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Rahal’s faith in Christian Lundgaard pays off with 2022 IndyCar Rookie of the Year title IMSA Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta: How to watch, start times, schedule, entry list

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MONTEREY, California. When the young 19-year-old Danish driver arrived at Indianapolis Speedway for a road race on August 14, 2021, little was known about him.

Who is this Christian Lundgaard and why did team owner Bobby Rahal give him a ride?

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He quickly showed why by finishing fourth in his IndyCar debut. Lundgaard finished 12th.thbut he proved to Rahal that he was capable of racing in the NTT IndyCar series.

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During the off-season, Rahal signed Lundgaard to a full-season contract to drive the No. 30 Honda at Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.

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Lundgaard honored him by winning the 2022 IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year award – 40 years after Rahal became IndyCar’s top rookie in 1982.

“I have compatriots in Europe whom I trusted for many years, and everyone said:“ You have to give this guy, Christian Lundgaard, a chance, ”recalls Rahal. “(They said) ‘He’s real.’

“So we agreed and a year ago we asked Christian to compete at the Harvest Grand Prix. He puts it fourth in the grid.

“More importantly, I think he helped develop the car in that short period of time, helped develop the car, gave us some direction in the development of the car. It paid off for us before the end of the year. Most of the customization came from the bindings we got from Christian at Indy.

“It’s not an accident when you perform like this. It makes sense. We believed that Christian could be something special. He’s very young and we’re also looking to the future and we thought, ‘Yes, this is the guy we want to have on our team now and in the future.’ ”

Lundgaard finished 14thth points ahead of newcomer David Malukas (16th), Callum Ilott (20th), Develyn DeFrancesco (23rd) and Kyle Kirkwood (24).th).

“I’m so happy for Christian,” Rahal said. “Rookie year, every track outside of the Indy GP was a new track. You’re going to Texas, it’s a scary place. You are going to Toronto; you’re going to Iowa. This young man had to learn these circuits as best he could in a very short period of time.

“I would like to think that we as a team helped him, but still, when you get out and start walking, it’s kind of holy (beep) – sorry, holy smokes – it’s a different place.

“So, I am very happy not only for Christian, I am very happy for his team, his group. Ben Segal, his engineer, who was new to us this year and new to Christian. It’s kind of a seeding process and they really grew together over the course of the year and the results we’re seeing today are a reflection of that.”

In a three-rider RLL team, Graeme Rahal finished season and Jack Harvey finished at No. 45 Hy-Vee Honda.

So how is Lundgaard going to celebrate his IndyCar Rookie of the Year title?

“I’m going to Vegas,” he said. “I’ll go back to my room, take a shower, and in the evening we fly to Vegas.”

Rahal joked, “Well, he’s getting the bonus from somewhere else because it’s not from me.”

Lundgaard, which in August signed a multi-year contract extension stay with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, said: “I have a contract. I think that’s my bonus.”

In addition to getting a new contract, he also impressed the IndyCar paddock.

Lundgaard was able to become a “German Dane” by driving fast as well as driving. While many of his fellow rookies have made mistakes this season, Lundgaard has rarely been criticized for mistakes by other riders – even when he started racing ovals for the first time in his life.

At Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix at Monterey at WeatherTech Raceway in Laguna Seca, Lundgaard finished just behind Arrow McLaren SP’s Felix Rosenquist.

“Tough race,” Rahal said. “Tires are everywhere. Strategies are everywhere. This young man, as we saw in Portland – yes, a small mistake. But Indy, what’s wrong with you, he was there. He mixed it with the best guys.

“All I can tell you is that we are very excited for next year and we are doing everything we can to ensure that Christian, Graham and Jack have the cars they need to compete in the championship.”

Lundgaard’s best result this season was second behind race winner Alexander Rossi in the Gallagher Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 30th.

