Linus Lundqvist

The wait is finally over for Linus Lundqvist.

The Swede has been the embodiment of patience and perseverance, roaming the sidelines and salivating for an opportunity to race in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES ever since lifting the championship in INDY NXT by Firestone last year.

It took until the 13th race of 2023, but now he has it.

Lundqvist, 24, will make his debut in North America’s premier open-wheel championship at this weekend’s Big Machine Music City Grand Prix on the streets of Nashville. The chance has come with Meyer Shank Racing, which called upon him to substitute for Simon Pagenaud in the No. 60 AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda. Pagenaud continues his recovery from the effects of a vicious, barrel-rolling crash in practice July 1 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Although the journey to this point has been undoubtedly frustrating, instead of sulking Lundqvist used it as an opportunity to enhance his understanding of the sport. He has spent this year on the timing stand as a driver coach and further embedding himself in engineering meetings for HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing, the same team with which he won the INDY NXT title. Keeping helmet in hand, he has also made the most of brief INDYCAR SERIES testing opportunities; Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing in April at Texas Motor Speedway, followed by a run with Ed Carpenter Racing in June at Sebring International Raceway.

“That was the number one thing,” Lundqvist said, of remaining a presence in the paddock. “When I found out that I wasn't going to have a full-time ride, I said to myself: 'OK, there's kind of two ways this can go. Either you could literally sit at home on your Xbox and just hope and wait for the phone to ring.' Most likely that's going to be a career-ending decision because it's very unlikely that somebody's going to be calling you up and saying, 'Hey, we want you here.'

“Most of the time you have to be on the spot out here showing your face and working hard to make something happen. Being on the sideline doesn't have to be a career killer. It can be, but I said: 'I won't let mine be. I'm going to do everything that I possibly can to make something happen.' More so to myself that I can go to sleep at night saying that I did everything that I possibly could. If it didn't happen, then it is what it is. At least I could tell myself that I did everything I could, and I want to believe that it's not over yet.”

To remain as ready as possible, Lundqvist competed in four races in the Porsche Carrera Cup Scandinavia, competing against the likes of Hampus Ericsson, younger brother of 2022 Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericsson.

“To a certain extent I want to believe that you make your own luck, and you expose yourself for those opportunities,” Lundqvist said.

Nashville is a track full of peril as a street circuit, but Lundqvist has winning history on the 2.1-mile, 11-turn layout. He led from flag to flag to win the INDY NXT by Firestone race there last August.

Lundqvist also comes to Nashville benefitting from the advice and mentorship from fellow countryman Kenny Bräck, the 1999 Indy 500 winner and 1998 INDYCAR SERIES champion. Lundqvist mentioned Bräck shared his early career struggles, including flying to the United States and keeping “knocking on doors, showing up at the racetrack and at tests” for a shot at a drive.

That influence is part of the driving force that has maintained Lundqvist’s persistence, which is now showing signs of paying off.

“When you get that opportunity, you got to perform, and if you perform then there's a small chance that somebody will give you a chance for a little bit longer to do a race or maybe a season,” Lundqvist said. “Obviously, he built a very strong career out of it. So, I've kind of drawn inspiration and looked up to him and been talking to him quite a lot about my situation and what to do. I want to believe that there's still a way of doing this without just coming in with a bunch of sponsorship money. That even if you don't have it, there's a way of doing it.”

As for a silver lining, that remains a work in progress.

“Oh, man, I've been trying to find some strong points in this all, trying to find some glimpses,” Lundqvist said. “I want to believe that it's done a couple of things to me. I think one is I just realized how badly I want to race, how badly I want this. It's been a very, very tough year just mentally being at a racetrack, seeing everybody else race, seeing drivers I raced against in the INDYCAR SERIES saying that I should be among them, I should be racing with them.

“So, it's been tough mentally just being on the sideline, but I think days where if you question why you're doing it, it comes back at you quite quickly that I don't want to be anywhere else in the world. I want to be here on this track, and I want to be winning races. It's definitely cemented that this is really what I want to do.”