Christian Lundgaard

Christian Lundgaard was left smiling after finishing Friday’s practice a respectable fourth in preparation for The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Presented by the 2023 Accord Hybrid.

The 21-year-old Dane managed to turn 27 laps around the legendary 2.258-mile, 13-turn natural terrain road course, with a best run of 1 minute, 7.0262 seconds (121.278 mph) in the bright green No. 45 Vivid Clear Rx Honda for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.

“Yeah, I think coming into here we expected obviously to be fast, considering our road course performance the entire year,” Lundgaard said. “But leaving Road America, a track that has just been resurfaced, with a track that hasn't been resurfaced lately, we also knew it would be a different sort of balance in the car, tougher to drive.

“It certainly was something to handle out there. It's quick. So that's the positives, I guess. We covered a lot of things in the practice session in terms of items we wanted to try. I think we're pretty satisfied at this point.”

The circuit in Lexington, Ohio is considered a home track for the team’s co-owner, Bobby Rahal, and Lundgaard’s teammate, Graham Rahal. Although winning at Mid-Ohio adds to the significance for the team and something Lundgaard would relish, he just wants to win – anywhere and everywhere.

“We want to do well everywhere, for sure,” said Lundgaard, who sits 11th in the championship standings. “You want to deliver a good result here for Bobby and the rest of the team. But, I mean, for me every race is a race I want to win.

Malukas’ Pikes Peak Adventure

David Malukas spent his off week strapping behind the wheel of a TLX Type S PMC for the Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.

Usually pushing the limits as a sophomore driver in the No. 18 HMD Trucking Honda for Dale Coyne Racing with HMD in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, Malukas was tabbed by Acura as the pace car driver for the 101st Running of the Race to the Clouds.

“Pikes Peak was awesome, absolutely cool,” Malukas said. “I'm pretty sure I felt it was a blast like every day about 25 times, but it was a very cool experience.”

And there was little chance for the Chicago-born Lithuanian-American to get sleep, either.

“It's much more of an adrenaline rush going up the hill that you're trying to push as far as you can, but you're still holding back a little bit because if you go off, it's just a giant cliff that just looks like death,” he said.

“I was just in a normal car, normal seatbelt, not any fixed connections. But they gave me an NSX and obviously the more time I could do in that thing, the better -- I loved it. They gave me one run up the hill and I was the first one to go up, being the pace car is a tradition thing.”

Malukas got a taste of what it was like being up over 14,000 feet, namely with how the higher altitude impacted his breathing.

“I was so excited, all pumped up when I got the top and I was running around and then I couldn't breathe after about 20 seconds,” he said. “They gave me a little oxygen can, I felt weird. I felt like I was doing drugs. It was just oxygen, so I was just sitting and pumping this oxygen while I was watching all the other people come up.”

The atmosphere also brought back the “home feeling” of his go-karting years, with cars crafted in garages by people who were laid back and simply enjoying the moment.

Overall, he very much plans to return in the future.

“I think so, yes,” Malukas said. “I will be much more prepared though, leading up to it and fix my sleep schedule according to their time like going to bed at like 7 p.m. and waking up at 3 a.m. But yeah, I would love to do other things outside of INDYCAR. Of course, INDYCAR is always going to be the priority, but yeah, I had a blast.”

There was one lasting memory that Malukas shared, and it was when he spent time with the family of the late Ken Block. Lucy Block, wife of the legendary rally driver that tragically passed in a snowmobile accident in January, entered the event as a way of honoring him. Lucy competed in the Unlimited Class for the first time, piloting a Sierra Echo EV powered by a Hypercraft electric drive system.

Lia Block, the 16-year-old daughter of Lucy and Ken, was also a participant, driving the same pink Porsche 911 “Hoonipigasus” in which Ken attempted to set the record with last year before it was thwarted by engine failure. Lia’s run up the mountain was an untimed, exhibition run.

“It was very, very cool,” Malukas said. “Everybody was crying; it was very emotional. I hung out with the Block family afterwards, so that was another good experience. I get to meet all these cool people and make more friends.”

Rasmussen Remaining Level

Christian Rasmussen isn’t sweating the outcome of the most recent INDY NXT by Firestone round at Road America on June 18, when he crashed while title rival Nolan Siegel claimed the win and pulled out to a 40-point (229-189) lead in the championship.

During a media availability ahead of opening practice at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Rasmussen “felt good” coming into Round 7 of 14 and isn’t feeling any added pressure to perform behind the wheel of his No. 6 HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing entry.

“Mid-Ohio has always been a strong track for me in the past,” said Rasmussen, who finished fourth as a rookie at the historic circuit last year. “I won a lot of races here in the smaller categories, so I can’t see why it shouldn’t be a great weekend in terms of that. Obviously, we took a little bit of a bit at Road America, retiring from that race. But again, we’re not even halfway. We will be halfway this weekend, so there’s plenty of time to come back.

“I feel like I have a strong few tracks coming up starting with Mid-Ohio this weekend. The ovals are left on the table as well. I’m looking forward to the rest of the season. It’s going to be the same mindset as the first part. Just come in, compete for race wins and get max points every single weekend.”

Rasmussen led for the majority of the first practice session before fading to second in the final minutes. The Dane’s best lap of 1 minute, 11.4291 seconds (113.802 mph) was just 0.0392 of a second behind pace-setter Jacob Abel.

Odds and Ends

· Andretti Autosport opted for another strategist swap this season, moving Rob Edwards from Devlin DeFrancesco’s timing stand to the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda of Colton Herta. Meanwhile, Scott Harner, who started the year with Kyle Kirkwood before moving over to Herta, will now call strategy for DeFrancesco’s No. 29 EVTEC Honda. With the swap, Herta has his third strategist of 2023.

· Logan Adams, the grandson of former INDYCAR SERIES driver Mark Dismore, is making his debut in the USF 2000 -- an undercard development series for the INDYCAR weekend – at Mid-Ohio. Adams is driving No. 9 entry for Jay Howard Driver Development.

· Myles Rowe, driving the No. 99 Pabst Racing entry, captured pole for the second race of the doubleheader weekend for USF Pro 2000 with a lap of 1 minute, 17.4863 seconds (104.906 mph).

· Defending Mid-Ohio race winner Scott McLaughlin is equipped with Good Ranchers on his No. 3 Team Penske Chevrolet, with the meat company’s only other time on the car his victory earlier this season at Barber Motorsports Park in April.

· It was learned that Bob Fernley, who headed McLaren’s 2019 Indianapolis 500 project that failed to qualify for the race with two-time Formula One World Champion Fernando Alonso, passed away. He was 70. Fernley spent his early years floating in the garages of Can-Am and INDYCAR in the 1980s, with his most notable run happening as chief for the Force India F1 Team for the majority of the 2010s and left when it was purchased and relaunched as Racing Point in 2018.

· There were a few changes to the Mid-Ohio track, most notably a repave in Turn 1 from approximately the 200 Brake Marker at corner entry to the end of the corner exit curbing. The curbing at Turns 1, 2 and 9 were widened approximately 2 feet and is indicated by red paint.