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Front row reacts: Lundqvist on his “crazy” first IndyCar pole

Written by Archie O’Reilly

Linus Lundqvist became the first rookie to take an NTT IndyCar Series pole since 2021, improving on a previous best starting spot of 17th during his first six events with Chip Ganassi Racing. He qualified a best of 11th, backed up by two 12th-place starts, across three races with Meyer Shank Racing last year.

The Swede will start alongside Andretti Global’s Colton Herta on the front row. Here is how the pair reacted to the mixed-condition qualifying session

A proud first IndyCar pole

“It’s huge,” Linus Lundqvist said in reaction. “What makes it even bigger is to do it together with Chip Ganassi Racing and the American Legion, especially with their message, to ‘Be The One’. It feels special to be able to say that proudly now. It feels you’re representing something bigger than racing and bigger than life. 

“To be able to bring that to the forefront, to the front of the row, front of the field, is something I’m incredibly proud of. Hopefully not the last time.”

All five of Ganassi’s cars made it through to the Fast 12 for the first time since their expansion, including a maiden appearance in the second segment of qualifying for rookie Kyffin Simpson. Lundqvist and sophomore teammate Marcus Armstrong - off the back of a maiden podium in Detroit - were the only two to progress to the pole shootout.

Lundqvist bumped two-time champion teammate Alex Palou out of the top six in order to progress, also beating six-time champion Scott Dixon.

“That was pretty awesome,” he said in response to Ganassi’s performance.

A first NTT P1 Award comes four races on from a maiden IndyCar podium with a third-place finish at Barber Motorsports Park. He has since finished lower than 20th in each of the last three races, including by crashing out of the Indianapolis 500 after a Month of May that left him “torn” after unhappiness with his performance.

“If you asked me after Barber, I would be a little bit more hopeful,” Lundqvist said when asked whether he feels as though he is on schedule. “Over the last couple races, the Month of May was rough for us. I kind of came in wanting to rebuild my confidence. Detroit was not a confidence builder - it was a rough place. Coming in here was a bit of a reset. 

“This is one way of doing it, I suppose. Dare I say this was surprising even to me.”

Lundqvist said this result “definitely helps” the rebuilding of his confidence. He has put a lot of emphasis on improving qualifying performances, which adds extra satisfaction to taking pole.

“I know it wasn’t a very conventional qualifying session,” he said. “But either way I’m going to take it as a step forward. Hopefully we can just build on this confidence. Points are being handed out tomorrow - it’s going to be the focus. Either way, it’s a good step forwards for us on Saturdays.”

Keeping it clean in the wet

While many drivers have had off-track excursions, from Friday’s dry practice session to Saturday’s wet running, Lundqvist cannot recall having any issues that sent him out of the confines of the track.

“I’m going to try to keep it that way tomorrow,” he said. “Obviously in the wet it’s super tricky to stay on track, especially now towards the end where you just have one dry line. But even yesterday in the dry, people were going off. 

“Around this place, you usually don’t run that much downforce, which makes it a little bit tricky in the high-speed braking zones. I think it’s so easy to snatch a front right or front left, off you go. That’s going to be something we don’t want to do tomorrow.”

Lundqvist did still have “many” close calls, especially in the wet conditions. Damp patches in the corners still caught drivers off-guard during the dry tyre running and drivers “went in a little bit blind” on a green track. But Lundqvist ultimately kept it clean.

“Like British F3 qualifying”

Lundqvist spent two years racing in the United Kingdom in 2017 and 2018, finishing fifth in British F4 before taking the championship in British F3. And the wet conditions, ultimately transitioning to the appearance of a dry line, were very familiar to what Lundqvist experienced across the pond.  

“It was hectic,” Lundqvist said. “It was crazy - one of the craziest qualifying sessions I’ve had. This feels like an average British F3 qualifying back in the day… type of style where [it] 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 were in the rain. I’m pretty comfortable there. Obviously towards the end it was staying on line, not touching the wet. That’s basically what I had in my mind. It happened to be good enough for pole.”

Lundqvist spoke of the difficulty when it comes to being committed in the dry-wet conditions, especially when on slick tyres with one dry line - as was the case in the Fast Six session. Getting the tyres up to temperature is also a challenge.

“To be fast, you’re going to have to approach it almost like a dry lap or a dry session,” he said. “If you’re just one foot or even half a foot with your outside wheels, you’re going to go off. That’s also what makes these conditions so exciting, because it’s very rewarding when you do put it together.”

Braving the slick tyres late on

While the rest of his competitors emerged on track on slick tyres in the Fast Six, Lundqvist stayed on the wets. He overruled his team telling him to go on slicks but ultimately came into pit lane to switch off his wet tyres.

“I just didn’t feel confident enough to do it,” he said. “Then I saw everybody else doing it. I realised there was a dry line coming down. I told the guys a little bit shamefully: ‘You were right, let me come in for the reds.’ We came in and it was just about building the temperature because we knew it was going to be maybe the last lap that’s going to be the fastest. 

“It was just about staying on track until then, try to build as much temperature as you can, then hopefully it will be good enough for whatever. I was happy firstly just transferring to the Fast 12, then the Fast Six. I was happy with that. I actually told my guys as well: ‘Alright, let’s try to go for pole here, see what we’ve got. So I’m happy it worked out.”

Lundqvist “felt pretty good” from the opening segment of qualifying and progressed despite the fact his lap “wasn’t perfect”. Confidence only built from there, through the Fast 12 and into the Fast Six.

“That was a big thing for me, just transferring to the Fast Six for the first time,” he said. “I think the red flag [for Josef Newgarden crashing] helped me a little bit because it kind of put me on sequence with the other guys that went out first on dry tires. I knew it was going to come down to the last lap.”

Herta continues impressive record

Sharing the front row with Lundqvist, Herta backed up pole position in Detroit with a second-place start at Road America. It is his fifth front-row start at Elkhart Lake in seven attempts, with no finish lower than seventh at ‘America’s National Park of Speed’.

“Probably one of the, if not the, most difficult qualifying session for me in IndyCar,” Herta said. “Just a lot of unknowns - unknowns of what to do with the tires, where to brake, what the line is, how many laps.”

Herta also has experience of racing in the United Kingdom after a full season and third-place championship finish in British F4 in 2015 and part-season in British F3 the year after. Just like Lundqvist, this means Herta has a lot of wet-weather driving experience.

“It definitely helped being in England for those years, driving a lot of wet-weather days,” he said. “That definitely helps. I think driving style helps. I tend to drive a little bit more aggressively than a lot of people. I’m comfortable sliding the car - it helps in those slippery conditions to find the limit a little bit more comfortably. 

“The cars were great today, wet or dry. I think that’s the biggest thing to dial it down to. When you’re not fighting a car in the wet, it makes such a big difference.”


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