In his 28th career start in the NTT IndyCar Series, Christian Lundgaard etched his name as an IndyCar Series race winner after capping off a dominant run from pole position to win for the first time in the Honda Indy Toronto at Exhibition Place in Toronto, Canada, on Sunday, July 16.
The 21-year-old Lundgaard from Hedensted, Denmark, commenced the sport’s lone visit north of the border in Canada by notching his second IndyCar career pole on Saturday, July 15, amid mixed weather conditions. Amid a multi-car incident in the opening lap, Lundgaard proceeded to lead the first 18 laps before surrendering the lead to pit amid alternate strategies ensuing within the field. Through more on-track chaos and mixed strategy, Lundgaard, who briefly led from Laps 37 to 48, assumed the lead for good on Lap 62 after Scott Dixon surrendered the lead to pit under green. For the remainder of the event, Lundgaard methodically stretched his advantage while navigating his way around the 11-turn circuit and beat runner-up and championship points leader Alex Palou by more than 11 seconds to achieve his first checkered flag in the IndyCar circuit.
With on-track qualifying that determined the starting lineup occurring on Saturday, July 15, Christian Lundgaard captured his second IndyCar career pole after posting a pole-winning lap at 100.217 mph in 1:04.1567. Joining him on the front row was Scott McLaughlin, who posted the second-best qualifying lap at 99.716 mph in 1:04.4790.
When the green flag and the race commenced, Lundgaard rocketed ahead with the lead while McLaughlin veered right to defend the runner-up spot ahead of Pato O’Ward and his No. 5 Arrow McLaren Dallara-Chevrolet through Princess Blvd. and entering the first turn. The field then fanned out to multiple lanes through the first two turns as Lundgaard continued to lead.
Then as the field entered Lake Shore Blvd., the first caution of the event flew when Tom Blomqvist, the reigning two-time Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona winner who was making his IndyCar debut for Meyer Shank Racing and as an interim competitor for the injured Simon Pagenaud, got pushed and squeezed into the wall amid a three-wide battle involving Ryan Hunter-Reay and Jack Harvey. With Blomqvist hitting the wall, Harvey and Hunter-Reay were also involved as they squeezed into one another and veered sideways and into the wall, thus igniting a stack up towards the rear of the field as Alexander Rossi, Santino Ferrucci, Sting Ray Rob, Benjamin Pedersen and Graham Rahal were also involved.
Following an extensive caution period, the race resumed under green flag conditions on the ninth lap. At the start, Lundgaard retained the top spot ahead of McLaughlin as the field navigated its way through Princess Blvd. before navigating through the first two turns and entering Lake Shore Blvd. The field proceeded to navigate its way through Turns 3 and 4 before entering Ontario Dr. before navigating back on Princess Blvd. and Manitoba Dr. Following another series of turns from Turns 5 to 11 and back to the frontstretch, Lundgaard continued to lead and he would retain the top spot through the Lap 10 mark while McLaughlin, O’Ward, Marcus Ericsson and Scott Dixon were battling in the top five.
Through the first 15 scheduled laps, Lundgaard was leading by more than three seconds over McLaughlin while O’Ward retained third. Behind, Chip Ganassi Racing’s Ericsson and Dixon were running in the top five while Kyle Kirkwood, Flex Rosenqvist, Will Power, Josef Newgarden and Colton Herta were running in the top 10. Behind, Marcus Armstrong was in 11th while Romain Grosjean, Alex Palou, Rinus VeeKay and Helio Castroneves were mired in the top 15.
A lap later, Armstrong, who was battling Grosjean for 11th, pitted under green. Rosenqvist and David Malukas would pit during the following lap under green as Lundgaard was leading by more than four seconds over McLaughlin. More pit stops would then ensue the proceeding lap as Kirkwood and Newgarden pitted.
Then on Lap 19, McLaughlin cycled into the lead as Lundgaard pitted under green. Once Lundgaard returned to the track, he was mired in 12th in between Juncos Racing’s Callum Ilott and Agustin Canapino while McLaughlin, O’Ward, Ericsson, Dixon and Power were running in the top five. O’Ward would then surrender third place to pit at the Lap 20 mark, where he would blend back on the track in 14th.
At the Lap 25 mark, McLaughlin was leading by more than two seconds over Ericsson while Dixon, Power and Herta were running in the top five. With Grosjean, Palou, VeeKay, Castroneves and Lundgaard running in the top 10, O’Ward was still mired in 14th while Newgarden was back in 17th in between Rosenqvist and Marcus Armstrong.
Five laps later, McLaughlin continued to lead by more than four seconds over Ericsson while third-place Dixon trailed by more than five seconds. With Power and Herta running in the top five, Palou navigated his way around Grosjean for sixth while Lundgaard was up in eighth ahead of VeeKay and Castroneves. Another two laps later, Grosjean pitted from the top 10 under green while McLaughin retained the lead by more than five seconds over Ericsson. Herta would also pit from the top five followed by Augustin Canapino.
