Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing provided a glimpse of promising days ahead with its best qualifying performance of 2023, led by Christian Lundgaard claiming the NTT P1 Award for Saturday’s GMR Grand Prix (3:30 p.m. ET, NBC, Peacock, INDYCAR Radio Network).
Lundgaard’s flying lap of 1 minute, 9.3321 seconds around the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course in the No. 45 Hy-Vee Honda to earn his maiden pole in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES was merely the sweet reward for the organization’s banner day, which also saw Jack Harvey and Graham Rahal qualify fourth and eighth, respectively. It was the first time this year all three drivers advanced into the Fast 12, let alone earn top-10 starting spots.
“The podium here last year was a step,” said Lundgaard, noting his career-best runner-up finish in the Gallagher Grand Prix last July. “We had a very good end to the season last year, but we weren't able to continue that going into the beginning of this season, and it annoyed me a lot because obviously I'm asking the questions, ‘What have we done different?’
“There wasn't really anything that was dramatically different that should drastically change it as much as it was from the end of the season to the beginning of the season, so now sitting here I'm only proud of this team. Everything we've achieved up until now, I would say we set the benchmark in Barber a couple of weeks ago where we were pretty much consistently sixth throughout the whole week, to now start off with a pole.”
When Harvey stepped out of the No. 30 Kustom Entertainment Honda at the end of the final qualifying session, he walked around to each team member and extended his appreciation with high fives and hugs.
Through the opening four rounds, Harvey’s best starting spot was 15th at the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach. What’s more, though, today’s result marked his best qualifying result with RLL, as his previous best was sixth in the second race of the doubleheader last year at Iowa Speedway.
“I think we found some bits in Barber (Motorsports Park) that we weren't too happy with, and we were able to come here and set them right,” Harvey said. “Unbelievable team performance. The attitude of the team, the energy of the team, the desire of this team, I'm really proud to be a part of it. These kind of performances are really what we hope we can build some real good momentum from. I'm really happy and proud of everybody at RLL; gave us an absolute rocket today.”
The Briton let out a massive sigh of relief, then expressed the significance of what this result does for his confidence after hearing his name in the rumor mill over the future of his seat.
“It's huge for everyone,” Harvey said. “For me, I've had an interesting two weeks, and yeah, I'm really happy to be able to shut out all that noise and just come and perform. It's been a second since I feel like we've even been in the Fast Six. So, to be there on speed and on merit, I'm really happy.
“Ultimately, this is what we talk a lot about, this life is a privilege, even on a bad day. I'd rather be out here trying, taking some kicks when they come, but have the opportunity to do this.”
Although Rahal was dejected by narrowly missing out on the Firestone Fast Six in the No. 15 Fifth Third Bank Honda, he remained optimistic over the team’s performance over the weekend.
“We'll take it,” Rahal said. “You know, it's not been easy for us. A lot of people have doubted us for a long time, and the team has worked extremely hard. I hope that this is just a good indication, a good sign of what's to come. This is one race, clearly, but I do think that we can build upon it.”
The unique circuit that bends throughout the interior of The Brickyard has been the site of podiums in the past for all three drivers. So, what about it seemingly suits their style?
“I don't know, man,” Harvey said. “I think it's more just that it's the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I just love being here in this arena of speed. I just love being here.”