until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


What IndyCar’s sudden new star wants to prove in his bonus race

by Jack Benyon
7 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

“I’m not oblivious to what this weekend meant,” said Linus Lundqvist following his IndyCar debut, which started with a brilliant qualifying result and ended with a crash.

It’s an interesting scenario, because before the crash, anyone watching the Nashville IndyCar race in which Lundqvist subbed for the concussed Simon Pagenaud at Meyer Shank Racing, would be ready to assign him to an IndyCar seat next year such was his performance.

Having never done fuel saving or even a live racing pitstop, he mirrored champion Alex Palou’s strategy and – crucially – his pace, until deviating on strategy by taking an extra pitstop, creating a window on fresh tyres that he used to set the fastest lap of the race.

Palou stayed out hoping for a late caution, which he got and finished third, so Lundqvist realistically could have been in the top five to 10 if he’d maintained that strategy. But he was probably on course for a top 15 before his crash and may still have even made the top 10.

The crash obviously soured things, but The Race’s understanding is that paddock opinion of Lundqvist has only gone up after the weekend, and rightly so given all he achieved versus what was a tiny error getting on the marbles in your first race figuring out a lot of the vagaries of IndyCar competition.

The crash weighs on Lundqvist, but I think he knows what he did last weekend, and that he firmly planted himself on the radar of teams or even move himself well up their shortlists.

“I think it’s changed dramatically, because if we put it like this, a week and a half ago, I didn’t even know that I was racing in Nashville, let alone obviously what I was doing for ’24,” Lundqvist told The Race IndyCar Podcast in his first interview since being confirmed for another shot with Shank this weekend.

“We did Nashville, and I had a feeling that we did pretty well. But then after the race when I crashed I thought ‘OK, well, that wasn’t very good!’

“That wasn’t ideal at all.

Linus Lundqvist Big Machine Music City Grand Prix By Chris Owens Ref Image Without Watermark M88605

“So then when we talked and when they realised as well that Simon was unable to do Indy and they approached and asked about that, I was just like, ‘OK, all right, well, we’re going to get another shot at this’.

“So for ’24 I don’t know still. I’m still just happy to get the opportunity to be back in the car again this weekend.

“And I want to believe as well that we did maybe a couple of favours to ourselves last weekend with just showing that we have the speed at least.

“But obviously I need to follow that up this week. And most importantly, I think finishing the race is going to be the biggest thing for me and to get the proper full race distance and to see the chequered flag.”

Shank putting Lindqvist back in the car can only be a good thing, especially when its shoo-in for a seat next year, Tom Blomqvist, doesn’t have any clashes and could have got a ‘free’ IndyCar race weekend under his belt when testing is so sparse.

This must be a bid to evaluate Lundqvist further, which the other teams will now be able to do too.

“It’s a good sign that they decided to put me back in the car especially after we ended the race as well, it was a very nice thing, like you said it’s an indication of what we did at Nashville, I think was very good,” he says.

Linus Lundqvist Big Machine Music City Grand Prix By Chris Jones Ref Image Without Watermark M89130

“I’ve heard that from around the paddock just walking up and down pitlane you get a lot of taps on the shoulder saying ‘good job’, ‘good laps’ and stuff like that which is very, very encouraging and very nice.

“It’s almost a little bit surreal, because I’ve been walking outside of that pitlane for such a long time looking in from the outside, and now actually being in it feels very, very special and then to do pretty well also, yeah, it makes me happy.”

You can learn more about Lundqvist’s debut, including nuggets about the benefits of having access to Andretti Autosport’s data – the team that won the race with Kyle Kirkwood – and how training at PitFit with other IndyCar drivers helped to remove any starry eyes when competing against some of his heroes on this week’s episode of The Race IndyCar Podcast.

But for now the focus remains on Indianapolis. Of course the track is much different to Nashville but there are some similarities. It’s a very condensed schedule which won’t help, but Andretti Autosport did win at this track with Colton Herta last year and like in Nashville, Lundqvist has won at the track in the Road to Indy.

He also tested there with Andretti in an IndyCar in October 2021, so he even has relevant experience in an IndyCar at the track.

The big thing is going to be packaging all of the learning about in and out laps, pitstops, different fuel and engine maps, adapting to the car set-up and even starts and restarts to give a more complete performance this weekend.

He doesn’t need to prove any raw pace, but being consistent and finishing the race – this event has been known to throw up rain and unusual strategy cartoon anvils to catch you out – combined with what he showed in Nashville would certainly make his full-time return to the series next year a dead cert.

When spending time with Lundqvist at the weekend, he was his usual cheery self. But there’s no doubt he knows exactly what’s at stake.

“I just have a good poker face in the sense of not showing pressure because you definitely felt the pressure and like I said, I’m not oblivious to what this weekend meant and what it could have meant, I realised that this is the opportunity that I’ve been waiting for,” he adds.

“I also realised this is my one shot to kind of show all the team owners that I’ve been speaking to for a very long time, and especially to Mike [Shank] and Jim [Meyer] what my capability was. But I also kind of relish in that environment.

“Because still, the biggest pressure that I feel is from myself, is the pressure that I put on it. So if the outside pressure does get bigger, it just means that it matches my inside pressure and expectations.”

Linus Lundqvist Big Machine Music City Grand Prix By Travis Hinkle Ref Image Without Watermark M88867

There’s no doubt other teams will have been taking a look at Lundqvist.

Felix Rosenqvist has been the most frequent name linked to the second Shank seat alongside Blomqvist for next year, but by self-admission Rosenqvist still reckons he could end up at any other team than Penske next year, such is the driver market.

Rahal Letterman Lanigan and Ed Carpenter Racing – the two teams Lundqvist tested for earlier this year – could have a seat each and make a play for him, while Juncos, Dale Coyne and AJ Foyt could all have one seat available to Lundqvist.

Andretti and Ganassi may be a reach even if they have seats available, but across Shank, RLL and ECR, Lundqvist could slot into a team capable of a top-five finish on its day and sometimes even more.

Lundqvist spent most of last year impressing The Race with his old-school approach of knocking on all the team bosses’ doors – literally on some occasions – to make them aware of who he is and his ability.

Sadly he was lacking two things; the funding of other rookies that got seats ahead of him, and the opportunity to present some proper evidence of what he could do in an IndyCar.

The first one of those, sadly, isn’t likely to change significantly. But the second certainly has, as basically outperforming his legendary team-mate Helio Castroneves and giving Meyer Shank only its second top 12 qualifying appearance on a road or street course this year among his other achievements certainly gives him plenty of staying power.

A similar result at Indy would only help push his agenda.

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