Linus Lundqvist

Yes, Linus Lundqvist is the reigning INDY NXT by Firestone champion, and he won last year’s development series race on the Nashville street circuit, site of this weekend’s Big Machine Music City Grand Prix.

However, not much is expected of the 24-year-old Swede as he makes his NTT INDYCAR SERIES race debut in the No. 60 AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda of Meyer Shank Racing, which had hoped to have veteran Simon Pagenaud back after a July 1 barrel roll in practice at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

But Lundqvist is off to a strong start, finishing with the 11th-quickest lap (of 27 drivers) in Friday’s first practice session on the 11-turn, 2.1-mile circuit. Even he couldn’t deny his smile.

“Terrible,” he said in his first interview after climbing from the car. “We’re not (first).”

Lundqvist then quickly fell out of character on NBC’s Peacock broadcast. “No, I’m kidding,” he said.

“Neither me nor the team still don’t know what to expect for the weekend, and it’s only practice. There’s no points (awarded). I don’t think everybody was pushing to 100 percent. I felt there was quite a lot of time (left to be gained in the lap time). It’s (about) getting comfortable.”

Lundqvist has tested with two different teams within the past year – Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing and Ed Carpenter Racing – and has embedded himself this season with Dale Coyne Racing with HMD, with which he won the INDY NXT title last year. But Friday marked his first laps with the team owned by Jim Meyer and Michael Shank. Any adjustment to the car was gone within a few laps as he quickly rose to the upper portion of the speed chart in the 75-minute session.

“Overall, I think we rolled off (competitively) and had a very good package, so massive thanks to the team,” Lundqvist said. “Obviously, I’ve still got plenty to work on, but you know, it’s going to be a good night. I’m going to sleep on it and get a lot of impressions done, and hopefully we can take another step tomorrow.”

Lundqvist also can be confident in MSR’s recent history on street circuits. The team, along with its technical partnership with Andretti Autosport, has produced a series of strong results on several such tracks this season. Andretti’s Kyle Kirkwood won the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach in April.

It’s probably too much to think Lundqvist could win his first race in the series, as only three drivers in history have done so (Graham Hill, Nigel Mansell and Buzz Calkins). The last of the four drivers to win the pole in their series debut was Robert Wickens in 2018. The others were Jud Larson, Mansell and Sebastien Bourdais.

NTT P1 Award qualifying is Saturday at 2:45 p.m. ET (Peacock, INDYCAR Radio Network).

‘Titan’ Returning to Argentina

Agustin Canapino’s first NTT INDYCAR SERIES season continues with a brief return to the Argentina touring car series where he won four Turismo Carretera championships and affectionately became known as “Titan.”

The 33-year-old Juncos Hollinger Racing driver will drive the No. 78 Chevrolet in the green-and-black colors of his U.S. team while competing in the race Aug. 19-20 in Buenos Aires, an off weekend for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES.

Canapino arrived in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES with virtually no open-wheel racing experience, but he has delivered three top-12 finishes, the most impressive of which was in the PPG 375 at Texas Motor Speedway, the first oval race of his career. He also led three laps in the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach and trails Marcus Armstrong by 24 points for the series’ Rookie of the Year Award.

Busy Weekend Ahead

Nashville is hopping with race cars during the three-day event, with 18.5 hours of on-track action involving 145 cars, highlighted by Sunday’s 80-lap NTT INDYCAR SERIES race at noon ET (NBC, Peacock, INDYCAR Radio Network).

In addition to racing, there will be approximately 16 hours of music entertainment with more than 100 songs scheduled to be performed.

In 2022, the event promoter reported more than 42,000 hot dogs consumed during the race weekend.

As for circuit particulars, there are 1,659 feet of the Korean War Veterans Memorial Bridge used. The circuit is comprised of more than 16 million pounds of temporary concrete barriers and more than 500,000 pounds of temporary fence panels.

The NTT INDYCAR SERIES next is on track Saturday with the weekend’s second practice at 11:40 a.m. ET, NTT P1 Award qualifying at 2:45 p.m. ET and final practice at 6:25 p.m. ET – all sessions are available on Peacock and the INDYCAR Radio Network.

Odds and Ends

  • Will Power (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet) had a sore right thumb to show for being the fastest NTT INDYCAR SERIES driver in Friday’s practice. He bumped it when the car slid wide and hit the tire barrier at the end of the practice session. “Pretty normal for INDYCAR,” he said.
  • NBC broadcaster James Hinchcliffe, who finished third in the inaugural Nashville street race in 2021, offered this advice to current drivers: “To finish in the top 10, don’t hit anything,” he said. “Don’t get caught up in what everybody else is doing.” Supporting Hinchcliffe’s point, the first two races here averaged 8.5 caution periods.
  • The No. 29 Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport car of Devlin DeFrancesco is carrying the likeness of Tennessee native and professional wrestler Ric Flair on its sidepods through the WOOOOO! Energy drink.
  • This weekend, Bridgestone Americas celebrates its first-year milestone of using Firestone Firehawk alternate NTT INDYCAR SERIES race tires with sidewalls made of natural rubber derived from the guayule desert shrub, grown in America’s desert Southwest. Guayule is proving to be a successful replacement for traditional rubber sources, a major stride in domestic sourcing and improved sustainability in motorsports.
  • Graham Rahal will carry the colors of Hogan Transportation at World Wide Technology Raceway on Aug. 27. That’s significant because the company’s founder, Carl Hogan, helped Bobby Rahal form this race team in the fall of 1991, and the Hogan family has remained involved with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing ever since.
  • In INDY NXT by Firestone, Jacob Abel (No. 51 Abel Motorsports) posted the quickest lap among the 19 drivers in Friday’s lone practice. He was followed by Andretti Autosport driver James Roe (No. 29 Topcon), although Roe ended the session with left-front damage after wall contact. Nolan Siegel (No. 39 HMD Motorsports with DCR) was fifth on the speed chart when he hit the wall as Roe did, causing similar left-front damage.
  • INDY NXT will stage qualifying at 2:05 p.m. ET Saturday (INDYCAR Live, INDYCAR Radio Network). Sunday’s race is at 10:05 a.m. ET on Peacock, INDYCAR Live and the INDYCAR Radio Network.