN LUNDGAARD: I know what this is (smiling).

DAVID MALUKAS: I have a feeling.

THE MODERATOR: Does this look familiar?

DAVID MALUKAS: The guy in the middle is pretty good looking.

CHRISTIAN LUNDGAARD: It's Portugal.

THE MODERATOR: How did that weekend go? What's the story behind this? Obviously you have a friendship that has lasted. Tell me the year.

CHRISTIAN LUNDGAARD: 2016.

DAVID MALUKAS: 2016.

CHRISTIAN LUNDGAARD: Actually, as you can see, me and Rasmus Lindh were in the same team. What was the team called?

DAVID MALUKAS: Yeah, we kind of had like a BN Racing deal. We were stationed inside the Ricardo tent.

CHRISTIAN LUNDGAARD: I can't remember how this weekend went.

DAVID MALUKAS: I can't really remember much. I just, yeah, remember we had a good time. That was it. We were good buds back in the day.

There's another picture somewhere of him throwing me in the air.

CHRISTIAN LUNDGAARD: That was the last race of the European championship. I remember that.

THE MODERATOR: Good you have these memories that go back many years. Would you call it a friendship?

CHRISTIAN LUNDGAARD: I wouldn't say we've become enemies, for sure.

DAVID MALUKAS: Yeah. Let's just say, like, when I heard that Christian Lundgaard was going into the INDYCAR SERIES, I was like god dammit, that's going to be really tough (laughter).

CHRISTIAN LUNDGAARD: I know your mom is a big fan. You said that to me earlier this season. I remember you told me your mom was a big fan of me, she was following all the European races.

DAVID MALUKAS: Yeah, she follows all the stuff. She's a big Newgarden fan. I don't know if you'll be able to beat that (smiling).

THE MODERATOR: Linus, congratulations on a very dominant Indy Lights season. Five wins, eight podiums, six poles. You took over the points lead at Barber and never looked back. What will it take to wrap up the championship on Sunday?

LINUS LUNDQVIST: Yeah, we've had a great season. Obviously looking forward to the West Coast races now. Obviously we have a good margin. But we're still here to win a couple more races, what we enjoy doing. That's definitely the target. It seems to be the best way to try to win the championship as well, is to win races.

We'll see. Obviously you look a little bit at the points. Obviously you play it on the safe side. We'll see how it goes.

I think Portland was a strong track for us last year. David got double pole, because I got double seconds unfortunately. We'll see what we can do this year.

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

<<< Questions Asked By Motorsports Journal's Edmund Jenks >>>

Q. We're going into the final two races of the season. As many as six or eight people going for a championship.

THE MODERATOR: Seven are mathematically alive.

Q. You have the season card and the rookie card. Given that, team dynamics, do you see the team helping your direct effort over the last two races given how they've treated you the whole beginning of the season?

CHRISTIAN LUNDGAARD: I mean, I think the team has treated me well. I mean, we got a podium at the GP, so it can't be that bad, for sure.

I mean, we've had our ups and downs. I think as a team we struggled in the beginning of the season. We weren't as strong as we were hoping to be. We bounced back.

I think, like David said earlier, kind of as May came, the month of May, after the 500 I think we sort of took a step forward, improved the second half of the season.

Obviously Gateway wasn't our best of weekends. But I think up until then we had a really good sort of streak going. We were moving in the right direction. Road America, Mid-Ohio, we were moving forward. We came to the GP and we were there. Even Iowa we had a pretty good weekend. Didn't qualify as well. Had an issue on the car the Sunday race, which was a bit unfortunate, didn't score any points.

The team has treated me well. They've given me the opportunity, all the tools I need to sort myself out. As a team I think we'll all hope for the last two weekends to have as good a package as we've had at the later GPs.

Q. I guess what I'm asking, given the way they treat you on the track, do you expect to have softer elbows on the track being thrown at you in order to maybe aid you in the rookie championship?

CHRISTIAN LUNDGAARD: I don't think they're going to make it any harder on me than necessary, for sure. Obviously the easy answer is qualify ahead of them and just stay ahead of them. That's the easy solution.

No, I think Graham was extremely strong at the Laguna test on Monday. I need to find some time there. But overall I think both drivers have been helpful to me on and off track. I don't think there's been any scramble there. I know that me and Graham had contact earlier in the season. But no hard feelings. It happens. Obviously it's not preferred from the team's perspective. We moved on, we learned from it.

Q. David, how do you feel with Taku, his ability to throw elbows?

DAVID MALUKAS: Taku has been so much help to me this entire season. Going into these last two, nothing is really going to change. I'm trying to get as much information from him as possible.

Setup-wise our cars are actually quite similar so we can share each other's data and work off of each other.

On track, any time I go around him, he knows what he's doing. He's tough to get around, especially on the ovals. I was struggling in that move on Gateway. He really forced me to go wide in three and four. I was holding onto my breath.

It's all still friendly play. The only time we had a bit of a mishap was Texas. I was still doing rookie mistakes. Came out of the pits and stalled. That was the time he came in. I completely ruined his race. He didn't really like that.

We moved on from that. I was like, Just take your pit box away from me, it's all going to be okay. We have a really good friendship with each other. For my rookie season, having him as a teammate has probably been the best decision.

Q. Linus, I know it's kind of hard to look forward, what do you see going forward as it relates to INDYCAR, the challenges you see going forward?

LINUS LUNDQVIST: I mean, the big challenge right now is just getting a seat in INDYCAR, to be honest. There's not a lot of 'em out there. We'll see what we can do.

Obviously the target is to be with these guys next year full-time. Hopefully we can make that happen. We'll see. I know that the best thing I can do for myself is to continue to try to do well and wrap up a couple more wins at the end of the season and we'll see what happens.

Q. Have there been a couple of overtures coming your way?

LINUS LUNDQVIST: Yeah, I mean, I've had talks with literally every team on the grid since May I think. But obviously it's so competitive out there, just to get a seat opening. We're doing my best. We're doing our best to put myself in one of the big cars.
ENDS

<<< Additional Questions Asked By Motorsports Journal's Edmund Jenks >>>

Q. Christian, how was your impression of Laguna Seca?

CHRISTIAN LUNDGAARD: I think pretty much both drivers here can agree with me that the track itself is amazing. I think the elevation the track has is awesome. It's a tough track to master, I would say. I think even though every corner looks simple, it's tough. I think that's what kind of caught me off guard. Pretty much everyone at the test at least went off a couple times. I think I was one of the drivers that went off the most.

We were just trying to find the limits, all these kind of things that we want to do. I think the track itself is cool. I was a bit surprised how low grip the track actually is. I feel there is a very small margin for error in terms of I'd say grip. I'd say the car feels like it has a lot of lateral grip. When you go a half percent further, it just gives up. For me, that was tough to sort of master and understand earlier in the day.

I feel like that put me on sort of the back foot early in the day. I think all of us would have liked to have run earlier in the day. We were a little tire limited, all of us.

It was a good day. I think we learnt a lot. I learned a lot. Now I feel more comfortable coming into the race for sure. Full focus on Portland now.

Q. David, same question?

DAVID MALUKAS: I mean, I love Laguna. To me it reminds me a lot of go-karting, a slow and rhythmic track. If you make a small mistake in turn three, I feel like the rest of the lap you're going to try to be catch up for it, make more mistakes, all around lose that lap.

It's a very tough track. Like I said, it's all about rhythm, knowing where that limit is, trying so hard. The limit is such a fine line of going overboard or being under. You have to stay within that line.

It's a tough track, as Christian says. In qualifying it's going to be interesting because you're obviously going to try to find the most amount of time you can. One little mistake, that's it. Also the way with alternate timelines, people setting it up. You have less laps, because setting it up you gain that much more time. It's a tough track, but a lot of fun, one of my favorites on the schedule.

Q. Linus, you have two races there. How do you like closing out your season there twice?

LINUS LUNDQVIST: I say I'll enjoy closing out at Laguna more than last year as we did at Mid-Ohio. Nothing against Mid-Ohio, but I just think Laguna is a better venue.

Excited. Laguna was a little bit of a tricky one for us last year. We finished on the podium in both races, but we were playing catch-up to Andretti. We'll see if we can change that around. Hopefully we can have a good run at Portland and go to Laguna with a little bit less pressure, just enjoy it.
ENDS

----

Q. Christian, Rookie of the Year is something that is maybe not so much a thing in Europe, outside of America. Was that something that was a surprise to you, how many questions you get about this?

