Linus Lundqvist, the reigning champion of INDY NXT by Firestone, has spent the 2023 season patiently waiting for an opportunity in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES.
On Monday, April 3, that moment arrived in the form of a driver test through Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (RLL) at Texas Motor Speedway. The late start to allow the 1.5-mile superspeedway to dry only delayed the inevitable. The Swede sat in the cockpit, poised, and when he was finally given the signal to begin the day’s running, the squeal of four Firestone tires erupted as he drifted out of the pit box, as if he just unleashed a sweltering of bottled emotions.
Lundqvist managed to complete roughly 220 laps in the team’s No. 45 Honda, normally driven by Christian Lundgaard, who was on hand as a coach and spotter.
“It was busy,” Lundqvist said. “Obviously, a bit of a slow start waiting for the track to clear up from the rain overnight. But ever since then, I think I've been out of the car twice for like a 10-minute break. Ever since then, it's been flat out. I've probably been doing not maybe a full race distance but very close to it. We've been testing lots of stuff. Happy to get through the day and experience these speeds around this place.”
The test at TMS marked Lundqvist’s first on an oval and second in an INDYCAR SERIES car. He previously ran in the Chris Griffis Memorial Test last October on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course with Andretti Autosport.
Pushing the boundaries of 220 mph around the ultra-fast oval left quite the impression on Lundqvist, 24.
“I spoke to as many drivers as I could before coming here, and everybody said that it would be fast, but nothing really prepares you for that first couple of laps on the banking,” Lundqvist said. “Your stomach and your head are all giving you signals that this is not right. Then after a couple of laps, it becomes normal and toward the end, you could do it in your sleep. But, yeah, it definitely took a little while to get up to it.”
Lundqvist also got a chance to lead in a couple of tandem runs at the end of the day with Katherine Legge, also running in an RLL entry, who was doing an evaluation and refresher for INDYCAR ahead of her attempt at the 107th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge.
There are still unknowns moving forward for Lundqvist, who has eight wins, 20 podiums and 10 poles in 34 INDY NXT starts. However, the outing at TMS provided another task completed.
“It's great going through a day like this, no issues,” he said. “We were on the pace from basically Lap 20 or whatever it was. The team seems happy enough, which is nice. But at the same time, I believe in myself, and I'd like to think that we've shown not only last year, but throughout my career that we deserve a spot at the highest level.
“I know that I'm able to perform. So, it's just another thing to check off the list to run an oval and a superspeedway knowing that I'm comfortable in doing that. So, it's just another check off of the list knowing that I'm ready.”