until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


Rivals say this man needs an IndyCar seat. Now he has a test

by Jack Benyon
7 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Last year’s Indy Lights (now Indy NXT) champion Linus Lundqvist finally has an IndyCar test, and will drive for the Rahal Letterman Lanigan team the day after the Texas race at the start of the next month.

In this piece, first published before that confirmation but in the knowledge that Lundqvist would get a chance to impress, The Race assessed Lundqvist’s mood after missing out on a 2023 IndyCar seat – and what his peers thought of that development.

“Well, I believe that I deserve a seat and he beat me, so there’s your answer,” said Sting Ray Robb, when asked about the person he finished runner-up to in Indy Lights last year – who isn’t joining Robb in IndyCar this year.

It’s clear, IndyCar, its fans and stakeholders are not ready to move on from reigning Indy Lights champion Linus Lundqvist.

The Swede’s tumultuous off-season started looking like he’d be a full-time IndyCar driver in 2023, then the rug was pulled from underneath him with a misunderstanding over prize money, and now he’s sat on the sidelines watching people he beat but who have better backing than he does race the cars he should be.

Linus Lundqvist Indy Lights Champion Indy Lights Grand Prix Of Monterey By Chris Owens Referenceimagewithoutwatermark M70344

Robb himself has taken the seat Lundqvist was at one point favourite for: at Dale Coyne with HMD, the team Lundqvist won Lights with.

At one point it looked like he’d be offered a lifeline in Super Formula, but that’s not going to happen now either.

But rejoice Lundqvist fans, he has not given up on an IndyCar drive and there is something tangible to look forward to after months without any real news.

“I speak to pretty much every team in IndyCar this year and I’m trying to make something happen,” Lundqvist tells The Race in an exclusive interview.

“And obviously, there are some teams that might have possibilities to add another car to a couple of races whether it be the [Indianapolis] 500 or some more races beyond that.

“I can say that I will be in an IndyCar at some point this year, at least for a test, and then we’ll see what can come out of that and if we’re able to string together a couple of races.”

The Race understands that the test will come within the next three months and Lundqvist has already begun preparations to be ready to impress in what will be the second time he drives top-level machinery after a test at the end of his 2021 Indy Lights season with Andretti Autosport.

Linus Lundqvist Ims Road Course Test By Chris Owens Referenceimagewithoutwatermark M50295

That year he was beaten by Kyle Kirkwood and David Malukas and both came out in support of Lundqvist last week.

“I think it’s a super unfortunate situation that he’s in,” said Kirkwood, after standing out in IndyCar’s pre-season test at Thermal last week with Andretti, the team he won the Indy Lights title with.

“I highly respect Linus. I think he should be one of the next young drivers. He should be part of that next youth movement, and the circumstance that he’s in is obviously not an ideal one.

“He’s the first Indy Lights champion that hasn’t made it into IndyCar in quite some time that I can think of, at least a full season’s seat for at least a year.

“It’s disappointing to see for me because I feel like if it was a year later for me in his seat that I would be in the same position, unfortunately.”

Malukas – Lundqvist’s HMD Indy Lights team-mate, albeit in his second season in 2021 as opposed to Lundqvist and Kirkwood’s first – followed Kirkwood into the press conference room, and added: “I have so much respect for Linus.

David Malukas And Kyle Kirkwood Gallagher Grand Prix By Lisa Hurley Referenceimagewithoutwatermark M66367

“Such a good team-mate, a good friend. Honestly, I’m so gutted that he didn’t get a seat.

“But it’s all, I think, just with timing with how everything was, he really just came at a bad time.

“I feel like it would be the same for anybody. Like Kyle said, if I was going in at the same time he was, I would kind of run into the same issue.

“It’s really unfortunate, but I definitely think he’ll be with us in the future for sure.

“Like once ’24 comes up and there will be seats open, I do see him there, and I really hope he does because he definitely, definitely deserves an IndyCar seat.

“He is an amazing driver. He helped me so much through my Indy Lights season, and I just feel like me and Kyle had a bit of a jump on him.

Linus Lundqvist Chris Griffis Test By Sean Birkle Referenceimagewithoutwatermark M71868

“I think we had a little bit more seat time in Indy Lights than him, so he kind of needed that second year because Indy Lights is a very specific car to learn.

“But he would be very impressive in the IndyCar paddock.”

IndyCar has been trying to work with Lundqvist to help foster opportunities. As it stands, he risks being the first Lights champion since Jean-Karl Vernay in 2010 to not get at least a few IndyCar races in the following season.

It’s no secret what happened last year was not ideal. IndyCar said it communicated a change in the prize money before the season started, as it went from the $1.2million-valued prize for three IndyCar races plus the Indy 500 to $500,000 guaranteed with additional money to teams for race results.

It’s fair to say that this news took Lundqvist – and the rest of the IndyCar paddock at least – by surprise come the end of the Indy Lights season and it certainly left Lundqvist in a different position than he expected.

But, he’s not ready to stomp his feet and shout at the clouds. As always with Lundqvist, the manner in which he approaches pretty much anything, especially adversity, is so admirable and well beyond his years, frankly.

Linus Lundqvist Indy Lights Music City Grand Prix By James Black Referenceimagewithoutwatermark M67924

“There’s no point in pointing fingers because nothing’s going to change the outcome, is the way at least that I look at it,” says the 23-year-old.

“We’ve been trying to work with IndyCar and obviously it lies in their interest as well in trying to find something for me, so we’ll see what we can to do together to help with that.

“But at the end of the day, this is not the first time and it won’t be the last time that a driver is in my position where you don’t have funding and we know how this business works.

“If a team needs money, then what are they going to do, go out of business because they pick a driver with no money? No, of course not.

“So I know how this works and I know that I’m not the first nor will I be the last one. But it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t hurt.

Linus Lundqvist Grand Prix Of St Petersburg By Chris Jones Referenceimagewithoutwatermark M51509

“Because obviously, I still believe that we deserve to at least be given a shot and show what we’ve got.”

It’s hard to digest whether it’s a good or a bad thing in Linus’ case that Penske Entertainment has reorganised the Indy Lights – now Indy NXT – prize money for 2023.

The champion will receive three tests – at Texas, the Indy 500 open test and at the Indianapolis road course – an entry to the Indy 500 and one other IndyCar race.

On one hand it’s nice to know that another driver won’t have the misfortune of Lundqvist in the same way he has with all the misunderstanding and uncertainty over his prizes and future, but thinking selfishly for Lundqvist, it doesn’t alter what happened to him, either.

Luckily he doesn’t hold a grudge and is just ready to get his head down and work, a sign of his maturity and more supporting evidence that he is ready for an IndyCar drive, beyond his talent in the cockpit.

Alongside preparing for his IndyCar test, he’s based himself in the US for this season and is open to racing in the IMSA SportsCar Championship but will head back to Europe for opportunities there – although he acknowledges his momentum has been built on the west of the Atlantic.

There’s no doubt he’s earned the respect of his peers, or that if money was no object, he’d be in an IndyCar ahead of multiple drivers who are getting ready to make their debuts in St Petersburg.

It’s just one of the downsides of motorsport, one of the more cruel realities of an otherwise rewarding sport.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Email
  • More Networks