Lundgaard aiming for “two or three more wins this year” after first IndyCar victory in Toronto

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At yesterday’s race in Toronto, more IndyCar history was created in the Canadian city as Christian Lundgaard became the latest winner of a race in the North American series.

Photo credit: Penske Entertainment | Joe Skibinski

The 21-year-old drove a masterful race, controlling it from the front for most of the day.

Starting on the alternates, the Dane drove away from the field (+4s to McLaughlin in 2nd) in the opening stint before making his stop on lap 19.

That lead had gone out to 6s on the Kiwi after everyone had stopped. But it was wiped out because Romain Grosjean crashed. During that period, the likes of Kyle Kirkwood, Colton Herta and Alex Palou pitted. They were hoping for more caution periods so they could get to the end of the race.

On the restart four laps later, some of them got their wish. Kirkwood hit Castroneves and the Brazilian’s day was done.

Another caution period led to Lundgaard pitting. It dropped him to P7, a net P4.

However, he cleared Kirkwood and Herta within two laps of the restart, and the former F2 driver eased by a limping Alex Palou to regain the net lead.

After Scott Dixon pitted, Lundgaard drove away from the pack to win by over 10s from the championship leader.

Lundgaard expected to have a good car going into the race that could bag a solid result, but even he was surprised at just how mega it turned out to be.

“I think we had the better car in the race today, and I wasn’t really expecting it. I knew we had a fast car, but I wasn’t expecting to be this fast and just kind of just drive around and be there.

“Today fuel mileage was just too easy, so I have to thank Honda for that. They made this win easy for me today, especially on the last stint making sure I got the fuel mileage and Hy-Vee for supporting this team.

“We know where we’re going next. It’s Iowa, and we’re going there up on top of a win, so we’ll see if we can replicate that there.”

In spite of briefly dropping to a net P4 at one stage, the Danish star never really felt like he was not going to win the race.

“I don’t really think there was any [turning points]. I do think that we had the race in control. Even though we had to stop three laps earlier than the fuel window, I knew that Palou had front wing damage, and I knew I would get past him, and the other cars had to pit anyway because they wouldn’t be able to make it either on tyres or fuel.

“At that point I knew I had to overtake one car, and he was struggling. He had to save more fuel than I did, so it was kind of easy from there on. As soon as I got past him, I just took off.

“I had a fuel number to reach as well, but I got it pretty easy. I got a lot more than that, so been a pretty good day.”

Lundgaard had already been on pole this year at the Indy road course back in May. The Dane finished 4th that day and backed that up with the same result at Mid-Ohio before yesterday’s huge breakout result.

The RLL driver admitted that he thought it had been coming, but he expected the first one to potentially come when they head to the road course at Indy for the second time this season next month.

“I think it’s been coming. If I’m going to be completely honest, I would have expected it to come in about three weeks when we got back to Indy.

“Having my first pole there, my first podium, it would have been great to have the first win as well, but it came today. I can’t thank the team enough because all the progression that we’ve been making throughout this year, we just struggled to be able to start the season good enough. We struggled on especially the superspeedways.

“I don’t really know where we are in the standings now, but I’m sure we’ve moved up. That’s what I mean. We’re moving forward even though we don’t have the pace and performance on the superspeedways. It just means that we’re doing pretty good elsewhere. I think we proved that today again.”

Criticism is not something that bothers the young Dane.

“No. I know what I’m capable of, and I know what the team is capable of, and in looking at the three cars this year I would say I’ve been the fastest car.”

It’s been a remarkable turnaround by RLL following a dreadful start to the season, combined with the horrible lack of pace they showed at the Indy 500.

11th, 27th, 17th at the first three events, plus 30th at the 500 and 18th in Detroit was a horrible start to the campaign overall in qualifying, albeit he did take pole as mentioned previously at the Indy GP.

Nonetheless, 7th, 5th and pole at the last three events suggests things are finally on the right track for the team, with the Danish driver clearly outperforming Rahal and Harvey.

Lundgaard expanded on what he wants to achieve over the remainder of 2023 when asked about it.

“To continue on the path that we’re on right now. I don’t think I’ll want to say that I expect this tomorrow or I expect that tomorrow.

“You know, we’re making progress, and I think it’s pretty obvious now that the past two races that we’ve done, we didn’t have any — well, last year here we did transfer in the first group, but in Mid-Ohio none of our three cars transferred last year, and this year we were at two cars in the Fast Six and one car in the front row.

“So just looking at it like that, we’re definitely making progress. The races that are coming up are races that we were competitive at last year, so I do think that we have a chance of at least getting another if not three, two more wins this year.”

Yesterday’s masterful victory has moved Lundgaard up to 7th in the standings. He’s now within 43 points of two-time champion Josef Newgarden, who currently occupies 3rd in the championship.

Photo credit: Penske Entertainment | Chris Owens