CHRISTIAN LUNDGAARD: I mean, sort of internally there's always a rookie championship no matter what series you're racing in. But, like you said, I don't think it's a big topic in Europe. For sure the team has pushed me further and further to understand how much it actually means.

But yeah, again, obviously coming into INDYCAR, I hoped to be in a better position at this point in the season than we are. You can only hope for the best. I think we've had our ups and downs, we've had good weekends, some worse ones.

You only get one shot at the rookie championship. You have to make the best of it. I think that's what's important about it, at this point now I know I'll be here next year. I mean, I know anyway I'm not going to get another shot at it, but I also know I need to learn as much as possible this year going into next year, but at the same time I want to end it on a high.

I mean, unfortunately David is pushing me extremely hard with his pace. I think it's going to be a tight battle at the end.

Q. David, would you say it was always a focus of yours from the start of the season? Is it similar to Rahal that Dale Coyne have been pushing you on to achieve that?

DAVID MALUKAS: Yeah, it's always been in the back of my head. It wasn't kind of my main goal. My main goal was to enjoy the INDYCAR experience and learn as much as possible. Dale was in my ear every day, We need this rookie, go and get it (smiling). He was pushing me and driving me forward.

Lundgaard definitely has been pushing us 100%, especially after the IMS performance. I was like, Man, how am I supposed to get a podium? That's going to be tough.

Part of the push in Gateway was having that in mind. Yeah, like I said, Dale is always in my ear that we really need it. A lot of pushing going on. In Gateway we succeeded under the pressure. Hopefully we can carry that into the last two rounds.

Q. David and Christian, let's say you're both challenging for the win at either Portland or Laguna, and you have one of the four or five guys going for the championship, they decide to mix it up with you, what do you do?

CHRISTIAN LUNDGAARD: Keep fighting.

Q. Can you explain a little bit more about that?

CHRISTIAN LUNDGAARD: I mean, yes, they've got a championship, but so do we. I mean, I wouldn't say I would unnecessarily help anyone if it doesn't help my own case. If it's going to help me...

We are racing drivers, we want to win. If they're racing for a championship, I mean, anyone in the race is there to take points away from each other.

I mean, I wouldn't say I'd try to help anyone.

Q. David?

DAVID MALUKAS: Yeah, I mean, even though I know people are in the championship run, once you go on track, you're focused on your own deal unless there's some teammate stuff maybe going on.

It's always in the back of your head that you know everybody is in a championship fight. At Gateway, being in the front running going against Power and Newgarden, McLaughlin, you know they all have a chance at the championship, you make sure you have very committed passes. You don't want to make things go south for you and them.

I mean, if anything, if that's situation happens in the last two races, we're going to make sure to be careful and make committed moves. It's in both drivers' heads we're fighting for our own championships and everybody is going to take it safe.

Q. I'm not going to mention names, but one of the contenders gives you a really hard time, maybe there's some contact, do you look to avenge that contact? I'm specifically speaking about the contenders left. What do you do if they are the aggressors to you?

CHRISTIAN LUNDGAARD: I mean, I think personally, there are drivers on the grids that is harder than others to race against, for sure. But I think what I like about INDYCAR is that it's extremely tough and hard racing but very respectful.

I mean, me and Simon had a bit of wheel banging in Mid-Ohio, but there were no hard feelings. It's racing. It is what it is.

If someone punches me off the track, what better am I if I do the same to him? I want to race clean, help my own case, make sure I get the best result that we can. Obviously doesn't help if you're being pushed off the track.

I mean, I wouldn't say I'm looking for vengeance in any way. Yeah, I think that's it honestly.

Q. David?

DAVID MALUKAS: Yeah, no, personally I get all the revenge, get like a TV series about it, dramatize it a bit (laughter).

No, I mean, you don't want to have bad blood. If something happens on track, you don't want to have that in the back of your mind going into your next race or next session.

Yeah, I don't know, it's a tough situation to try to let go of something that you know that truly wasn't your fault, they messed you up, your race.

I always talk to the person after the fact, make sure we're on good terms before we go back on track, hear their side of the story, kind of connect.

If INDYCAR starts doing, like, shows, I can dramatize some stuff. Maybe me and Lundgaard can put fists up, do some rolling around. When the camera cuts, we'll shake hands, go have coffee (smiling).

THE MODERATOR: Linus, explain a little bit about the race team that you're with this year and how much they have done to put you in a great position to win a championship, what they brought to the table in the last couple years.

LINUS LUNDQVIST: Yeah, I mean, it goes for every driver. I mean, we get the luxury of being the front figure of everything. Obviously you have the whole team behind you. You wouldn't be able to even come to the race without them.

Obviously HMD the last two years I'd say have been one of the top teams together with Andretti. Obviously that was the goal from the end of last year to sort of come back and try to fight for the title. The target was to go with HMD because we thought that's where the potential was.

I think it's proven right so far at least. It's cool to see them expanding as well. It was a little bit of a question mark when David moved up to the INDYCAR, what's going to happen to the Lights car. They only expanded, added more engineers, put more effort in than last year.

It's cool to see them expanding both on the Lights side but also to INDYCAR with the partnership with Dale Coyne. It's a good energy with the team right now.

Q. David, you've been fighting against Linus in Indy Lights last year, also in the same team with him. Did this Indy Lights season work out with the way you expected it to be, with him completely dominating the competition?

DAVID MALUKAS: Yeah, he's being intimidated (laughter).

Yeah, going into it, I'm a little bit biased, but I definitely saw that all of HMD Motorsports to dominate. I'm not surprised that Linus took it and ran with it, kept running with it. An impressive season for him.

When he said he was going to be racing for us next year, I knew that, Okay, yeah, he's got a really good opportunity at it. He's done an amazing job to make sure it's clear-cut and center. He deserves to be in the Indy Lights championship and be in INDYCAR.

Q. Linus, in 2018 you spent a whole year in British F3 driving against Jamie Chadwick. Earlier today we reported she's going to test an Indy Lights car with Andretti. Do you think she would be a good fit? Can you reflect on the differences between those cars?

LINUS LUNDQVIST: Yeah, I was happy to see that she's doing a test. Obviously we kept in touch a little bit. She's been doing very well in the W series.

It will be interesting to see how she does over here. Like you said, I raced against her in 2018. She raced for the same team as I did in 2017, when she did F3 and I was in F4. I've seen her a little bit. Obviously that's some years ago.

I'm not the same driver as I was in 2018. I'm sure she's not. Excited to see what she can do and what she thinks of the Lights car. It is a big difference from the regional car to the Lights car.

In 2020 when I did the Formula Regional Americas, it was probably the biggest step of my career going into the Lights car just how the car drives, how you have to drive it to extract lap time.

Multiple times in pre-season, a couple of tests, in theory in my head I did close to the perfect lap, and I was 5/10ths or 6/10ths off David. Look at his onboard, it's oversteer, understeer, he deals with it. Mine was calm, hitting the apex. That's not how you extract lap time out of a Lights car.

It took a little bit of time to get used to, but super rewarding when you do do it. It will be interesting to see how she can adapt to it.

Q. David, obviously you dominated in Portland last year. What do you think you can take from Indy Lights to the INDYCAR race in Portland?

DAVID MALUKAS: Yeah, we had a lot of success last year in Indy Lights. Completely different car, different team. It's all going to be very different with the setup.

I know I have the ability to go around Portland and do some quick times. All I know is, yeah, just turn one, yeah, the fingers crossed. If we make turn one, it's always going to be swell from there.

Q. Lean on Taku for a bit of information for that as well?

DAVID MALUKAS: With Taku's help, it's been more on ovals. Also at the Laguna test we were talking. I'm always trying to get as much information from him as possible.

I have a really good veteran teammate, I think probably one of the best for me, for my rookie season. I'm trying to get the most out of it. He definitely keeps some things to himself. I have to look at videos and data to try to find it.

Yeah, I definitely will ask him a lot of questions.

Q. Christian, what are your expectations going into Portland?

CHRISTIAN LUNDGAARD: Going into the last two races of the season, I don't think the sort of expectations have changed, I wouldn't say. We go into every event pretty much the same. We want to do the best we can and extract as much time as we can from the car.

We didn't test at Portland. I know (indiscernible) tested both tracks, which was actually pretty interesting to see. But I think our Sebring test earlier this season just before Toronto helped us more. We're on the right track. We just need to keep improving. I think we're in the right direction.

