Linus Lundqvist made his first race at the historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway facility especially memorable this afternoon by scoring an emphatic victory in the first of two Indy Lights Grand Prix of Indianapolis Presented by Cooper Tires races this weekend.
Lundqvist led every lap from the pole position for Global Racing Group with HMD Motorsports to claim his second win of the young Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires season. He also vaulted ahead of HMD Motorsports stablemate David Malukas, who finished second, in the quest for a scholarship valued at almost $1.3 million to guarantee entry into a minimum of three NTT IndyCar Series races, including the Indianapolis 500, in 2022. Toby Sowery finished third for Juncos Racing.
Lundqvist, 22, laid down a marker yesterday morning when he topped the charts in the first of two test sessions, and was quickest again this morning in qualifying to claim his second Cooper Tires Pole Award. He made an exemplary start to hold the lead into the first corner and was never seriously challenged throughout an all-green 30-lap race around the 2.439-mile Indianapolis Grand Prix road course.
Sowery, who started second, was outfoxed at the start and was simply unable to match Lundqvist’s pace. Instead he came under immediate pressure from erstwhile points leader Malukas, who drafted alongside on the front straightaway with three laps completed before sweeping past into Turn 1.
Lundqvist, though, was already more than two seconds clear and continued to extend his lead to as much as 2.7 seconds after 13 laps. Malukas then turned a series of fastest laps to whittle the deficit down to 1.7 seconds, but he was never quite able to make up the additional two tenths which would have moved him within range of being able to deploy the AER engine’s push-to-push feature, worth an additional 50hp.
Instead, Lundqvist responded by setting a new fastest lap of the race on his 23rd lap. The game was over. Malukas never gave up hope, continuing to turn laps almost as fast as the leader, but there was no catching Lundqvist this afternoon. The Swede’s eventual margin of victory was a relatively comfortable 2.3922s.
“This is very special, even more so because it’s my first time here,” said Lundqvist. “I didn’t know what to expect, but the team did a great job on the car and for David and I to be one-two, that says it all about the team and the cars we had today. We knew it was going to be close after qualifying. It was all about having that tenth of a second on your side.”
Sowery ran a relatively lonely third to score his best result of the season so far for the team based literally just down the street from the racetrack in Speedway, Ind.
Likewise Kyle Kirkwood, who earned his first Indy Lights victory a few weeks ago on the streets of St. Petersburg, had nothing for Sowery and finished fourth for Andretti Autosport, chased home by Alex Peroni (Carlin), who also recorded his best result of the year.
Daniel Frost (Andretti Autosport) had briefly moved ahead of Peroni when the Aussie locked up his brakes at Turn 12 on the 13th lap, only to do the same himself at Turn 1 just five laps later. Frost thus fell back into sixth where he remained, despite race-long pressure from the Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport Dallara-AER IL-15 of Devlin DeFrancesco.
Robert Megennis was unable to recapture the form that took him to victory at Indianapolis two years ago, but did gain a little consolation by earning the Tilton Hard Charger Award after working his way from 10th on the grid to eighth.
The Indy Lights Grand Prix of Indianapolis Presented by Cooper Tires will continue with a separate qualifying session tomorrow morning at 8:55 a.m. ET, followed by a 35-lap race which will commence at 12:45 p.m., immediately before the IndyCar race.