By David Morgan, Associate Editor
INDIANAPOLIS – For Christian Lundgaard, there’s just something about the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course.
After posting his best qualifying effort of the season, the driver of the No. 30 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda backed it up with his performance in the race, running up front for the majority of Saturday’s Gallagher Grand Prix en route to a second-place finish and his first podium finish in the NTT IndyCar Series.
“It feels amazing,” Lundgaard said. “I think the best feeling right now is that the team really deserves it. They’ve worked super hard, and we’ve had such a struggling beginning to the season, and I think coming to Toronto was when things started to change. We saw sort of a streak where we started to perform better. Even Road America, Mid-Ohio was there. We were on the edge of top 10. To come here and finish second, I think the team deserves every bit of it.
“I’m just a guy doing my job really. I want to win, so I try as best I can every event.”
Lundgaard started his foray into IndyCar in this same race one year ago, starting fourth and finishing 12th in his first series start. When he returned to the track earlier this year in May for his first full-time season, the 21-year-old Danish driver was strong again, scoring his first top-10 of the season.
Two months later, he made another step forward in performance and was in the hunt throughout the 85-lap race.
Climbing into the top-three early on in the event, Lundgaard ran behind the Andretti Autosport duo of Colton Herta and Alexander Rossi until Herta retired due to mechanical issues, allowing Lundgaard to advance up to second place.
As the laps wound down, Lundgaard’s Honda was fixture in the rear-view mirror of race leader Rossi, but he could never close the gap to more that a couple of seconds, eventually finishing the race 3.544 seconds in arears of Rossi when the checkered flag flew.
Rossi made note of Lundgaard’s performance afterwards, adding that even though he was going for his first podium finish, he didn’t treat him as such, explaining that any driver that is in the hunt for the win has the skill set to go out and get it done on any given day.
“Everyone in this series is good enough to go out there and win a race, so you’ve got to treat them as if it’s Scott or Josef or Will,” Rossi said. “It doesn’t matter. You can’t take anything for granted.
“He made sure that he kept the pressure on all race. Like we were a fast car, and he kept the gap between two and four seconds, so a huge hats off to Christian and RLL and the effort that they did, and to get a Honda one-two is pretty cool.”
Lundgaard, who holds a secure lead in the Rookie of the Year standings over David Malukas, will look to keep up the momentum over the remainder of the season, starting with next weekend’s Music City Grand Prix on the Streets of Nashville.