Having Graham and Jack here, I know Jack has been successful here, I know he's been extremely fast, hasn't quite got the result that he deserved. I think as a team we're looking quite strong.

Graham looked at a pretty comfortable podium last year until some strategy that didn't work out. He's been there. I don't think we're going to be struggling. I think we're going to be in the better end of the field.

Q. Christian, this is a relatively new circuit to you. How much extra preparation have you put in?

CHRISTIAN LUNDGAARD: I think it's pretty much the same preparation as every track you go to. I mean, looking at Indy GP last year, the one race I did, I basically showed up on Friday and drove practice. That's pretty much it.

You try to look at certain issues to see if you can find some onboards, videos, do as much preparation as you can do. Speak to engineers, see what they have of experience at the track. Speak to my teammates, Jack and Graham.

Like I said before, they've both been quite successful here in terms of sheer pace. They haven't got the result that I think they deserve.

As a package, I think we will be there. For me, I enjoy coming to new tracks. I enjoy the challenge of going out there pretty much blind. We saw Nashville, I'd never been at Nashville, and we were real quick straightaway. The most I can hope for is that the car is in a decent window and we can fine tune it from there, be at the better end of the field.

LINUS LUNDQVIST: As long as we're ahead of David, we're fine (smiling).

Q. Can you tell us how many years you are contracted for?

CHRISTIAN LUNDGAARD: I can't tell you, but I'll be here for a bit (smiling).

Q. David, how much of a relief was it to get that first series podium?

DAVID MALUKAS: Yeah, no, it felt really good. It's just because we knew it was possible at that point for a couple of races until then. We knew if we put everything together, we can finally get it. We got very close in a few different circuits, things didn't really go our way. With the amount of races counting down... I also knew Gateway was going to be our best chance to do it. The Dale Coyne car on ovals is an absolute beast, quick.

We were going around Penskes on the outside at the end. It proved we had a really good car. I knew that was our best chance to finally get it. I feel like that's one of my goals completed for the end of this season.

Now it's just going to be, yeah, making sure I finish in front of Christian (smiling).

THE MODERATOR: Did you tape Bus Bros or is it going to happen?

DAVID MALUKAS: No, it's going to happen. They said it on Twitter. I was freaking out, accepted it. They haven't said anything since. I don't know if they're going to go into my motorhome and wake me up. I don't know how it works. We'll see.

THE MODERATOR: Be ready for anything is probably the best advice.

----
----

THE MODERATOR: Linus, a strategy question for you. How much of the team, you, will be thinking about points, making sure you get what you need to clinch at Portland, or do you race your own race and whatever happens...

LINUS LUNDQVIST: This is usually the case where I go for a win and the team says, Don't worry, you're fine. Big picture, look at the points.

But, I mean, the best and the safest way is qualify up front and try to run away with it. That's going to be the plan. Score the most points, it's the safest way of doing it.

DAVID MALUKAS: I'd say take it easy this race, you're still in the points running, then you get it on the final race, you get everybody. It's much cooler. Not as cool if you already get it and go to the final race (smiling).

LINUS LUNDQVIST: So now you know, if Portland doesn't go well, race one at Laguna doesn't go well, now you know why (laughter).

Q. It's your first year for both in INDYCAR. You have some races to improve. In what aspects do you think you have improved more and in what aspects do you think you have to improve in the last two races?

CHRISTIAN LUNDGAARD: I'd sort of say me and David are in this battle now. I'd say he has the advantage having been to most of the tracks, done ovals before in junior categories. For me to come out here and just drive around in the big car straightaway, for me, I wouldn't say I struggled mentally, but it's obviously a tough task to come in and be expected to perform.

I think there's been a few events this year where I've told my strategists to give me more information because we can be 6/10ths off the pace compared to my teammates. I don't know where the pace is.

These things we've kind of learned as a team, moved in that direction of helping me as much as possible early in the weekend. The pace has been there. Obviously we didn't need it in Nashville, which was nice. Seemed to be able to sort that out.

For the last two races of the season, now I have a test at Laguna under my belt, I've never been to Portland. Now sitting here hearing that David has had a successful couple of races around here, for me, I need to be on the top of my game going into this weekend, be sure that together with the team we have the best package.

I think for me the ovals are still where we need to improve. Personally I think I'm quite comfortable with street circuits and road courses. I've done that pretty much the whole of my car career. Ovals is still different.

I think this is what has been tough this season. You only got one shot at it, at the rookie championship. You need to perform at your best and limit retirements. I think we've got the most out of it, but I'm sure there's a lot to learn. I think the whole winter we'll look into things to improve.

Q. And David, in what aspects do you think you have to improve more during the season? In what aspects do you think you can improve during the last two races?

DAVID MALUKAS: I mean, the whole improvement has been with I'd say race strategy and pit stops. That's kind of been the whole season. I feel like that's the same goal going into these last two races.

All that stuff is new to me. Although I've come through the feeder series, you don't do pit stops, strategies, fuel saving, tire saving. You don't really do much of that. All of that was very new to me. At the beginning of the season I was definitely very lost with all of it.

I've managed to learn how to figure out how to do all these things, just following veterans like Power. He passed me on track. Man, I got passed again. Wait, this is actually really good. I can follow Power's line, where he does these fuel saving.

From these moments I've managed to learn, learn how I can use all the tools I have from me, the team, Honda, how I can use those to help me as a driver.

Q. Linus this is your second year in Indy Lights. In terms of your performances and your training style, what impact has this had?

LINUS LUNDQVIST: Yeah, a second year always helps because you kind of hit the ground running when the season starts again instead of starting from scratch.

But honestly, looking back at last year, I'm actually pretty proud of the season that we had. We were fast and good enough to challenge for the title, I don't know, with three races to go until we had the tire blowout at Gateway.

This year everything that we did last year we just did a little bit better. It was more natural to me, the driving style of the Lights car, how the team operates, the people within the team.

I'd just say that we turned everything up a notch. I'm working with the same people, engineers, mechanics. We knew each other very well. We knew our strengths and weaknesses. We kind of just worked on that, yeah, became a better package all the way around.

THE MODERATOR: The great story about these three is they're success stories up and down. Thank you.
[FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports]

POST PORTLAND:

In the contest for series Rookie of the Year honors, the coveted award will go to one of two Honda drivers.  Rahal Letterman Lanigan driver Christian Lundgaard leads with 293 points heading to Laguna Seca.  But fellow Honda racer David Malukas is only five points back, driving for Dale Coyne Racing with HMD.

Do not miss the finale of both the NTT INDYCAR SERIES & IndyLights Championships as well as the unicorn title "Rookie Of The Year" held during the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey weekend at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca September 9-11, 2022.

Television coverage of Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey starts at 3 p.m. EDT on NBC.  Complete, flag-to-flag race coverage also will be available on NBC Peacock, the INDYCAR Radio Network, and SiriusXM INDYCAR Nation (Channel 160). 

... notes from The EDJE


FEATURED ARTICLE >>>







TAGS: Linus Lundqvist, David Malukas, Christian Lundgaard, NTT INDYCAR SERIES, INDYLights, RLL, Rahal Leterman Lanigan Racing, Dale Coyne, HMD Motorsports, Rookie Of The Year, Championship, The EDJE

Friday, August 19, 2022

House Of Penske's Will Power Matches Mario Andretti's Record Established In 1993 At Michigan International Speedway

House Of Penske's Will Power celebrates matching a 29 year old record for NTT P1 Pole Awards earned in an NTT INDYCAR SERIES career. Will Power and his team matched Mario Andretti's mark of 67 Pole Positions earned. Image Credit: Will Power via FB/META

House Of Penske's Will Power Matches Mario Andretti's Record Established In 1993 At Michigan International Speedway

BOOM - Will Power ties Mario Andretti with 67 Pole positions earned in his career - amazing - Mario's last P1 Pole and Will's record equalling P1 Pole were both set on Oval Course Race Tracks.

Will Power earned the 67th pole position of his storied INDYCAR SERIES career – tying the legendary Mario Andretti for the all-time series record that was set lastly in 1993 at the Michigan International Speedway's Marlboro 500  – and captured the NTT P1 Award on Friday afternoon for the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Axalta and Valvoline at World Wide Technology Raceway while adding to his slim season championship points lead over Scott Dixon.

Power’s pole wasn’t a surprise, given he already led the series with three poles entering this event and paced practice earlier today at 180.539. Power also won the NTT P1 Award for this race last year at 180.618.

Still, there was nothing routine about his qualifying run in the shadow of the famous Gateway Arch in St. Louis.

