Note: This is part of a series of NTT INDYCAR SERIES team previews for the 2023 season.
Starting Lineup: Graham Rahal (No. 15 United Rentals Honda), Jack Harvey (No. 30 Kustom Entertainment Honda), Christian Lundgaard (No. 45 Hy-Vee Honda), Katherine Legge (No. 44 Hendrickson Honda for the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge).
2022 in Review: Rahal had another season of finishing races better than he started them, the seventh time he has done that in the past eight years. In this case, his average improvement was a career-best 4.1 positions, and he marched forward in 14 of the 17 races, highlighted by a 14th-to-fourth drive in the Honda Indy Toronto and a 22nd-to-eighth advancement in the Sonsio Grand Prix at Road America presented by AMR. Lundgaard earned the season’s Rookie of the Year Award, highlighted by a second-place finish in the Gallagher Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. He had particularly strong qualifying runs late in the season, earning a spot in the Firestone Fast Six round three times in the final four road course races. He finished 14th in the standings, only 23 points and three positions behind Rahal. Harvey seeks a bounce-back season after scoring only one top-10 finish, a 10th place in the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix in Nashville. He was forced to sit out the XPEL 375 at Texas Motor Speedway as a precaution following a crash in practice.
New for ’23: While Lundgaard and Harvey have traded car numbers, the organization’s most significant modification is in the form of a bolstered management team. Stefano Sordo, a longtime Formula One engineer, has become the technical director the team lacked, and Steve Eriksen, a former Honda Performance Development executive, is the team’s new chief operating officer. From a car engineering standpoint, Rahal has been reunited with Eddie Jones, while Allen McDonald will lead Harvey’s program. Ben Siegel remains with Lundgaard. All are working out of RLL’s new 100,000-square-foot headquarters in Zionsville, Indiana.
Keep an Eye on This: Lundgaard is betting on himself, or, rather, his razor. He and a friend made a deal in December that they can’t shave their moustaches until Lundgaard wins an NTT INDYCAR SERIES race. Lundgaard’s ‘stache is comparable to that of Lt. Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw in the “Top Gun: Maverick” movie. We’ll see how long it lasts. “It can be a few years or it can be in about a month,” Lundgaard said of shaving.
Little-Known Fact: NTT INDYCAR SERIES rookie driver Marcus Armstrong said Lundgaard provided the most inspiration for pursuing a ride in this category. “Christian was very vocal about (the series) when he did his first race (in 2021),” Armstrong said. “We hadn’t finished our F2 season when he did (the Gallagher Grand Prix at IMS), and he was raving about it, wouldn’t stop talking about it. He was a really good advocate for the championship.”