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IndyCar Laguna Seca

IndyCar rookie test provides full circle moment for Lundqvist

Everything about the 2023 IndyCar journey for Linus Lundqvist has taken longer than it should have, but has been well worth the wait.

Linus Lundqvist

The 2022 Indy NXT champion was forced to sit on the sidelines for the majority of the season, but turned his only opportunity into a proverbial golden ticket heading into next year. While other Indy NXT champions received a $1 million prize to move up to the IndyCar Series, he was forced to accept a check for half that amount.

In turn, the Swede was left playing the waiting game, and was called upon by Meyer Shank Racing to substitute for the not-medically-cleared Simon Pagenaud after a violent practice crash at Mid-Ohio. He qualified a stout 11th in his debut on the Streets of Nashville, and followed it up with a 12th place start and finish during the Brickyard weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. He back-ended his trio of starts with a finish of 18th in his only oval start at Gateway. In two of his three appearances, he was the highest-finishing rookie.

Those performances, while minimal, were enough to get the attention of Chip Ganassi Racing. On 31 August, Lundqvist signed a multi-year deal that puts him on the grid full-time beginning in 2024, and with an organisation that has won the IndyCar title two of the past three season.

During 24-year-old’s Rookie Orientation Program on Wednesday, everything came full circle as it was not only his first-ever run behind the wheel of a Ganassi machine, but also pushing laps of nearly 220mph at Indianapolis Motor Speedway – a place that he earned the opportunity to compete at in May, but circumstantial fate dictated otherwise.

“It's difficult to put into words how cool it actually is,” Lundqvist said. “So long you've been on the sidelines watching this race for many, many years and to now actually be driving it, it's awesome. And then my first ever outing together with Chip Ganassi Racing as well makes it double joyful to do this.”

Brad Goldberg, the engineer that helped propel Marcus Ericsson to an Indianapolis 500 victory in 2022, was on the timing stand and working with Lundqvist. Although not confirmed, it appears likely they will be paired together for next season, made easier with Ericsson gone to Andretti Global.

Linus Lundqvist

Linus Lundqvist

Photo by: Penske Entertainment

“Yeah, that's invaluable and that's one of the most amazing things about this team,” Lundqvist said. “They have so many good and competent people at every level: engineers, mechanics, you have Dario (Franchitti) to access and team-mates with Scott Dixon and Alex Palou, et cetera. It's incredible. It's good access to have as a rookie.”

By the end of the walk down Gasoline Alley and onto pitlane, Lundqvist was left in awe.

“It's incredible because walking in here always feels very special,” Lundqvist said. “And even with empty grandstands, you feel very, special and fortunate to be in this position. So, I can only imagine what it's like to be here when all the grandstands are full and there's 300,000 people here.”

The day wasn’t without a moment of drama, though. After completing two phases, Lundqvist’s #8 Honda suffered a tyre failure and briefly halted his third and final phase.

“We had a tyre trailer, which wasn't great,” Lundqvist said. “I'm not going to lie, it was a little bit scary. But the boys got it all sorted, so we just put on a new set of tyres and then we didn't have any issues the rest of the day.”

Lundqvist suggested the incident was due to that tyre set, one of three provided on the day, reaching the end of its mileage. Then, he paused to take in the moment after completing ROP accompanied by extra afternoon running, setting a quick time of 219.504 mph and logging 102 total laps.

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He briefly shared thoughts on enduring the past year and the dramatic turn of events.

“I could never have guessed that at the beginning of the year, but if somebody told me that: 'Hey, if you sit out for most part of 2023 and then you end up with Ganassi for 2024,' I would take that deal, for sure,” Lundqvist said. “So, it ended up in a very good place.”

Linus Lundqvist, Meyer Shank Racing Honda

Linus Lundqvist, Meyer Shank Racing Honda

Photo by: Josh Tons / Motorsport Images

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