Power tried to keep the throttle pedal to the floor in Turns 3 and 4 during his last lap on the tricky oval, and he realized midway through that he needed to downshift to complete the corner without contact. Still, Power deftly kept the car off the SAFER Barrier and delivered the coveted 67th pole.


"I’m still shaking," Power said. "There was nothing left on the table – let’s put it that way. The second lap, I was loose in (Turns) 1-2 and then tried to go again as much as I could in (Turns) 3-4."

Power will earn an extra point for the NTT P1 Award, which could come in handy since he leads six-time series champion Scott Dixon by just six points with three races remaining.

Fellow championship contender Marcus Ericsson will join Power on the front row after his qualifying run of 182.070 in the No. 8 Bryant Honda. Ericsson is third in points, 12 behind Power.

NTT INDYCAR SERIES News Conference - Friday, August 19, 2022

Will Power | Marcus Ericsson
ZOOM Call Video Press Conference


THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Wrapping up pole qualifying. Now the a reigning Indy 500 champion who almost picked up career pole number one, Marcus Ericsson (indiscernible).

MARCUS ERICSSON: -- of course, you want to get that first pole. Will did a very impressive run in the end. We'll just have to try to get the win tomorrow instead.

THE MODERATOR: Knowing it was Will Power, did you think you still had a shot?

MARCUS ERICSSON: I thought my run was really good, so I thought I had a shot. If there's one guy you don't want to go after you when you're standing on provisional pole, it's definitely Will Power.

Either way, I'm really happy we're on the front row, the car felt so good. The team did a really good effort today to give me such a qualifying car.

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. As this season title race is winding down, in oval qualifying, being in a legitimate title race, does that feel any different than it might have (indiscernible).

MARCUS ERICSSON: (Indiscernible) -- that's sort of the mindset I've had all the time. Now going down to the last three, I think I'll do everything I possibly can to try and win this championship.

I knew today in qualifying it was really important because of the way this track races. It's not always easy to overtake. I was very focused going in.

Yeah, I try and do like I've done all year and not change things up. But it is, like you say, in oval qualifying, it's something special. You have those two laps, high speeds, no margin for error. It is quite special to do it. It's a lot of adrenaline that runs through your body.

It's pretty unique, but I really enjoy it. I think it's really fun.

Q. Are we still with three races left too early to feel like you have to run your race off of what people are doing, covering certain drivers? Do you feel you're still able to run your own race?

MARCUS ERICSSON: I think if it was one or two cars fighting for it with three to go, you could start racing that guy. But now we are five or even seven cars fighting for the championship. It's not really possible to cover six other cars.

We need to focus on ourselves tomorrow. We need to try and win the race because we're going to be in a position to fight for that, so that's going to be the goal.

But we know it's tough competition out there. We need to race our race. I think that's important.

Q. If you look all the way back to the inside of row four, that is the points race. Everybody up there are the guys you're battling. To know the proverbial cream has risen to the top in qualifying really makes it look like it's going to be tough to win this thing. How do you look at that?

MARCUS ERICSSON: Yeah, I think it shows how competitive this series is. Like you said, all the top guys are up there tomorrow. It's going to be tough. It's going to be tough to battle it out, try and beat the guy next to me here. It's going to be very tough.

But we're going to give it our best shot. I think we have three cars up there so we know we have a good package as well. Just try to do our best, race our race, see what we got.

THE MODERATOR: The guy next to you just happened to pick up career pole 67, Will Power. This is his fourth pole here, fourth of the season. A little history perspective: last time we saw an INDYCAR SERIES driver, Will, pick up 67, when Mario did, you go all the way back to August 1st, 1993. It's a mark that has stood for some time.

Watching you celebrate this thing, the smile...

WILL POWER: Yeah, something I've had my eye on for a while. I think when I got to 60, I was like, This could be possible. Yep, it's definitely a big box to tick.

But, yeah, now focusing forward on the race. That's really the big thing on my mind, is having a good day. Yeah, everyone's at the front, so it's just going to be...

It's pretty typical of INDYCAR, right? It's just going to go down to the last race. The way I see it, even on points right now, it's that close, it can just flip. It's going to be about who can finish ahead of who. Simple as that.

THE MODERATOR: Questions.

Q. Will, there's been times you and I have talked, back when you were at 60, 61 poles, you said, I don't know if I'll be able to get there. Did you honestly feel that way? Now that you've reached your goal, is it just a huge sense of relief?

WILL POWER: When I got the double pole at Iowa, that's when it became really realistic. The year before I had one pole. I think the year before that I had three. It was getting increasingly harder to get pole position. I was kind of thinking, This is going to be pretty hard to beat.

But the double pole at Iowa was real key. Yep, great team, great engine, great crew. That's what I've had. I've been lucky.

Q. (No microphone.)

WILL POWER: No, I'm not feeling any relief because I'm so focused on the race and the championship. I can think about that later and feel good about it. Right now it's just so important to have a good car in the race and race well, yeah, have a solid day.

Q. Marcus, how excited are you to come to St. Louis to compete in a race that means so much here in the city?

MARCUS ERICSSON: Yeah, I mean, we've been here a few years now. It's always been a great race, great atmosphere here with the fans.

I always enjoyed coming here from my first year in 2019. I think it's a track that sort of suited my style straightaway. For the ovals, coming from European racing, where you don't do any ovals, I think this is really the first track I got my head around. Been pretty strong here the last few years.

Going into this weekend, I knew that the ovals this year has been something that I've been really strong on, so I was really looking forward to this one. Qualifying on the front row shows we have a strong package for these type of tracks.

Q. And Will?

WILL POWER: Yeah, I think this is a really good event for us. It's promoted really well. Always get a big crowd. They do a really good job of presenting it.

It races well also. Can be a bit mixed up with fuel races and so on. Yeah, it's one of my favorite tracks, favorite ovals. I really enjoy it. I enjoy it a lot.

THE MODERATOR: Marcus, congratulations. Have a great race tomorrow.

More questions for Will Power.

Q. You've won the pole at Portland, coming up next. Can 68 happen there?

WILL POWER: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, next two races after this, next two qualifying sessions, have to be very good qualifying sessions. Yeah, that totally is going to be the goal.

But, yeah, not even thinking about that right now. Just thinking about tonight.

Q. How do you expect the second lane to run?

WILL POWER: Yeah, I'm really hoping that the second lane brings that in. I'm hoping that second lane practice brings the lane in.

I think it will be a bit better than Texas because it hasn't got the coating. Maybe it's not enough cars. But, yeah, we'll see. Man, the race would be so good if we could do that, people actually run there in the first 20 laps. It will just be a completely different race to what it was.

Hoping it works.

Q. How much of it is confidence driven, when drivers see guys going up, versus rubbering up the track up there?

WILL POWER: Exactly that. They see people running reasonably fast on the outside lane, if that happens to be the case in the practice, it will give people confidence to go there and know it's rubbered in. When they come into practice, yeah, hopefully it works.

Q. How much of this race becomes a fuel conservation race as opposed to others?

WILL POWER: Yeah, the second lane, it's actually got more grip up there because it's not polished. It just needs rubber. I think if we can get it in a bit, when the 30 minutes is up, everyone else comes out, people actually go up there.

Yeah, the fuel race, if there is some yellows at the beginning, people will try to make it on a three-stop. That's when it becomes a bit of a fuel stop. It really depends on when the yellows for that, otherwise it's a four-stopper.

Q. (No microphone.)

WILL POWER: Not something I take note of or even look at those things.

Q. If you go all the way to the inside of four, that is the points race. The top six guys are all up there battling. What does that really say about this points race that you've got everybody right up there at the top of the grid?

WILL POWER: Yeah, it just shows no one's letting up, no one will until the end.

Yep, pretty tight battle to the end. It will be very interesting to see how it unfolds. All you can do is just do your best. Do your best. Can't control some things, so see what happens.

Q. Now that you've tied Mario, which you wanted to do, what do you want to do next?

WILL POWER: I need to tie Michael in wins. That's one win away.

Q. Need to tie Helio in 500s.

WILL POWER: I can almost guarantee that is not going to happen before I'm done. That's a pretty good run if you could do that.

THE MODERATOR: Congratulations, Will. Thank you. Enjoy the rest of the night.
[FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports]

Two-time series champion and 2022 title contender Josef Newgarden will start third after his run of 181.629 in the No. 3 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet. Newgarden, who has won the last two INDYCAR SERIES races at World Wide Technology Raceway, is fourth in points, 22 behind Power.