Then on Lap 30, McLaughlin navigated his No. 3 Gallagher Dallara-Chevrolet onto pit road for his first pit service of the day as Ericsson cycled his No. 8 Huski Chocolate Dallara-Honda into the lead. Ericsson would then pit during the following lap followed by Castroneves and Callum Ilott. With Dixon cycling his No. 9 PNC Bank Dallara-Honda into the lead, McLaughlin was scored in fifth behind Lundgaard. On Lap 37, however, the top-three competitors that included Dixon, Power and Palou pitted under green as Lundgaard cycled back into the lead. Following their pit stops, Power managed to muscle ahead of Dixon and Palou on the track and within the top 10 while Ericsson was in fifth following his pit service.
Then as the event was approaching its halfway mark on Lap 41, the event’s second caution flew when Grosjean lost control of the steering of his No. 28 DHL Dallara-Honda and veered straight into the wall just past Turn 10 as his strong run came to an end. At the moment of caution, Lundgaard was leading ahead of McLaughlin, O’Ward, Kyle Kirkwood and Ericsson while Newgarden, Power, Dixon, Palou and Rosenqvist were in the top 10.
During the caution period, some names including Kirkwood, Rosenqvist, Palou, Herta, Malukas, Graham Rahal and Callum Ilott pitted while the rest led by Lundgaard remained on the track. Not long after and prior to a restart on Lap 46, the event quickly returned under a caution period when Kirkwood ran into the rear of Castroneves’ No. 06 SiriusXM Dallara-Honda and sent him spinning in Turn 11, thus ending his race, as Palou sustained damage to his front wing after hitting the wall while trying to avoid Castroneves. Despite the contact, Palou continued to run on the track despite concerns of his front wing being damaged.
Amid the extensive caution period, a majority of the field led by Lundgaard pitted for fresh tires and fuel while some including McLaughlin, Dixon, VeeKay, Kirkwood, Herta and Palou remained on the track with alternate strategies ensuing.
When the race restarted under green with 34 laps remaining, McLaughlin jumped ahead of Dixon to retain the lead through the first two turns and entering Lake Shore Blvd. With the field fanning out, a series of battles ensued as Lundgaard and O’Ward were trying to navigate their way towards the front from the top 10. Amid the battles, Kirkwood, who was running within the top five, pitted after being assessed a stop-and-go penalty from the contact with Castroneves while VeeKay, Palou and Herta were in the top five.
With 30 laps remaining, McLaughlin was leading by eight-tenths of a second over fellow Kiwi competitor Dixon while VeeKay and Palou were in the top four. Behind, Lundgaard moved up to fifth and was trailing the lead by more than seven seconds while Herta, O’Ward, Power, Ericsson and Newgarden were in the top 10.
Four laps later, VeeKay pitted from third place, which allowed Palou, Lundgaard and Herta to move up one spots respectively into the top five while McLaughlin was leading by more than a second over Dixon. McLaughlin would then surrender the lead to pit with 25 laps remaining as Dixon cycled into the lead followed by teammate Palou and Lundgaard.
Then with 24 laps remaining, Lundgaard, who pulled a bold overtake on Palou through Turns 3 and 4 to take second place, cycled back into the lead after Dixon pitted under green. In the ensuing laps, Power overtook O’Ward for fourth while Palou, who continued to proceed at full pace despite his damaged front wing, retained second ahead of Colton Herta.
Down to the final 20 laps of the event, Lundgaard was leading by more than two seconds over Palou while Herta, Power and O’Ward were running in the top five. With Ericsson in sixth, Newgarden, Marcus Armstrong, Rosenqvist and Agustin Canapino were in the top 10 while Dixon and McLaughlin were mired back in 14th and 15th, respectively.
With 10 laps remaining, Lundgaard retained the lead by nearly seven seconds over Palou while Herta, Power and Ericsson were scored in the top five. In the process, Newgarden, Armstrong, O’Ward, Rosenqvist and Dixon were in the top 10. By then, David Malukas retired four laps earlier after making contact with the wall and damaging his suspension.
Five laps later, Lundgaard extended his advantage to more than nine seconds over Palou, who was being pressured by Herta amid his front wing damage as Power and Ericsson started to close in on the battle.
When the white flag waved and the final lap started, Lundgaard remained as the leader by more than 10 seconds over Palou, who continued to run strong on the track amid his front wing damage in front of Herta. By then, Power and Ericsson both pitted after coming up short on fuel, which allowed Newgarden and Dixon to move into the top five. With no competition lurking behind him, Lundgaard, driving the No. 45 Vivid Clear Rx Dallara-Honda for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, was able to navigate his way around the 11-turn circuit smoothly for a final time and cycle back to the frontstretch to claim his first career checkered flag in the IndyCar circuit.
