Race Weekend Central

Linus Lundqvist Finishes 6th to Lead IndyCar Rookies at Thermal Club

After trouble free runs in his heat race and the first half of the $1 Million Challenge at the Thermal Club, NTT IndyCar Series rookie Linus Lundqvist finished sixth as the only rookie competitor in the 20-lap main event during Sunday’s (March 24) $1 Million Challenge.

The result is the best of Lundqvist’s IndyCar career to date, eclipsing his previous best result of 12th, which came on the Indianapolis road course last August.

Starting seventh, Lundqvist moved up to sixth place at the start of the race after passing Graham Rahal, who was struggling with throttle issues throughout the main event’s first half. After briefly falling to seventh in the middle of the race, Lundqvist moved up to fifth in what might be the move of the race.

The No. 8 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda was right behind Alexander Rossi and Josef Newgarden as the American pair were fighting for fifth place. Part of a much larger back-and-forth between the two, the pair out-braked each other heading to the second and third turn complex with nine laps to go, allowing the Swede to move up to fifth place, grabbing two spots for the price of one.

See also
Alex Palou Maintains Control, Wins at Thermal Club

That fifth place was short-lived. Colton Herta‘s unorthodox tire strategy in the first half gave him better tire life in the second half of the race, allowing the California native the opportunity to get around Lundqvist for fifth heading to turn 7 on lap 13.

For the rest of the 20-lap race, Lundqvist, while battling handling issues, had to fiercely defend his position from all challengers which he successfully did, beating Rossi by just under a half-second and Newgarden by one-and-a-half seconds.

Lundqvist’s path to getting to the main event was relatively straightforward. After being randomly drawn in the second qualifying group, the 2022 Indy NXT champion qualified fourth fastest for the second heat race.

With the top six from both 10-lap heat races advancing to the 20-lap main event, Lundqvist maintained his starting position throughout the heat race and finished fourth behind eventual $1 Million Challenge winner, and teammate(s), Alex Palou, Marcus Armstrong and Rahal.

As for the other freshmen in the event, Nolan Siegel was the only rookie in the first heat race and finished seventh, failing to advance to the main event by just under 0.6 seconds after floating around the transfer cutoff line for most of the session.

In the second heat race, Tom Blomqvist finished eighth ahead of Christian Rasmussen in 10th. Kyffin Simpson, also contesting his rookie season for Ganassi, finished 11th ahead of Colin Braun in 13th. Braun was signed to drive for Dale Coyne Racing at St. Petersburg and Thermal Club, at time of writing, no word has been given as to whether Braun will strap into the No. 51 again this season.

About the author

Christopher DeHarde has covered IndyCar racing and the Road to Indy for various outlets since 2014. In addition to open wheel racing, DeHarde has also covered IMSA and various short track racing events around Indiana. Originally from New Orleans, DeHarde moved to the Indianapolis area in 2017 to further pursue a career as a motorsports writer.

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