Scott McLaughlin ensured the asymmetrical, 1.25-mile oval was a Penske playground with all three cars in the first two rows of the starting grid, as he qualified fourth at 181.406 in the No. 3 Odyssey Battery Team Penske Chevrolet.

Chip Ganassi Racing also had a strong day, putting three cars in the top six. Reigning series champion Alex Palou qualified fifth at 181.289 in the No. 10 American Legion Honda, while six-time series champion Dixon will start sixth after a qualifying run of 180.954 in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.

Saturday’s live coverage of the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Axalta and Valvoline will begin at 6 p.m. ET. (USA Network, Peacock Premium and the INDYCAR Radio Network).

POST Will Power Review Of The Rain Interrupted Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Axalta and Valvoline:

Race Rundown: Will Power and the No. 12 Verizon 5G Chevrolet team dominated the first half of Saturday’s Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at World Wide Technology Raceway before finishing in the sixth position. History was made on Friday afternoon as Power became the second driver in NTT INDYCAR SERIES history with 67 pole positions, tying Mario Andretti for the all-time lead. Power led the field for most of the first 130 laps, relinquishing it only during pit cycles. With most of the field on varying pit strategies – trying to make it to the checkered flag with only three trips to pit lane, along with the threat of rain – Power and race strategist Ron Ruzewski elected to continue with the strategy that bought them down pit lane less. He would drop to the back of the top five as those teams that elected to pit for tires were able to make their way past. A two-hour rain delay gave Power and the Verizon 5G Chevy team an opportunity to plan on making their way back to the front when racing resumed with 37 laps to go. Unfortunately, a battle with lapped traffic over the final laps caused him to drop to sixth at the checkered flag. Power maintains the lead in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship standings with only two races remaining at Portland International Raceway and WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

Power’s Thoughts: "Once again, it was a good day with P6 in the Verizon 5G Chevy. Obviously, we wanted more. We made a mistake and didn’t take that yellow. That’s INDYCAR. It’s never straight-forward. You expect that in the championship. It might come back to us in the next two in a different way. That’s how it is. We’ve got some good tracks coming up. Like I predicted, it will be a tough battle all the way to the end. I’ve been around a long time and know how these things go. The best thing about today is that we finished in the top-six, so that’s still pretty good."

... notes from The EDJE






TAGS: House Of Penske, Marcus Ericsson, Mario Andretti, Marlboro 500, Michigan International Speedway, Bommarito Automotive Group 500, Axalta, Valvoline, World Wide Technology Raceway, 67 Pole Positions, 1993, 2022. The EDJE

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Christian Lundgaard Previews Bommarito Automotive Group 500 & Re-Up With Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team drivers with their families and personal friends as they walk to their Honda-powered Dallara cars in pitlane at Indianapolis Motor Speedway before the 106th running of the Indianapolis 500. From L to R ... the recently confirmed in a multi-year contract with the team and Rookie Of The Year points leader Denmark born Christian Lundgaard, senior driver and competing in his 14th year Graham Rahal, and British born competing in his sixth year Jack Harvey. Image Credit: James Black via Penske Entertainment (2022)

Christian Lundgaard Previews Bommarito Automotive Group 500 & Re-Up With Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing

We find ourselves in the sunset of a 17 Race NTT INDYCAR SERIES 2022 season with only 3 races left -  the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Axalta and Valvoline on the short oval at World Wide Technology Raceway, 5 Minutes from downtown St. Louis | the Grand Prix of Portland at Portland International Raceway | the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey. - having a chat with the rookie driver in his first full season, leading in the points for Rookie Of The Year, Denmark born and raised Christian Lundgaard.

Lundgaard’s performance in his first full NTT INDYCAR SERIES season with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing has earned the 21-year-old Dane a new long-term agreement with the team, it was announced just before the INDYCAR sponsored ZOOM Call Tuesday August 17, 2022.

The restructuring of Lundgaard’s agreement comes as he takes a commanding 41-point lead in the Rookie of the Year standings into this weekend’s Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Axalta and Valvoline at World Wide Technology Raceway. The race airs live Saturday at 6 p.m. ET on USA Network and Peacock Premium with coverage on the INDYCAR Radio Network.

Lundgaard earned an NTT INDYCAR SERIES career-best finish of second place at the Gallagher Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course on July 30 and followed that up with his highest series start – third place – in the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix in Nashville on Aug. 6.

"I have to say a big thanks to (team co-owners) Bobby (Rahal), David (Letterman) and Mike (Lanigan) for giving me this opportunity to extend my time with the team," Lundgaard said. "We’ve had some good results lately, and I’m sure this has also helped their decision."

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR STANDINGS 
(H - Honda-Powered | C - Chevrolet-Powered)

Christian Lundgaard, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing - H, 272 points

David Malukas, Dale Coyne Racing with HMD - H, 231 points

Callum Ilott, Juncos Hollinger Racing - C, 181 points

Devlin DeFrancesco, Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport - H, 159 points

Kyle Kirkwood, AJ Foyt Racing - C, 144 points

Tatiana Calderon, AJ Foyt Racing - C, 58 points


NTT INDYCAR SERIES News Conference - Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Press Conference - Christian Lundgaard - No. 30 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Honda Dallara

THE MODERATOR: We've reached the final oval of the season as the NTT INDYCAR Series heads to World Wide Technology Raceway for Saturday night's Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Axalta and Valvoline. Our coverage begins at 6:00 p.m. eastern on USA and the INDYCAR Radio Network.

Our guest today has several reasons to be excited this week. His team is on a roll, career best finish of third on the IMS road course a couple of weeks ago, a career best starting position of second in Nashville -- no, the other way around, isn't it?

CHRISTIAN LUNDGAARD: Yeah.

THE MODERATOR: My apologies. I owe you one here.

But all of that aside, Christian, just announced moments ago, receiving a new long term agreement with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. He pilots the No. 30 Shield Cleansers Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, Rookie of the Year candidate from Denmark, we welcome in Christian Lundgaard.

Christian, congratulations. Thanks for doing this.

CHRISTIAN LUNDGAARD: No, thank you. It's my pleasure. In the beginning of the season, this was the aim to get to this point, to get it all settled. Now we're here.

I spoke to my dad yesterday, as I actually signed the papers yesterday. It was a big relief for me because it's been the pressure to get this done and to be sure the future is settled. For me, that is actually the first time that has ever happened, and that was the aim when we came over here to America to get this sorted, and now it's done.

We've got three races to go. Then in the off-season I can celebrate, not yet.

THE MODERATOR: All right. That will be a good celebration.

In the context of your career, a long term deal with any racing organization, let alone something in the NTT INDYCAR Series, what does that mean when it comes to the big picture, and how big is this for you?

CHRISTIAN LUNDGAARD: I spoke to Marcus Ericsson about this specific question. INDYCAR is a lot about stability, and I don't think many people realize this. Now I know that I'll be with the same people, the same engineers, et cetera, the same team. And for me to know that and to be able to work close to them and be more a part of the team, I think is a big benefit.

Which is also why we see -- I wouldn't call it the old guys, but the experienced drivers. You know, they've been with the same team for a long time, and they're still competitive. They win races. We see Scott, we see Will kicking our butts. For a young driver to come in and be on that level is tough.

THE MODERATOR: Well, they haven't exactly been kicking your butt as of late. Let's kind of talk about the continuation of this run that your team is on. How do you explain the change in results in the last month and a half or so?

CHRISTIAN LUNDGAARD: It's a good question because I think in the beginning of the season we struggled a lot more than we thought we would. I think St. Pete was a special event. The first race of the season, I think everyone knew to get their feet on the ground and get going.

I don't think we started the weekend with the 30 crew that well. I think we were 25th in the first practice out of 27 cars or 26. But we made progress through the weekend, and we were looking at a P6 finish. We ended up P11, which it is what it is.

Then we went to Texas. Our qualifying wasn't great. As a team, we were struggling a lot in qualifying. And that whole continuation of the beginning of the season was just mentally tough for absolutely everybody in the team.

I spoke to several people before the 500. After the 500, all the energy that goes into the 500, people start to degrade in the second part of the season, and that's where we upped our game because the second half of the season so far, we've been strong. I think Road America was kind of the turning point when we started to perform better.

We've been on a roll. We got our first podium. We qualified third at Nashville, which just for the record, I absolutely wasn't expecting to happen. Now it's done, and I'm happy. We've shown that we've got the potential.

