TORONTO - After an abysmal start to the season, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing finally broke through and scored their first NTT IndyCar Series win since 2020. Christian Lundgaard started on pole for the second time in his career and dominated the race to score maiden IndyCar victory in the Honda Indy Toronto.
“I think today we had the better car in the race today, and I wasn't really expecting it. I knew we had a fast car, but I wasn't expecting to be this fast and just kind of just drive around and be there,” said Lundgaard after the race.
Lundgaard’s victory broke championship leader Alex Palou’s three-race winning streak. Despite starting 15th, not even a broken front wing could stop Palou from charging to second place.
“What happened yesterday in qualifying was my fault completely,” said Palou after the race. “The car was fast. I just didn't put the lap together when I had to and then it started raining. Otherwise, we would have had a lot easier weekend. But, yeah, anyway, I'm glad that we were able to overcome. It's not easy in IndyCar and especially in races like that.”
As Palou climbed his way through the field, Christian Lundgaard appeared to be on a Sunday drive around Exhibition Place. He led a whopping 54 laps out of the total 85 and made daring passes to keep his track position.
Toronto has typically featured a rather high number of full-course cautions and while Sunday’s race only necessitated the safety car three times, the final two made pit strategy ripe for teams to take a gamble.
On the final restart, Scott McLaughlin, Scott Dixon, and Rinus VeeKay elected not to pit and inherited first through third place. Lundgaard and the rest of the race’s leaders up to that point found themselves marred back in traffic with time running out.
Palou had also jumped Lundgaard on pit road, meaning not only did Lundgaard need to pass the hottest driver in the series, but he’d also need to hope for no more caution flags. Thankfully for Lundgaard, front wing damage handicapped the championship leader.
“Even though we had to stop three laps earlier than the fuel window, I knew that Palou had front wing damage, and I knew I would get past him, and the other cars had to pit anyway because they wouldn't be able to make it either on tires or fuel,” said Lundgaard.
“At that point I knew I had to overtake one car, and he was struggling. He had to save more fuel than I did, so it was kind of easy from there on. As soon as I got past him, I just took off.”
With a little over 20 laps to go, Lundgaard attempted a brave overtake on Alex Palou that began in turn 3. The two drivers ran side-by-side through the next series of corners before Lundgaard emerged in front. As soon as then-race leader Scott Dixon made a pit stop, the seas parted and allowed for Christian Lundgaard to score his first career NTT IndyCar Series victory.
The win marks a turning point in Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s season. In the post-race press conference, team co-owner Bobby Rahal admitted that the team made wholesale changes after their dismal month of May that included laying off staff.
“I'm 70 years old, and the month of May took a real toll on me”, said Rahal. “I wasn't sleeping well at night. We're here to win. We're not here to fricking play around or to be part of it. We're here to win.”
“So, anyway, you have to make changes that you think are right, and thankfully we've had some good results since May, but we've got to keep doing what we're doing. You just can't rest on our laurels. We have to keep pushing.”
The championship continues to favor Alex Palou after Toronto. The Spaniard now boasts a 117 point lead over teammate Scott Dixon. Christian Lundgaard, now having to shave his mustache, moves into seventh in points and is setting his sights on finishing in the top-5.
“The races that are coming up are races that we were competitive at last year, so I do think that we have a chance of at least getting another [win] if not three, two more wins this year.”