Photo: Walter G. Arce/ASP, Inc.

Lundqvist Scores First IndyCar Pole at Road America, Heavy Shunt for Newgarden

By David Morgan, Associate Editor

ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Linus Lundqvist will have the best seat in the house when the green flag waves on Sunday’s XPEL Grand Prix, winning his first career NTT IndyCar Series pole at Road America.

The Chip Ganassi Racing rookie methodically advanced through the first two rounds, but when the track finally dried out from the rain that has lingered over the 14-turn, 4.014-mile road course, it was go time and he delivered.

Sporting a fresh set of Firestone alternates, Lundqvist jumped to the top of the board as time expired with a lap of one minute, 45.1519 seconds to capture the pole.

“Wow, what a feeling! My first pole,” Lundqvist said. “Man, it’s been a rough couple of races for us, but it’s fantastic to be able to bounce back like this. It’s better than I could’ve wished for.

“I was happy just transferring to the Fast 12, and then the Fast Six but I told the boys ‘let’s go for pole’ and that’s exactly what we did!”

With the track conditions dynamically changing throughout the session, from full wet to drying enough for everyone to have enough confidence to put on slicks over rain tires on the Fast Six, Lundqvist noted that he leaned on his racing background in Europe to manage the conditions that seemed to change by the minute.

“It was hectic. It was crazy. I say one of the craziest qualifying sessions I’ve had,” Lundqvist said. “This feels like an average British F3 qualifying back in the day type of style where started off torrential rain, then the last part it dried up, we threw on the slicks.

“It was kind of fun going back to that, a little bit back to my roots. Even growing up back in Sweden, half the races we did was in the rain. I’m pretty comfortable there.

“Obviously towards the end it was staying online, not touching the wet. That’s basically what I had in my mind. It happened to be good enough for pole.”

Colton Herta would clock in second fastest to join Lundqvist on the front row, maintaining the speed he has shown throughout the day, echoing Lundqvist comments about the difficultly the weather provided.

“Very difficult. Probably one of the, if not the, most difficult qualifying session for me in INDYCAR so far,” Herta said afterwards. “Just a lot of unknowns. Unknowns of what to do with the tires, where to brake, what the line is, how many laps. So very difficult.”

Marcus Armstrong will start third, with Kyle Kirkwood rolling off from the outside of the second row, giving Ganassi and Andretti Global a stranglehold on the first four starting spots.

The final two drivers in the Fast Six – the Team Penske duo of Josef Newgarden and Will Power – would finish qualifying in fifth and sixth, respectively, but both had issues of their own during the session.

Power brought out the red flag early in the Fast Six when he spun after hitting a wet spot on the still drying track, looping his Chevrolet, but avoiding making impact with anything. He would have his fast time taken away for causing the red flag.

Newgarden, however, was not as lucky.

Charging hard to try and make up time through the Kink, Newgarden ran off-line on the rumble strips, which were still wet from the rain, causing his car to whip around violently and slide into the SAFER barrier on the outside of the turn, making hard contact, which sent his car airborne momentarily.

“Sorry,” Newgarden radioed to his crew as he attempted to catch his breath after the crash. “Just dropped a wheel.”

The 2024 Indy 500 champion was able to climb from the car under his own power, and was seen and released by INDYCAR Medical, but his car definitely took the brunt of the heavy impact and it will be a long night of work ahead for the No. 2 Team Penske crew.

“What happened was what I thought would happen,” Newgarden said. “I feel like an idiot, you know? I just got a little bit wide. You can’t do that in this condition. I mean, look, this is INDYCAR, it gets tight. I pushed it a little too far there.

“I apologize to my guys. That was a rocket ship car. Man, it was really good. I don’t know if the lap was good enough, but it would have been in the realm of something decent. I was definitely trying to go for it like everyone and just overstepped.”

In addition to the work that will need to be done in switching over to a backup car for Sunday, the team will also be changing his engine as a precaution after the impact. The engine will be sent to Detroit for examination and if determined to be OK, it will be recycled for future use – not counting against his engine allocation for the season.

The remainder of the top 12 starters on Sunday will be defending race winner Alex Palou in seventh, followed by Scott McLaughlin, Alexander Rossi, Scott Dixon, Pato O’Ward, and rookie Kyffin Simpson.

With the field now set, it’s on to race day on Sunday, which will feature the standard half-hour warm-up session at 12:15 pm ET on Peacock before the main event goes green at 3:30 pm ET on NBC.

XPEL Grand Prix at Road America Qualifying Results

RankCarDriver NameC/E/TTimeSpeedSession
18Lundqvist, Linus (R)D/H/F01:45.1519137.424Round 3 / Firestone Fast Six
226Herta, ColtonD/H/F01:45.2913137.242Round 3 / Firestone Fast Six
311Armstrong, MarcusD/H/F01:45.6592136.764Round 3 / Firestone Fast Six
427Kirkwood, KyleD/H/F01:46.4498135.748Round 3 / Firestone Fast Six
512Power, WillD/C/FNo TimeNo SpeedRound 3 / Firestone Fast Six
62Newgarden, JosefD/C/FNo TimeNo SpeedRound 3 / Firestone Fast Six
710Palou, AlexD/H/F02:00.8290119.594Elimination Round 2 / Top 12
83McLaughlin, ScottD/C/F02:00.8840119.539Elimination Round 2 / Top 12
97Rossi, AlexanderD/C/F02:00.9035119.520Elimination Round 2 / Top 12
109Dixon, ScottD/H/F02:01.2671119.162Elimination Round 2 / Top 12
115O’Ward, PatoD/C/F02:01.5141118.920Elimination Round 2 / Top 12
124Simpson, Kyffin (R)D/H/F02:01.6266118.810Elimination Round 2 / Top 12
1345Lundgaard, ChristianD/H/F02:02.3826118.076Elimination Round 1 / Group 1
1477Grosjean, RomainD/C/F02:01.7626118.677Elimination Round 1 / Group 2
1528Ericsson, MarcusD/H/F02:02.6460117.822Elimination Round 1 / Group 1
1620Rasmussen, Christian (R)D/C/F02:02.0944118.354Elimination Round 1 / Group 2
1721VeeKay, RinusD/C/F02:02.7088117.762Elimination Round 1 / Group 1
186Pourchaire, Theo (R)D/C/F02:02.1745118.277Elimination Round 1 / Group 2
1914Ferrucci, SantinoD/C/F02:03.8144116.710Elimination Round 1 / Group 1
2018Harvey, JackD/H/F02:02.9443117.536Elimination Round 1 / Group 2
2178Siegel, Nolan (R)D/C/F02:05.0248115.580Elimination Round 1 / Group 1
2260Rosenqvist, FelixD/H/F02:03.3098117.188Elimination Round 1 / Group 2
2351Ghiotto, Luca (R)D/H/F02:05.1341115.479Elimination Round 1 / Group 1
2415Rahal, GrahamD/H/F02:04.8213115.769Elimination Round 1 / Group 2
2530Fittipaldi, PietroD/H/F02:05.6079115.044Elimination Round 1 / Group 1
2641Robb, Sting RayD/C/F02:04.8553115.737Elimination Round 1 / Group 2
2766Castroneves, HelioD/H/F02:09.6837111.428Elimination Round 1 / Group 2

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David Morgan is the Associate Editor for Motorsports Tribune. A 2008 graduate from the University of Mississippi, David has followed NASCAR since the early 90’s and became hooked at an early age after attending his first race at Talladega Superspeedway in 1993. He has traveled across the country since 2012 to cover some of the most prestigious events both IndyCar and NASCAR have to offer, with an aim to only expand on that in the near future.