Lundgaard tops IndyCar rookies at St. Pete

Mike Levitt/Motorsport Images

Lundgaard tops IndyCar rookies at St. Pete

IndyCar

Lundgaard tops IndyCar rookies at St. Pete

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Among the NTT IndyCar Series rookie drivers, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Christian Lundgaard came into the new season with the strongest expectations to lead the six-deep group of newcomers.

Unfortunately, the Danish driver found his full-season debut in the No.30 RLL Honda to be more challenging than desired as Friday’s practice and Saturday’s qualifying did not go according to plan.

Starting 15th, the 20-year-old had all manner of experiences in the 100-lap race after falling back, moving forward, and settling for a solid finish of 11th, top among the rookies. It wasn’t exactly the weekend he wanted, but altogether, Lundgaard left Florida with a solid foundation to build upon.

“It was a long race,” he said of the contest on the streets of St. Pete. “I think we lost quite a few positions in the beginning of the race at the start, which I wish we could’ve kept. I think we covered some ground on the first pit stop cycle which was good.

“We ran long on the [Firestone] reds which I was quite happy about. I think the pace on the reds was pretty decent, we perhaps could have gone a little quicker if we had some clean air, but we will never know. It was quite physical in the end.”

A top talent like Lundgaard is never going to be excited over an 11th-place result, but after spending most of the weekend well below where he thought he would be, race day offered a welcome reprieve.

“When we pulled out the last set of blacks, we tried to hang on,” he said of the sprint to the checkered flag. “In the end I think the balance of the car was decent today, we just didn’t have the proper pace that the Penske cars had. So, I think to come home with a result like this is pretty good on our first weekend.”

Behind Lundgaard, A.J. Foyt Racing’s Kyle Kirkwood was next among the rookies, having started 12th and fallen to 18th as he was one of many drivers on a three-stop strategy to lose out due to the timing of the Lap 25 caution.

Juncos Hollinger Racing’s Callum Ilott was next after starting and finishing 19th, and he was followed by Devlin DeFrancesco who took the start in 18th and came home 22nd for Andretti Autosport. Foyt’s Tatiana Calderon improved from 25th to 24th, and David Malukas the cause of the lone caution, was credited with 26th and last in his Dale Coyne Racing with HMD Motorsports entry.

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