With the victory, Lundgaard, who is currently campaigning in his second full-time season in the IndyCar circuit and whose previous best result was second place that occurred at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course last August, became the first competitor to achieve a first IndyCar race victory since Kyle Kirkwood won at the Streets of Long Beach, California, this past April. He also recorded the first victory for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing since the team last won the 2020 Indianapolis 500 with Takuma Sato. Lundgaard also joined Adrian Fernandez and the late Justin Wilson as competitors to achieve a first IndyCar victory at Exhibition Place in Toronto, Canada.
With the victory, Lundgaard, who celebrated his first IndyCar win with his friend, Victor, vowed to shave his mustache he grew during the offseason amid the promise that he would do so once he would win an IndyCar race.
“I’m pretty drained from energy right now,” Lundgaard, who led a race-high 54 of 85 laps, said on Peacock. “The Hy-Vee VIVID car has just been fast all weekend. I said it before the race [that] we had a car that was fast enough to win. We pulled it off and I think we did by 10 seconds. This team, they do deserve this because if we look at where we were early this season and even last year at this point, we were nowhere near this, so I’m just extremely happy for everybody right now. Everything [the owners] are doing for this team, we’re moving forward.”
“[This win]’s huge for us,” Bobby Rahal, co-owner of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, added. “Any win’s big. We were knocking on the door at Mid-Ohio with Graham’s [Rahal] qualifying run and Christian’s for that matter. This weekend, it wasn’t easy. We didn’t start out really super great, but we kept working at it. Christian was hooked up. I think he just was kind of like on a mission this weekend. You saw that on that race. He just drove away from everybody. The crew did a great job. That strategy in the No. 45 pit was the right strategy and Christian just didn’t put a foot wrong. A great weekend for us. “
While Lundgaard celebrated a first victory, Palou, who started the lowest of this season in 15th, was left relieved on pit road after having enough power to nurse his No. 10 Journie Rewards Dallara-Honda with the damaged front wing home in the runner-up spot, one spot shy of achieving four consecutive IndyCar victories following recent victories in Detroit, Road America and Mid-Ohio, while Colton Herta achieved his first podium result of the season by finishing third just as he ran out of fuel.
“We knew it was going to be an eventful race,” Palou said. “I had a lot of ups and downs. We had a really fast car. I don’t know how we made it with this wing. The car was still handling OK, and then we just had to save a ton of fuel, a ton of tires. But we made it. Glad we finished P2 today. A win could have been possible, but I did a bad qualifying yesterday. As long as we have fast cars like we’ve been doing, we’re going to be OK. The guys did an amazing strategy call. It was tough to save that much fuel, but they just put me on that position. Kudos to the No. 10 car.”
Dixon, who won last year’s IndyCar event at Toronto, came home in fourth while Newgarden settled in fifth. McLaughlin, Armstrong, Pato O’Ward, Graham Rahal and Rosenqvist completed the top 10 on the track. Notably, Ericsson and Power ended up 11th and 14th, respectively, while Kirkwood ended up 15th.
There were seven lead changes for four different leaders. The race featured three cautions for 16 laps. In total, 15 of 27 starters finished on the lead lap.
Following the 10th event of the 2023 NTT IndyCar Series season, Alex Palou continues to lead the championship standings by 117 points over teammate Scott Dixon, 126 over Josef Newgarden, 142 over teammate Marcus Ericsson and 143 over Pato O’Ward.
1. Christian Lundgaard, 54 laps led
2. Alex Palou
3. Colton Herta
4. Scott Dixon, two laps led
5. Josef Newgarden
6. Scott McLaughlin, 28 laps led
7. Marcus Armstrong
8. Pato O’Ward
9. Graham Rahal
10. Felix Rosenqvist
11. Marcus Ericsson
12. Agustin Canapino
13. Rinus VeeKay
14. Will Power
15. Kyle Kirkwood
16. Alexander Rossi
17. Santino Ferrucci
18. Callum Ilott – OUT, Contact
19. Sting Ray Robb, three laps down
20. David Malukas – OUT, Contact
21. Helio Castroneves – OUT, Contact
22. Romain Grosjean – OUT, Contact
23. Devlin DeFrancesco – OUT, Mechanical
24. Jack Harvey – OUT, Contact
25. Tom Blomqvist – OUT, Contact
26. Ryan Hunter-Reay – OUT, Contact
27. Benjamin Pedersen – OUT, Contact
Next on the 2023 NTT IndyCar Series schedule is the series’ doubleheader weekend feature at Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa. The first event of the doubleheader weekend feature, Hy-Vee Homefront 250, is set to occur next Saturday, July 22, at 3 p.m. ET on NBC while the second event, Hy-Vee One Step 250, will follow suit next Sunday, July 23, at 2 p.m. ET on NBC.