Race Weekend Central

Linus Lundqvist Plays Alternate Strategy for 1st IndyCar Podium

LEEDS, Ala. ā€” Just four races into his first full-time NTT IndyCar Series season, Linus Lundqvist has checked his first podium finish off the to-do list after finishing third in Sunday’s (April 28) Children’s of Alabama Indy Grand Prix at Barber Motorsports Park.

Lundqvist qualified 19th on Saturday, the second-lowest of the Chip Ganassi Racing cars, trailed only by Kyffin Simpson in 23rd place. Much in the style of his other teammate, Scott Dixon, the young Swede used an alternative strategy to turn a lack of track position into a result that hadn’t been on the radar going into the race.

“Oh man, it was amazing,” Lundqvist said. “I think for the first time ever I was not on the save-fuel strategy. I was not the one being passed, which was nice.

“Obviously, we had a bit of everything in that race for us. We started obviously quite far back, in 19th. In the beginning, it was just about basically saving fuel as much as we can, see what we can do later in the race. The team kept telling me to hit your number, you’ll reap the reward at the end. That definitely happened.”

Lundqvist was among those to pit under a caution brought out when Pietro Fittipaldi spun into the wall on lap 6, knocking out the first of the No. 8 team’s three stops on the day and getting off the harder, slower Firestone Primary tires. Lundqvist emerged from the pits in 20th place on a set of fresh, faster Firestone Alternates and cycled as high as third place while the front half of the field made their pit stops.

On lap 37, Lundqvist was called in from third for a set of used Alternates, which the team was looking to stretch as long as possible to set up a short stint on fresher tires. They were aiming to give their driver an advantage over much of the field, who would be on used Alternates or fresh, but slower Primaries.

Lundqvist was able to stretch his rubber to lap 71, meaning it would be fresh, fast tires for the final 20 laps of the race. Leaving the pits in 14th place, without worry of saving fuel or conserving tires, the Ganassi freshman was turned loose and told to push as far as he could until the checkered flag.

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On paper, nothing major, just some fancy strategy, right?

Maybe, but the action on track showed something much more potent. Lundqvist wanted this bad, and the team put him in position to light the track on fire in his pursuit of a podium result.

“No, I think this kind of goes for everybody,” Lundqvist said when asked about the significance of his first podium result being on the same podium as Will Power, who earned his 100th top-three finish.

“Once that helmet puts on, it’s just a car in front of or behind you,” Lundqvist said, seated next to Power in the media center.

“You don’t really think too much about who it is,” Lundqvist said. “The moment that I did have was when I passed a little bit of cars in that last one. They were telling me who was the next car in front. Oh, that’s Alex [Palou]. Damn, OK.

“Then we kind of had like 10 laps in no man’s land looking after the tires. You’re going to have a couple moments to yourself thinking, ‘Are we really running third here? Are we going to end up on the podium?'”

The Swede had to carve through the likes of Romain Grosjean, Kyle Kirkwood, Felix Rosenqvist and Alex Palou, among others, en route to third place, which he secured on lap 79. The next 12 laps saw Lundqvist hold third place with ease while Rosenqvist and Palou did battle behind, the former eventually coming out on top to claim fourth place.

For Lundqvist, the result is certainly overdue, even if it came in his first full-time season in IndyCar. Precisely because it came in his first full-time season, actually ā€” a season that was overdue in and of itself.

Lundqvist won the Indy NXT (then IndyLights) in 2022 ahead of second-place points finisher Sting Ray Robb. When the scholarship awarded to the Indy NXT champion ā€” which usually plays a significant role in funding their IndyCar Series ride the next year ā€” was slashed by more than 50%, Lundqvist was left with no way to secure a spot on the grid for 2023.

However, a massive crash at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course which left Simon Pagenaud unable to race cleared the path for Lundqvist to get a chance to prove his point in the No. 60 Honda of Meyer Shank Racing. In that car, he posted finishes of 25th, 12th and 18th in appearances at Nashville, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and World Wide Technology Raceway, respectively.

The effort paid off when Lundqvist was offered a ride in Ganassi’s No. 8 car, which had been vacated by his fellow countryman Marcus Ericsson, who departed for Andretti Global.

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Even on this occasion, however, focus has to face forward when driving for a team the caliber of CGR. Lundqvist was straight to business when asked what this result means for him and the No. 8 team heading into the month of May.

“We’re obviously here to do a job,” Lundqvist said. “Ganassi has had a record of having very good cars at the 500. I’m excited to feel that out.

“I also realize it’s going to be a learning curve. Like Will [Power] said, the field is so competitive nowadays, you’ll take anything you can possibly get. Obviously, this is a nice boost of confidence. We’ll have a week off, but we’re back at it again for the GP [at the Indy road course] and obviously the big one. Yeah, just back to work.”

Lundqvist’s CGR teammates ended the day fifth (Palou), ninth (Marcus Armstrong), 14th (Simpson) and 15th (Dixon).

About the author

Alex is the IndyCar Content Director at Frontstretch, having initially joined as an entry-level contributor in 2021. He also serves as Managing Director of The Asia Cable, a publication focused on the international affairs and politics of the Asia-Pacific region which he co-founded in 2023. With previous experience in China, Japan and Poland, Alex is particularly passionate about the international realm of motorsport and the politics that make the wheels turn - literally - behind the scenes.

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