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Lundqvist: IndyCar right to experiment with Thermal $1m Challenge race

Chip Ganassi rookie Linus Lundqvist praised IndyCar for being willing to experiment with its format at the $1m Challenge exhibition race at Thermal but reckons it was "awkward" to watch.

Linus Lundqvist, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda

Michael L. Levitt / Motorsport Images

Lundqvist was the best-placed rookie in the non-championship round on Sunday, finishing sixth in the two-segment main event that had a $500,000 prize on the line after a straightforward drive – starting and finishing fourth – in the second heat race.

The 2022 Indy NXT champion finished directly behind Ganassi team-mate Marcus Armstrong in the final after running a cautious first 10 laps of the final in an effort to conserve his tyres.

Reflecting on the weekend, the 24-year-old Swede welcomed the nine hours of testing available across Friday and Saturday as he builds experience in IndyCar, having only previously started three races for Meyer Shank in 2023 before making his Ganassi debut at St. Petersburg.

“I enjoy that IndyCar is taking some chances,” he said.

“Having this non points race gave them the platform to try a bunch of things and see differences.

“I think we can definitely look over the final stint, splitting the 10 laps and 10 laps, because I think it was a little bit awkward for the people watching as well.”

Race Start, Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, Marcus Armstrong, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, Linus Lundqvist, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, Tom Blomqvist, Meyer Shank Racing Honda, Patricio O'Ward, Arrow McLaren Chevrolet, Callum Ilott, Arrow McLaren Chevrolet, Alexander Rossi, Arrow McLaren Chevrolet

Race Start, Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, Marcus Armstrong, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, Linus Lundqvist, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, Tom Blomqvist, Meyer Shank Racing Honda, Patricio O'Ward, Arrow McLaren Chevrolet, Callum Ilott, Arrow McLaren Chevrolet, Alexander Rossi, Arrow McLaren Chevrolet

Photo by: Josh Tons / Motorsport Images

Recognising how the opening 10 laps of the event was more of a follow-the-leader in a slowed pace ordeal, Lundqvist suggested that changes could be made for future editions.

“The first half was rough because people - myself included - were running eight to 10 seconds off the pace just to save tyres for the last bit,” he explained.

“We can have a think about what we can do to change that, but otherwise I like the short race format.

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“Obviously, the starts are always exciting, so when you bunch everybody together and especially, I think what helps racing generally is higher tyre deg, which we had here, and maybe something even more so we can start to look at.

“A great example of good racing was the NASCAR race at Bristol a couple of weeks ago where you see what tyre deg and tyre management can do. But I'm happy that IndyCar tried stuff.”

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