THE MODERATOR: You mentioned Texas. Last thing before we open it up for questions. Back at an oval this weekend, testing there, obviously 1 1/4 mile around World Wide Technology Raceway. What have you learned in places like Texas and Indy and Iowa that you could use? Knowledge is key, right? When you go to places like this, what can you use from those experiences that's going to help you this coming weekend?

CHRISTIAN LUNDGAARD: Most of it actually comes from Graham. I would say all my knowledge on ovals comes from Graham. Graham's got a tremendous amount of experience on ovals, and for me to come in as a rookie, I wouldn't say before I came over here, was being scared of ovals, but it is different. It's tough, and I think it's a big mental game.

Texas, I think the race performance was quite decent. We were moving up quite quickly. Iowa, I enjoyed a lot. I must say, I enjoyed the short ovals quite a bit. The tests, I don't think we were as competitive as we were in Iowa. Luckily that was just a test day. We've got to perform once the race gets there.

But Indy was a special one, I think, for me. I enjoyed it more than I probably should have. I should probably have expected more of -- I wouldn't say dedication and hard work, but the performance wasn't there. At that point, I wouldn't say we gave up, but it was more, from my own perspective, was getting the experience because there was no point of going out and doing something stupid.

THE MODERATOR: Just to reiterate, second on the IMS road course, qualifying third at Nashville. That's my error. I promise that's the last time I'll make that error, at least this week.

CHRISTIAN LUNDGAARD: No worries.

Christian Lundgaard going around Turn 3, the fountain turn, at the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach. Image Credit: Chris Owens via Penske Entertainment (2022)

Q. Christian, congrats on the new contract. You always hear about successful businesses, feels kind of like a family with their employees. You happen to drive for a family team. Do you feel like part of a Rahal extended family member?

CHRISTIAN LUNDGAARD: Absolutely. Everyone in the team works well together. I like Bobby. I like Mike and David. I've actually spent more time with them than I thought I would than I did in the beginning of the season.

Mike called me yesterday just to congratulate me on the contract. What I like a lot about Mike is he tells you what he thinks. He doesn't filter it. I think that is a good thing to have. And as a team, I think we also need to move more in that direction and just get things done, have some more conclusions on things and get on with it.

Q. Obviously stateside we see INDYCAR and what it means to here, but to a 21-year-old Danish rookie, what about the series now makes you like, you know what, this is where I want to be for the future? What out of the first year have you liked so much that you see this as a career goal now?

CHRISTIAN LUNDGAARD: I don't think there's been much I haven't really liked about INDYCAR so far. There's always going to be decisions you would have hoped you would have made different from several people, if it's the stewards or the race director, et cetera, changes to the tracks and stuff like this.

But I think overall, like I've said many times now when I moved over here and I've had the question what's the difference about Europe and America, for me it's about racing -- it's more about racing than it is about politics and et cetera. What I like about INDYCAR is the feeling I have here is the feeling I got when I fell in love with go-karts. You put the car on the ground, and you race, and you have fun. But you compete, and once the helmet's off, everyone is best buddies.

You don't see that in Europe. For me, the life is good for me in America. I prefer it here. Obviously I miss family and friends and et cetera, but I'm sure a time will come for them to visit me.

No, just everything about the sport over here is preferred for me.

Q. You mentioned you called your dad yesterday and talked about this. What was that phone call like? Is it emotional? Is it kind of like, yeah, you've been here this year, but like in stick and ball sports, everyone strives to get from that rookie contract to that second contract. Now you got it. Is that kind of that relief? Was it an emotional conversation? What was that discussion like yesterday?

CHRISTIAN LUNDGAARD: Honestly it was quite calm. I think for me, obviously I don't think I've properly realized yet, but I think my dad has because he sits on the sidelines and just watches the big picture of what's going on.

But this has basically been the longtime goal to get it done and have a multiple year agreement because it settles everything down. You've got a work path, and I think that's just a benefit overall. But it's been work from 2007, when I started racing, and now we're here. It's happening. I wouldn't say we never expected it to happen, but it's always been questionable if it was possible.

I think -- again, just to follow up on the question before, I don't think necessarily my chances would have been as big in Europe as they would have been here. So that's obviously a good choice to come here then.

Q. Christian, congrats on the new deal. Just wanted to ask you real quick, when you look at the rookie competition that you're part of this year, some pretty impressive drivers. Callum Ilott, Kyle Kirkwood, David Malukas, and now yourself, you're leading the standings. How satisfying would it be to win the Rookie of the Year title?

CHRISTIAN LUNDGAARD: By the way, thank you. Honestly, for me I've said this before, I haven't looked too much into the rookie standings. I think now obviously there will be a bit more focus on it as we reach the end of the season. I just try to focus on each event as they come, and I've looked more at the overall standings, to be honest, than I've looked at the rookie championship. I'd rather want to win the whole championship.

We aren't in that position, so the rookie championship will for sure be our main goal for now. You only get one shot at it, so you've got to perform. That's what's tough about a rookie season is you've got one shot at it and you need to get everything right, but you've also got to learn as much as possible and mistakes will follow.

I think we've executed quite well in the beginning of the second part of the season, and I think that's why we are where we are in the rookie standings.

Q. How foreign does the oval racing feel to you?

CHRISTIAN LUNDGAARD: I wouldn't say I'm uncomfortable on the track or in the car. I would say I'm for sure getting more comfortable. But I think it's all about confidence, experience, knowledge, which is also why I focused more on actually getting through the races than going for that one position, playing the long game.

Because you know in the hope of this contract for me now, I know that I'll have another shot again. Now the experience I've gained, I need to use and execute next year, which is also why I think next year ovals will be a lot stronger.

But I want to finish Gateway strong because it's the last oval of the season. We performed at Nashville. We performed at Indy, which means it's the road course, it's the street circuit. Now we've just got to have a good end to the season on the last oval. Then I can be very satisfied with my rookie season.

Q. Finally, Chris Blair the general manager at World Wide Technology Raceway, they said there's a tweak to the schedule. They're going to add an extra session of rubber in the track by having you guys run the high line similar to what you did in Texas. How much do you think that will help? Does it help more on the starts and restarts than it would during the race? Because the geometry of the track pretty much favors everybody taking the low line.

CHRISTIAN LUNDGAARD: I think it's a good idea. If I'm going to be honest, I think it would have helped slightly more at Iowa than it would here probably because I think, like you said, everyone will run the low line. It's going to be tough to run the high line, first of all, because of the marbles.

But I think just the way three and four kind of shapes, it's going to be tough to run in the high line and gain a position or make it work without losing time or, even worse, finishing the race there. I think turns one and two, it's possible to run in the high line, but it needs to be early in the race.

Q. I'm putting on my F1 feeder series cap as well. You and Callum are the latest F2 graduates to make a transition. You had a great debut last year, good rookie year now. You're really taking to INDYCAR like a duck to water. Why do you think the switch from F2 to INDYCAR has been so smooth for you? Is it the Dallara link, the fact that there's a similar driving style between the cars, or is it something else?

CHRISTIAN LUNDGAARD: I would say the Dallara link is a big factor in it, but I think coming from Pirelli tires into Firestone tires was a big benefit for both Callum and I because I think we have the experience of proper saving tires and looking after tires because the Pirelli tires are tough. They're very difficult to understand, and from track to track, it's also different.

Here I feel the Firestones can take a lot more, so you can actually push the tires. But at the same time, we know how to be fast, but now we also know how to save the tires. I think for us as a racing driver it's -- we've shown ourselves to be able to do a good job, be fast, but now I think it's helped our race craft a lot more. But when you see it, I think we've also qualified quite well.

I think the cars don't drive dramatically different. I think the INDYCAR is able to hustle more. It's got a gentle slide to it. The biggest difference for me, I think would be from the tires, but the car handles pretty much the same. It's a little different, but it's not dramatically different.

Q. Now of course there's currently quite a few rumors about a few other F2 drivers following your example, coming from INDYCAR, Felipe Drugovich, Marcus Armstrong, exactly. They're being mostly named. You've raced against both Drugovich and Armstrong. Do you think they would fit well with INDYCAR, and have they been in touch with you to find out what this INDYCAR is about?

CHRISTIAN LUNDGAARD: No, I actually haven't spoken to any of them. I spoke to Jack Doohan yesterday, not about this, but we just had a general talk about how things are over there and et cetera.