“I think today’s race could be one of the best races of the year,” said Lundgaard. “I think we weren’t very competitive all weekend. We were sort of there, but not quite there. We didn’t qualify well enough. We were good in black, but as soon as we put on red, the pace just stopped.

“Today we did our job, and I’m just happy that the team gave me the opportunity to be here and achieve this. I’m grateful for Bobby. Thank you for giving me this opportunity and saving me. I’m glad about it. Now I need to win another championship.

“You only get one chance at the Rookie Championship, so it was a big achievement for me.”

Driver Rahal Letterman Lanigan Driver Christian Lundgaard takes a selfie with his girlfriend Anna Briand before finishing a career-best second in the IndyCar race July 30 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Marc Lebryk/USA TODAY Sports Images Images).

Team owner Rahal admits that in many ways, Lundgaard was the shining star of his racing team.

“It was a tough year for us,” Rahal admitted. “The first third or half of the year was very uneven. We didn’t give our drivers, Christian, Graham or Jack, the cars they deserved.

“After saying that, everyone pulled themselves together and sort of figured it out. Probably since, I think, in Toronto, or shortly before Toronto, the performance of the team has increased markedly compared to where we were, and then we really saw what our riders are capable of.

“As a driver and I have been there, if you don’t have the right equipment, I don’t care how good you are, you can’t show it. But this team really got together. There was a lot of hard work from the whole team.

“This was hard. The middle of the season was tough. But everyone stuck to the course, worked very hard, and we saw an improvement in productivity overall.”

In 2020, a rookie driver from Spain joined Dale Coyne Racing and was so impressive that he was hired by Chip Ganassi Racing the following year. This driver is from Alex Palow, who won the 2021 NTT IndyCar Series championship and also won Sunday’s race.

Could the same thing happen to Lundgaard in IndyCar?

“I think anything is possible,” Lundgaard said. “I’m not looking to finish second, so I’ll do my best.”

The owner of his team, of course, is confident that in the near future there will be a championship with Lundgaard.

“Well, we wouldn’t have chosen him if we didn’t think,” Rahal said. “I think Christian is a big part of the future of RLL and as you saw earlier this week we are bringing people in to help lift the RLL game and I think together Christian obviously other new people will come along. and the whole idea is that we are here to win and we feel that Christian can win.

“I think he showed it this year. I mean at the Harvest Grand Prix we won the race because we were the first legal car.”

Rahal was referring to the fact that winning Rossi’s car failed a post-race inspection because a water bottle made the car too heavy. Rossi lost points but kept the win.

“That’s true,” said Lundgaard. “We really scored the most points.”

“Just saying…” Rahal replied.

Although Lundgaard has gone through the European ranking system, he considers IndyCar, not Formula One, to be his home of racing.

“I already watched IndyCar,” Lundgaard says sadly. “Actually, I would say I have watched a lot of road and street circuits because I still follow Formula 1. I still follow some junior categories. I even still follow kart races. I would say that I did it before I came here.

“When I had the opportunity to take the tests at Barbera, I wouldn’t say no anyway, because I like the challenge of a new car just to drive and get to know America.

“But I fell in love with him and I’m here and I love it.

“I will not leave”.

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500.

Start time, TV program guide: The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship will wrap up the 2022 season this weekend. with Motul Petit Le Mans on Michelin Road Atlantawhich would also mean the end of the line for the DPi class.

The top-notch international Daytona Prototype category, launched in 2017, will be replaced by a new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class with LMDh cars that will install the Le Mans Bridge.

For the third time in four years, Acura will become the DPi champion as No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing has a 19-point lead over No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing.

Last year, WTR No. 10 advanced to the season finale by 19 points, but lost the title to No. 31 Cadillac Action Express.

WTR regulars Filipe Albuquerque and Ricky Taylor (who will be joined this weekend by Brandon Hartley in 10th) have picked up four series wins this season. MSR duo of Tom Blomkvist and Oliver Jarvis…


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