INDIANAPOLIS — No one really knew of Christian Lundgaard prior to this past week. See, Rahal/Letterman/Lanigan Racing announced early Monday morning that the Danish driver would pilot the No. 45 Honda in this weekend’s Big Machine Spiked Coolers Grand Prix (12:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, INDYCAR Radio Network). See, the 20 year old is an F2 driver and while he may be known overseas, he’s not picked up much attention here states side yet.
Lundgaard, 20, impressed everyone at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in quickly getting up to speed. He was seventh fastest in the lone practice session of the day. In a brutal group of knock out qualifying, Lundgaard remarkably made it out of the first round.
This group had the current top five in the NTT IndyCar Series points standings as well as Alexander Rossi, Jimmie Johnson and the pole sitter back in May, Romain Grosjean.
Still, he didn’t flinch. He marched to the second and final round and qualified his car on Row 2 in fourth with a time of 1.10.7433-seconds.
“Let’s just say I didn’t expect to be here now when I left home,” he said following an impressive days work on Friday. “I know my family is asleep right now. I guess they will have a heart attack when they wake up in the morning.”
As to what made the 2.439-mile road course layout take to his liking so quickly, he said it was difficult to say.
“I’m just enjoying myself and seeing all the opportunities I have, trying to grab them obviously,” he said. “But it’s always about going out there and give it your all. For me, it’s just amazing to be here and to prove myself.
“I think it’s looking good so far. But I didn’t expect to be here now.”
He said what makes this even better is that he’s seeing the fans again. In F2, they’ve only had fans a couple of times he says. So to come here and see so many people, he says was just awesome.
Plus, the only reason he’s even here is RLL is wanting to possibly expand to a third full time car next year and he had a break in the schedule due to the summer break overseas.
“I think whatever the future brings, there is a lot of different options,” he said on if this could be a route for next year. “I’m not going to say this isn’t one of them. It definitely is. But there is also others.
“I think to come here to do this race I think is a good thing for us for the future, to be able to decide. I would say looking at the results and from the performance today, it probably looks bright for the future. But I’m not going to say it’s going to be this. There’s so many options.
“I mean, I’m here to explore. I’ll probably also explore some other things later on. But I’ve still got half a season to go in F2. That’s still where the focus is, to finish that season, be sure we improve the championship position we’re in at the moment.”
He said without any experience here that he didn’t even meet any of the other drivers until this morning. With that said, he is also hoping to have a good result on Saturday since he’s in a position to not have to go for points and can race without worry for a championship.
“Honestly, when I’m down at the paddock, I’m just confused because it’s so different,” he said. “Obviously F1 and F2, we got garages and so on. But here the people just walking around the cars, it’s amazing to see. I’m just enjoying. I think every second I spend here I like it more and more.”
What the most impressive thing of the day is the fact that his teammates have struggled in qualifying this season and here he is in the top four spots. Graham Rahal has started 11th or worse in five of his last seen starts on the season. Takuma Sato has yet to earn a top 10 qualifying position. Why did these cars suit him?
“I think the drivers probably won’t agree with me because they want the tires to come in faster. These tires come in a lot quicker than what I’m used to. We basically do two warmup laps. We go out and do one, then we push for two laps, and that’s it. Here, it’s going straight out of the box. You basically want to push as hard as you can going straight out of the box. That’s quite different to what I’m used to.
“I think I’ll be struggling with getting straight out of the box and being sure I’m at the right braking point because I haven’t got used to that because it’s nothing that I’ve done before. That will probably be something to learn.”