I think looking at Felipe, he's done an extremely good job this year, had a very, very good start to the season, which has put him in this position to be able to get points and still keep the lead in the championship. I was teammates with Marcus in 2020 in F2. I know he had a very tough year that year, but I know Marcus is a good driver. I know he can hustle a car as well.

I don't know that much about Felipe overall, but I think Marcus for sure would be able to be fast. The thing about INDYCAR is you need to be fast every single time, and that's tough. I think the transition into ovals is tough.

Q. Final thing. Your Alpine link is completely gone now, right?

CHRISTIAN LUNDGAARD: It is, yes.

** Query From Motorsports Journal's Edmund Jenks **

Q. Growing up in Denmark, Europe, you probably had some assumptions about America, and now that you've spent a full season here in many different cities and venues and so on, what given your assumptions of America and what your experiences have been, what have been the biggest changes in your mind?

CHRISTIAN LUNDGAARD: I think for me personally the biggest difference has been traveling to races because obviously I'm used to it from Europe, traveling from country to country, but now I'm still traveling, but I'm still in the same country. It's basically the same sort of distances but it's in the same country.

For me that seems strange. I get on a flight, and I land in the same country, just I don't know how many miles away. Just the cities around where I live, I wouldn't say they're far away, but they feel so far away because the same distance -- if I would travel the same distance in the city where I used to live in Denmark, I'd basically get across the country. So all these kinds of things is very different. I wouldn't say difficult for me to get used to, but it's just like a mental thing that's different.

I like the life in America. I've been driving to many of the races, get to see the country, and just drive through states and see the differences. When you cross the border into a new state, you start to see some differences, and you don't see that in the same country in Denmark or in Europe.

I'm happy here for sure.

Q. By the way, congratulations on re-ups with RLL. You've got three more races left this season. Which one are you probably looking forward to the most as it relates to your type of driving style and the venues that you've learned about?

CHRISTIAN LUNDGAARD: For me it's going to be difficult to pinpoint one, I think. All three races will be a key factor. I wouldn't say I'm looking more forward for one than the other.

I'd say I look forward for Portland because I know the car the team had there last year was a bit of a development from the car I qualified and raced at Indy last year. So I'm familiar with that car, and I know it performed well. Graham had a very, very good run last year. So I know we'll be competitive when we get there.

Like I said before, I want to finish my last oval of the season well. We've performed at Nashville. We performed at Indy. Now it's time to perform even better at an oval. We made steps through the season. We weren't competitive in Texas. Wouldn't say so in Indy. But then we got to Iowa, and we started building up.

It was also in the second half of the season where we've been strong. So to finish it off well, that would satisfy me well with my rookie season, being able to say that, okay, it's three types of courses, but we performed well at each one of them. I think that would give a big confidence boost for everyone for next year.

Q. How does it feel to be one point behind Roman Grosjean?

CHRISTIAN LUNDGAARD: I noticed that, but what feels worse, I think, is being 11 points behind Graham.

THE MODERATOR: Great answer.

CHRISTIAN LUNDGAARD: I want to finish ahead of Graham. That's my ultimate goal.

THE MODERATOR: I was going to say, if you had a goal for the rest of the season, that's it?

CHRISTIAN LUNDGAARD: That and having a good end on an oval. And obviously winning a race. It's not too far away. We were close.

Actually we were the best finishing legal car of Indy. We scored the most points.

THE MODERATOR: That's right. You got the most points out of that weekend. I'll give you that, 100 percent.

CHRISTIAN LUNDGAARD: Exactly.
ENDS

Q. On ovals, you had mentioned in Nashville that, when you first came to street circuits, that you were not as comfortable, but now that you performed well at Nashville, you've come to like them. Do you feel that you have a somewhat similar experience on ovals? Second question would be the team has made a lot of gains in the last half of the year. What else do you -- what other gains do you guys think -- let me start over. Where do you think you guys need to improve to get to that next level?

CHRISTIAN LUNDGAARD: First question, so obviously I would say, looking at Nashville, we performed very well. We knew that we made some gains in Toronto. We knew that all three cars were more competitive than we were in Detroit. I think for me part of the reason why I probably haven't been a fan of street circuits is I've done Macao, I've done Monaco, I've done Baku, but they're all smooth tracks. Macao is probably the bumpiest of all of them.

But coming over here, you don't resurface the track before coming out. You just put the car on the ground and you race. That's one of the features I like about INDYCAR. I think the European drivers that I have spoken to don't realize that. They think we're crazy that we go out there, oh, yeah, you're going to hit the wall because the car is going to jump all over the place, but it's challenging. I think that's where the damper programs comes into play but also the driver.

I think, looking at the progress we made in Toronto and then we came into Nashville, I wouldn't say we performed much better at Nashville than we did at Toronto, but I think it was a lot of this momentum of leaving Indy and being there. We just knew we just had to execute. We did on qualifying day, not so much on race day for different reasons, but the roll is there.

Yeah, then I forgot your second question actually.

Q. Second question is you guys have -- with you guys making a lot of gains, what else do you think you guys need to get to the next level?

CHRISTIAN LUNDGAARD: I think it's very simple. I don't think there is much more -- well, there's always things we can do to improve. I always think the car can be better, I can do a better job. But as a team, it's all about being there consistently, and I think that's what we've struggled with is being consistent and understanding why things work and why they don't.

Obviously if everyone knew how to be fast, everyone would be fast. So for us, it's about getting that knowledge and understand everything a little better. It could be a part of me being a rookie coming in and needing to understand the difference coming from an oval into a road course into a street circuit and then back to an oval, adapting to all these things.

As a team, I think since Indy we've taken things more simple. Just thought more logic. What does the car need? Keep it simple. No need to turn the car upside down, just bits and pieces, just fine tune. I think that's helped us quite a bit in the second half of the season. Obviously, also, the car needs to be competitive as soon as you load the truck.

After qualifying P3, Christian Lundgaard, pictured here on the Korean War Veterans Memorial Bridge, held on and avoided the roughly $800,000 in estimated race car damage to finish P8 at Big Machine Music City Grand Prix in Nashville. The level of contact between drivers led Pato O'Ward to call Nashville the "Crashville" Grand Prix, Image Credit: Chris Owens via Penske Entertainment (2022)

Q. Congratulations on the new deal. I have two questions. First of all, what lessons did you learn after losing that point in Nashville in the last race? You had so many years being a member of the Renault Alpine Academy. What's your take about the whole (indiscernible) situation?

CHRISTIAN LUNDGAARD: About Nashville, I think it was a lot of different things. We had burned our push-to-pass quite early in the race, fighting Colton and Palou. I think in the beginning of the second stint I had a big flat spot on my right tire that restart, which was the primary, and we knew we had to go a long way on those tires. So we basically had to use some push-to-pass to sort of -- I forgot that word. To stabilize it.

After that, with the red flag, I think if we wouldn't have had the red flag, we would have finished second. But the last pit stop I made a mistake. So I basically got jumped by Scott. In Indy these are the things we need to learn. Coming into the next season -- and I know the team knows this because I spoke to my engineers and the over board yesterday, as late as yesterday. We were making changes and improving these kinds of things.

Honestly about the whole F1 stunt, I'll call it, I mean, we see it here with Palou. Obviously, outside obviously I'm happy to not be in the position because I don't think anyone wants to be in the position. It's unfortunate for absolutely everybody. But I don't have any intel or any information on what's going on from over there. I haven't even been contacted by anyone within the team.

I'm not going to say I'm disappointed because I like being here. I prefer being in INDYCAR, so I'm not too sad about it.

THE MODERATOR: Can I just say, though, as you're doing this and I'm listening to you throughout the course of this last 35 minutes, compared to maybe at the beginning of the season when you and I did some other things, you just seem way more comfortable now. Is that an accurate statement?

CHRISTIAN LUNDGAARD: No, I am. I think I've been extremely lucky, where I actually ended up placing myself in this apartment because Indy Lights driver Christian Rasmussen lives just down the hallway, the same building, and his neighbor, pretty much his neighbor, is Marcus Ericsson. He's Swede, and we're Danish. My girlfriend is Danish. Marcus' girlfriend is Danish. So we all hang out.

That has helped me a lot because coming over here, there's nothing worse than just sitting on your butt not doing anything. So I think that's just helped my personal life, being comfortable, and I think everyone can relate to this. If your personal life doesn't work, your work life doesn't work. So I've just been incredibly fortunate to have this.

THE MODERATOR: That's great to hear actually. You can tell, I think even in the performance like you mentioned.

CHRISTIAN LUNDGAARD: Nothing has changed personally since, but yeah.

