Lindus Lundqvist doesn’t quite know yet what his 2023 racing plans will be. However, winning an Indy Lights championship this season may open more doors. Lunqvist currently leads Matthew Brabham by 108 points entering this weekend’s race (1:10 p.m. ET, Peacock, INDYCAR Radio Network) at the Portland International Raceway. If he leaves 109 points up or more exiting the paddock on Sunday afternoon, then the title is clinched and all his. It won’t matter what he does in the doubleheader weekend at Laguna Seca next week.
However, it’s got to be hard right now for him to balance both. He has to have one eye to the future and one to the present. It’s only natural, right. One though, is more clear than the other. A title is likely his. In saying that, even with so much success in 2022, finding that seat on the next level up has proven to be more challenging than expected to the Swedish driver.
“I mean, the big challenge right now is just getting a seat in INDYCAR, to be honest,” Lundqvist said on Wednesday afternoon. “There’s not a lot of ’em out there. We’ll see what we can do.
“Obviously the target is to be with these guys next year full-time. Hopefully we can make that happen. We’ll see. I know that the best thing I can do for myself is to continue to try to do well and wrap up a couple more wins at the end of the season and we’ll see what happens.
“I mean, I’ve had talks with literally every team on the grid since May I think. But obviously it’s so competitive out there, just to get a seat opening. We’re doing my best. We’re doing our best to put myself in one of the big cars.”
There’s not many openings. Alex Palou’s situation with Ganassi affects AMSP. That’s in the courts. It’s highly likely his teammate Benjamin Pedersen lands in the 14 seat at AJ Foyt Racing. Andretti is full. Penske is full. RLL is full. Does he wait for the ripple effects of the Palou situation? That’s about all he has because it’s down to an engine and funding if HMD/DCR expand to a 3rd car and a similar situation for Juncos Hollinger Racing on a 2nd seat.
Lunqvist however is at least enjoying a dominant season and proving he’s deserving of the promotion that he’s earned. He leads the series with most wins (5), poles (6) and top 5 finishes (11) through the opening 11 races to this season.
“Yeah, we’ve had a great season,” he said this week. “Obviously looking forward to the West Coast races now. Obviously we have a good margin. But we’re still here to win a couple more races, what we enjoy doing. That’s definitely the target. It seems to be the best way to try to win the championship as well, is to win races.
“We’ll see. Obviously you look a little bit at the points. Obviously you play it on the safe side. We’ll see how it goes.
“I think Portland was a strong track for us last year. David got double pole, because I got double seconds unfortunately. We’ll see what we can do this year. This is usually the case where I go for a win and the team says, Don’t worry, you’re fine. Big picture, look at the points.
“But, I mean, the best and the safest way is qualify up front and try to run away with it. That’s going to be the plan. Score the most points, it’s the safest way of doing it.”
He more than likely will place his No. 26 entry towards the front on Saturday for qualifying anyhow. Lundqvist has had two straight poles and 4 consecutive front row starting spots this season. Furthermore, he’s had a front row start in 10 of the 11 races run. Brabham by comparison has 7 straight top 6 results on the season and 3 podiums in his last 4 races but no front row starts all season. On like tracks, Brabham has qualified 9th at Barber, 5th and 4th at Indy, 4th at Road America and 4th again in Mid-Ohio. He’s also finished 7th, 9th, 9th, 6th and 2nd in those races too.
Lundqvist may have the advantage there to score at least 1-2 more points than Brabham to clinch the title over him.
However, this may also open the door up for someone like Hunter McElrea who has 5 podiums in the last 6 races and seems to have more comfort on natural road choruses. His finishes on them are 12th (Barber), 2nd, 6th (Indy), 3rd (Road America) and 1st (Mid-Ohio). He trails by 109 points in 3rd. Can he make up 2 points on Lundqvist this weekend?
It may come down to a podium for each.
Sting Ray Robb is 4th in points (-119) and has 6 straight top 6’s too but only 1 of his last 4 was on the podium and better than 5th. That was a runner-up in Nashville. He did finish 3rd at Barber and both races at Indy, 2nd in Road America and 5th in Mid-Ohio. He may be too far down at the moment to challenge for a championship.
“I mean, we get the luxury of being the front figure of everything,” Lundqvist quipped. “Obviously you have the whole team behind you. You wouldn’t be able to even come to the race without them.
“Obviously HMD the last two years I’d say have been one of the top teams together with Andretti. Obviously that was the goal from the end of last year to sort of come back and try to fight for the title. The target was to go with HMD because we thought that’s where the potential was.
“I think it’s proven right so far at least. It’s cool to see them expanding as well. It was a little bit of a question mark when David moved up to the INDYCAR, what’s going to happen to the Lights car. They only expanded, added more engineers, put more effort in than last year.
“It’s cool to see them expanding both on the Lights side but also to INDYCAR with the partnership with Dale Coyne. It’s a good energy with the team right now.”
19 of the 20 Portland races were won by a top 4 starter. The only outlier is Pato O’Ward’s 2018 win in the second race of the weekend from 7th. David Malukas and Kyle Kirkwood won both races last year. 10 of the 11 races this season were won by a top 4 starter, all consecutively too. Brabham’s season opening win at St. Pete was from 6th. The last 8 winners all came from the top 3.
There’s also been 4 different teams to have won the last 4 races here. Juncos (Rinus VeeKay), BN Racing (Toby Sowery), HMD (David Malukas) and Andretti Autosport (Kyle Kirkwood) have won the last 4 tries. 3 of the 4 are current NTT INDYCAR Series drivers right now.