MADISON, Ill — Linus Lundqvist left the Iowa Speedway soured. He felt like he should have kept his win on the last oval on the 2022 Indy Lights schedule. After all, he crossed the finish line first at the race last month. However, that celebration was quickly subdued. The victory champagne never occurred for the Swedish driver. In a wild turn of events, Lundqvist was shortly dropped from 1st to 4th in the finishing order for his role in the Lap 71 incident with Matthew Brabham. That move in turn handed the win back to pole sitter Hunter McElrea instead.
Lundqvist wasn’t happy with how that played out so he took it out on the field the next time out in Nashville to where he led all 35 laps and extended his season long points lead to 95 with 4 races remaining.
Now, he’ll look to lead every lap again in Saturday’s race at the World Wide Technology Raceway. Despite a bobble in Turn 1 on his qualifying run on Friday afternoon, he still turned in a two-lap average quick enough to net him his 9th career pole including 6 of the 9 coming this season alone.
The Swedish driver set a qualifying average of 160.259 mph which was good enough to land him on his 10th front row starting position in 11 races run this year.
“We were good in the test here a couple of days ago,” Lundqvist said. “We just improved little by little. We knew that qualifying was going to be super tight.
“I knew that I was going to have to push to the limit and maybe a little bit beyond because I remember qualifying here last year, I was under the limit. So, I thought I’m going to have to change that up. It was a close call in (Turn) 1, but we managed to string it together with a good second lap. Super happy.”
He’ll have good company up front with teammate Benjamin Pedersen snagging the 2nd qualifying position in his No. 24 entry. The 2nd year driver turned in a two-lap average of 160.124 mph.
It’s his best qualifying spot since he started 2nd in Belle Isle Race 1 back in early June. In fact, the previous 2 times he started 2nd, he finished there.
That would be great news for Lundqvist if he could go 1-2 with Pedersen again.
The Andretti Autosport organizations took the next four spots in the lineup with Matthew Brabham starting third in his No. 83 entry after setting a speed of 159.572 mph. Rookies Christian Rasmussen (159.475 mph) and Hunter McElrea (159.215 mph) will roll off 4th and 5th respectively.
McElrea sits 2nd in points and while he’s charging hard in going from 7th in points to 2nd, it may be too little too late. The Andretti driver has 5 straight podiums in his No. 27 entry including that Iowa win, but if he wants to have any shot at a title next month, he better likely win out.
While he has won 2 of the last 3 races, Lundqvist hasn’t finished outside the top 5 all year either. 70% of his finishes this season have been on the podium.
Sting Ray Robb (-103) is 3rd in points but McElrea’s teammate has never won in 30 career Indy Lights starts. He does have 2 runner-ups this season and 6 podiums as well as 9 top 5 finishes in 10 starts, it’s going to take multiple wins over the final 4 races to even have a shot.
Brabham (-115) and Christian Rasmussen (-134) round out the top 5 with all 4 Andretti drivers chasing Lundqvist.
HMD won both races last year via David Malukas and searching for the hat trick near St. Louis on Saturday. Andretti won the 2 prior races in 2018 and 2019 while Belardi triumphed in 2017. Each of those 5 races since the racing has returned at Gateway in 2017 have been won by a front row starter.