THE MODERATOR: Let's take a few more in English.

Q. I'm talking about this past Sunday marks one year since your debut in the car in Indianapolis. In what aspects do you think you improved during this 365 days? And in what aspects do you think you have to improve considering you have this deal with Rahal about that? And what do you think about it?

CHRISTIAN LUNDGAARD: Obviously after the race last year, that was roughly in the middle of the season in my F2 season. We weren't really performing very well there. It was actually a very tough time, and I remember when I came over here and I qualified fourth, I basically told everyone, my family and my investors, sponsors, managers, et cetera, I've still got it. Don't worry. I've still got it.

I think that personally was a big confidence boost doing the race, knowing that I still had it, because the season wasn't going very well there. I can't even remember what we finished, but it was a tough year for sure.

Which is also why I wanted to come over here because I know that we performed very well at that event even with food poisoning on Sunday. It was tough, a tough time. I think even in the beginning of the season this year was tough. But all the hard work and dedication pays off now. We've seen it with our podium and our third in qualifying in Nashville.

So we've got to keep digging. We will keep digging. There will always be things you can improve. I think there is many things -- it's simple things that just needs to be done, just not making mistakes in the pit stop. Just being consistent. I rather want to be the guy who does it right every time than being the guy that does it absolutely perfect one out of six.

All of these things, just being consistent and reliable.

Q. One of your bosses for Rahal commented recently that Sebastian Vettel, that if he has an opportunity to test with an INDYCAR, then the team will give this opportunity to Sebastian. Would you like to see Sebastian in INDYCAR? How positive do you think that this move, this incorporation to INDYCAR and specifically for your team gives for the competition?

CHRISTIAN LUNDGAARD: I think it would be cool for Sebastian to drive an INDYCAR honestly because it's -- I've driven Formula One cars. I've tested quite a few days with Renault. So for me, I'm going to say it as it is. For me, that was personally the easiest car I've ever driven. It's easy to drive to a certain extent.

And the reason why we see Formula One being, I would say, split up in the front of the field and then the midfield is extremely close, is that the car is very easy to drive to a certain limit. Then finding that half a second to a second is what's tough. Because the car's got so much downforce that it's going to stick, right?

So I think for Sebastian to come over here and try a car that you need to hustle, you need to work the car, and you aren't really driving -- the car isn't driving you. You are driving the car. I think that's going to be a tough transition. But I think honestly there's going to be a lot of F1 drivers that I wish would try an INDYCAR.

Q. Christian, first congratulations on the contract expansion. I think it's a great thing for you and the team. I know you live local to the shop and want to spend time there. I think that's a very positive approach to success for everybody around. I'd like to echo Dave's comments on your growth with the interviews. I've always found you to be a mature, intelligent, and articulate person to these interviews.

CHRISTIAN LUNDGAARD: Thank you.

Q. A little more comfortable now.

CHRISTIAN LUNDGAARD: For sure, of course.

Q. Having spent a lot of time in Europe in the different series and having started in car, now that you're in INDYCAR, what do you think could be adopted by INDYCAR from any of those series that would make the INDYCAR racing better?

CHRISTIAN LUNDGAARD: That's actually a very, very good question because I think on the way through a season you pinpoint things that could be different. Thinking about it now, they all blur, like I can't really pinpoint one or more.

What can I use as an example? I don't know right now.

Q. Fair enough. Just wondering if there's anything procedural.

CHRISTIAN LUNDGAARD: Honestly, it's a very, very good question because I think looking at it, I'd prefer here's -- obviously then I wouldn't really want to take anything from there. But I think there's things that's good.

I love the warmups we have here. I think Europe should do that. We do practice qualifying, practice, practice qualifying warmup on Sunday morning, and then we race on Sunday. I think it's just great because it isolates the qualifying performance and the race performance more because you focus on making the car as absolute fast as you can, and then you wake up Sunday morning and it's race time and you focus on the race, where you can build and prepare your race car Sunday morning. I think that's great. That's something I really like.

The other way around, I can't think of anything right now.

Q. Christian, two questions here. With your success the last couple races, how much confidence do you have going into Gateway, especially after testing there last week?

CHRISTIAN LUNDGAARD: I think for us Gateway wasn't -- we weren't that competitive as we would hope to have been, I think either in qualifying trim or race trim. But I think for us, having done the test, the test was very good for us in identifying things we need to work on. So I would say at the moment I'm not the most confident, but I know that the team is going to work extremely hard, we're all going to work extremely hard to be sure that we improve our package. I'm not at all worried that, once race day comes, we'll be more competitive than we are now.

Q. Your first INDYCAR race ever was last season at Indy, and you now qualified fourth. What is something you know now that you wish you knew then?

CHRISTIAN LUNDGAARD: I think last year I actually thought there was a fast six. I think many people know this by now, there's only a Fast 12. The Fast 12 result was the qualifying. I made a few mistakes. I remember it very quickly, turn four, going back to the back straight before the flat actually came, I made a pretty big mistake there. So I knew there was going to be more time in, and I can't remember if it was four-hundredths or so we were behind for pole. So we had a good shot at it.

Food poisoning for the race certainly didn't help. Pretty much the whole team had food poisoning on Sunday. I remember we all just looked at each other Sunday morning, how did you sleep? Terrible. Oh, yeah, me too, and everyone. That experience helped me a lot coming into every race this season, also being more cautious about what I eat for sure.

No, I've got more experience. It's difficult to pinpoint because I didn't have any experience on tires. Sunday morning in warmup -- again, the warmup is great for especially this. That was the first time I ran the car in full fuel and race trim and long stints, but it's only half an hour so we couldn't do much. I wish I would have learned more then to be more and better prepared for the race.


THE MODERATOR: I know you're self-conscious about your English, but you really do speak it well.

CHRISTIAN LUNDGAARD: Me?

THE MODERATOR: Yeah, you. You talk about Danish users native tongue.

CHRISTIAN LUNDGAARD: I live in America. I lived in the UK last year.

THE MODERATOR: I know, but you're quick to say, oh, Danish, I can speak that.

CHRISTIAN LUNDGAARD: Which is actually very true. I sat in the driver room in the truck with Jack, and I can't remember if Graham was there. But I sat there with my girlfriend, and we were speaking Danish. Then he asked me a question, and he was just like, how did you just go from one language to another? Obviously he only knows English. He was like how do you do that? Talent. It's something I'm born with, I don't know.

If you know more languages, I think it's just more common and natural to be able to swap. But it is good. I know two languages. You probably only know one.

THE MODERATOR: And I'm still struggling with the one, I'll be honest with you.

Congratulations on the new deal. Safe travels to World Wide Technology Raceway, and we'll see you in a couple days.

CHRISTIAN LUNDGAARD: Thank you.

THE MODERATOR: He's the driver of the No. 30 for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing and the Shield Cleansers Honda. It is Christian Lundgaard. If you're not going to join us in person, coverage of the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Axalta and Valvoline begins at 6:00 p.m. eastern. See it live on USA, Peacock Premium, and you can listen to the INDYCAR Radio Network.

Thanks everybody. Have a great rest of the afternoon.
[ht: FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports]

Many followers of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES have noted this is the closest top-six battle this late in the season in the history of the series’ current 20-plus-year points structure. The next three races will settle just who has the luck, patience, courage, team coordination, and critical set-ups to take home the Astor Cup between Will Power, Scott Dixon, Marcus Ericsson, Josef Newgarden, Alex Palou, and Scott McLaughlin come September. Pretty much an all House Of Penske or Chip Ganassi Racing show.

Weekend Schedule (All Times Eastern)

Friday: NTT INDYCAR SERIES practice, 1-2 p.m.; Indy Lights practice, 3:10-4 p.m.; NTT INDYCAR SERIES qualifying, 4:15-5:15 p.m.; Indy Lights qualifying, 6:15-6:45 p.m.; NTT INDYCAR SERIES practice, 6-6:30 p.m. and 6:45-7:45 p.m.

Saturday: Indy Lights race, 4:15 p.m.; NTT INDYCAR SERIES' Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Axalta and Valvoline, 6 p.m. (USA Network and the INDYCAR Radio Network).

... notes from The EDJE


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TAGS: World Wide Technology Raceway, NTT INDYCAR, Christian Lundgaard. Graham Rahal, RLL, Honda, Shield Cleansers, Peacock, Bommarito Automotive Group 500, Axalta, Valvoline, House Of Penske, Chip Ganassi Racing, The EDJE