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Christian Lundgaard wins 2022 IndyCar Rookie of the Year

MONTEREY, Calif. – Little was known about the young 19-year-old driver from Denmark when he arrived at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for a road course race on August 14, 2021.

Who is this Christian Lundgaard and why was he dispatched by team owner Bobby Rahal?

He quickly showed why by qualifying 4th in his IndyCar debut.Lundgaard will finish Race 12thbut he proved to Lahore that he could compete in the NTT IndyCar Series.

During the off-season, Rahal signed with Lundgaard and rode the No. 30 Honda for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing for a full season.

Lundgaard rewarded him with the 2022 IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year award, 40 years after Rahal became IndyCar’s top rookie in 1982.

“I have long-time trusted compatriots in Europe, and everyone was saying, ‘You have to give this guy, Christian Lundgaard, a chance,’” recalls Rahal. “(They said) ‘He’s real’

“So we agreed and asked Christian to drive at the Harvest Grand Prix a year ago. He puts it fourth on the grid.

“More importantly, he helped us develop the car in a short period of time, helped us develop the car, gave us a direction for the car. That’s this year. A lot of that setup came from the bindings I got from Christian at Indy.

“It’s no fluke to perform like that. There’s substance to it. We believed Christian could be something special. He’s very young and has a future.” I thought, “Yeah, he’s the guy I want to be on this team now and in the future.”

Lundgaard 14 finishth In the point ranking, rookie David Marcus (16th), Callum Ilot (20th), Develin DeFrancesco (23rd) and Kyle Kirkwood, 24th).

“I am very happy with Christian,” said Lahore. “In my rookie year, every track except the Indy GP was a new circuit. You go to Texas, it’s a horrible place. You go to Toronto. I had to learn as much of the circuit as I could in a short period of time.

“I’d like to think that we helped him as a team, but still, when you start getting out there, it’s kind of holy (bleep). Sorry, holy smoke.”

“So I’m really happy not only with Christian, but with his team, his group. Ben Segal is his engineer, new to us this year, new to Christian. It’s kind of the beginning. It’s been a process and we’ve really grown together over the course of a year and the results we see today are a reflection of that.”

With the 3-driver RLL team, Graham Rahal finished 11 Jack Harvey finishes 22ndnd No.45 Hi-Vie Honda.

So how will Lundgaard celebrate his IndyCar Rookie of the Year title?

“I’m going to Vegas,” he said. “I’m going to go back to my room, take a shower, and fly to Vegas tonight.”

Rahal said jokingly.

Lundgaard, in August signed a multi-year contract extension Of staying with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, “I’m under contract. I think that’s my bonus.”

In addition to winning a new contract, he also impressed the IndyCar paddock.

Lundgaard was able to become a “Great Dane” not only by going fast, but also by controlling the car. Many of his fellow rookies have made mistakes this season, but Lundgaard has rarely been criticized for errors by other drivers, even when he started racing at the oval for the first time in his life. did.

At Monterey’s Firestone Grand Prix at WeatherTech Raceway in Laguna Seca on Sunday, Lundgaard finished just behind Felix Rosenqvist in his Arrow McLaren SP.

“It’s a tough race,” said Rahal. “Tires are everywhere. was confusing it with the top guys.

“All I can say is that we are really excited for next year. I have.”

Lundgaard’s best finish of the season was second to Alexander Rossi, who won the Gallagher Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s road course on July 30.

“Today’s race was actually one of the best races of the year,” said Lundgaard. “I think all weekend we weren’t really competitive. We were there, but we weren’t really there. but as soon as I put the red in I was out of pace.

“We got the job done today and I am very happy that the team came here and gave us the opportunity to achieve this. Thanks for defending I’m happy about it now I have another championship to win.

“The Rookie Championship only takes one shot, so getting it was a huge achievement for me.”

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing driver Christian Lundgaard takes a selfie with girlfriend Anna Briand before taking a career-best 2nd place finish at the IndyCar race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course on July 30. (Marc Lebryk/USA TODAY Sports Images).

Team owner Rahal admits that in many ways Lundgaard was the bright star of his race team.

“This year has been a tough year for us,” admitted Rahal. “His first third or half of the year was spotty. We didn’t give our drivers Christian, Graham and Jack the car they deserved to have.

“That said, we all pulled together and figured out to some extent that maybe after Toronto, or just before Toronto, our performance as a team improved measurably compared to where we were, We really saw what the driver can do.

“As a driver, I don’t care how good you are if you’re out there and you don’t have the right equipment. You can’t show that. But this team really came together. A lot across the team. There was a lot of hard work.

“It was tough. It was tough in the middle of the season.

In 2020, the rookie driver from Spain joined Dale Coyne Racing and was so impressive that he was hired by Chip Ganassi Racing the following year. That driver of Alex Palou, who won the 2021 NTT IndyCar Series and also won the race on Sunday.

Could the same thing happen to IndyCar’s Lundgaard?

“I think everything is possible,” said Lundgaard. “I’m not racing for second place, so I’ll do my best.”

His team owner is certainly on board with the idea of ​​Lundgaard winning a championship in the near future.

“Well, if we hadn’t thought about it, we wouldn’t have given him the option,” Rahal said. “I think Christian is a big part of RLL’s future.As you saw earlier this week, he’s bringing in people to improve RLL’s game.I think it will come together. Christian obviously will have other new people coming in. The whole idea, we’re here to win, and we feel Christian can win.

“I think he showed it this year. I mean, at the Harvest Grand Prix we won the race because we were the first legal car.”

Rahal was referring to the fact that winner Rossi’s car did not pass the post-race technical inspection. Rossi was deprived of points but kept the win.

“It’s true,” said Lundgaard. “We scored the most points.”

“Just…” Rahal replied.

Lundgaard comes from the European ladder system, but he believes IndyCar is his racing home, not Formula One.

“I’ve seen IndyCar,” Lundgaard said sadly. “Actually, I still follow F1, so I have seen a lot of road courses and street circuits. I still follow some junior categories. I follow you, I think I was before I came here.

“When I got the chance to test at Barbour, I didn’t say no anyway because I like trying new cars just to drive and get to know America.

“But I’m in love with it, I’m here, I love it.

“I will not leave.”

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter (@BruceMartin_500).