Christian Lundgaard lamented a frustrating afternoon on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
After finishing fourth in Saturday’s Gallagher Grand Prix, the 22-year-old Dane walked over to his timing stand and questioned the strategy of his Rahal Letterman Lanigan crew. The pivotal moment came on Lap 62 of 85 when his No. 45 Hy-Vee Honda was called into the pits at the same time as Arrow McLaren’s Pato O’Ward, who finished third. Additionally, though, Alexander Rossi, O’Ward’s teammate, came in the lap before and ended up finishing fifth. With that situation in play, it hindered any opportunity to get the over- or- undercut to turn Lundgaard’s second-place start into a podium finish.
“I think there's good reasons to be frustrated,” said Lundgaard, who led seven laps. “In my opinion, we didn't do the right strategy even though that was our main target to improve from the May race. But in the end, we end up with the same result. And again, it's the McLaren cars that beat us, and yeah, that's something I need to speak to the team about.”
Lundgaard’s teammate Graham Rahal started from the pole and led a race-high 36 laps around the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course but was left settling for a runner-up result.
So, what does it say about the program’s improvements this season to be upset with fourth?
“Well, we know we have a good car here and we were capable of finishing first and second, and we finished second and fourth,” Lundgaard said. “I just think if they're satisfied with that ... It's not something that I would ever be satisfied with.”
Lundgaard is eighth in the championship standings with three races remaining in the 2023 season.
Kirkwood Captures ‘Clutch’ Top 10
When the field rolled off pit lane to take their respective pace laps ahead of the green flag, Kyle Kirkwood remained stranded on pit lane. The cause was a last-minute clutch change that needed additional calibration, Kirkwood said.
Fortunately, the issue was only brief for Kirkwood, who drives the No. 27 AutoNation Honda for Andretti Autosport.
Once Kirkwood rejoined the field to occupy his starting position of 13th, he delivered a calm drive to finish ninth. Although it might not look like much, it marked his sixth top-10 finish of the season. More importantly, the result added consistency following his second NTT INDYCAR SERIES victory of the season – and career – at the previous round Aug. 6 in Nashville.
“It was good,” Kirkwood said. “It was clean, which was the important thing after last weekend's race. I just wanted to have a good finish and we got that. We got ninth, which I'm not thrilled with but I'm not disappointed with, either. I'll take it. It's another top 10 to add to our arsenal, which helps in our championship and makes us look like title contenders for next year.”
McLaughlin Searching on IMS Road Course
Scott McLaughlin stood puzzled in the paddock following an eighth-place finish in the Gallagher Grand Prix.
That demeanor summed up the weekend for Team Penske.
On Friday, McLaughlin’s effort of 10th in qualifying was the best for the squad that also includes Will Power and Josef Newgarden. Power and Newgarden qualified 16th and 19th, respectively. But a grid penalty for an unapproved engine change dropped Newgarden another six spots at the start, further compounded by being involved in an opening-lap incident that led to finishing two laps down in 25th in the No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet.
For McLaughlin, driver of the No. 3 Gallagher Insurance Team Penske Chevrolet, this track remains a challenge to master.
“Yeah, disappointing day,” McLaughlin said. “We really haven't been good as a team all weekend. Frustrating for the team with today's result, in all facets; Josef, as well. But yeah, a lot of thinking to do here. This place has got me completely confused, bamboozled, whatever you want to call it. Just have no pace.
“So, we're going to have to go back to the drawing board and figure it out. Proud of the effort. Everyone works hard. We threw so many changes, but it just never worked. We're not quite in the window, so we'll work hard, get better, but it's frustrating.”
McLaughlin shared “it’s just a weird balance” problem, with understeer in some corners but suffering oversteer in others.
“Thankfully, it's only this track,” McLaughlin said. “Every other track, we're basically top five to three on pace, so it's not too bad.”
Despite the rough qualifying outing, Power surged to a team-best sixth-place finish in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet.
“I had really good pace,” Power said. “I think we were the fastest car out there. Just got to qualify better and got to start better.”
With today’s result, Newgarden drops from second to third in the championship; 105 points behind leader Alex Palou (539-434). Meanwhile, McLaughlin holds serve in fourth, 29 points behind his teammate (434-395), with Power seventh with 365 points.
A ‘Special Day’ for Piquet's Daughter, Trammell
On May 7, 1992, three-time Formula One World Champion Nelson Piquet suffered a vicious practice crash in preparation for the Indianapolis 500 with Team Menard. The outcome resulted in severe injuries to his feet, with amputation a possibility.
But because of the remarkable work of Dr. Terry Trammell, a renowned orthopedic surgeon who operated on him, Piquet recovered and returned to race in the “500” the following year.
Piquet’s daughter Julia was born 12 hours after the crash. Although more than three decades have passed, Friday evening she finally had the opportunity to meet Trammell and express her appreciation for helping her father make a miraculous recovery. When Julia told her father, now 71, she was meeting Trammell, Nelson told her “Offer my deepest, sincerest gratitude.” When Julia said this to Trammell, she started to get emotional.
During the meeting, Trammell mentioned he and Nelson hadn’t seen each other since reconnecting two years after the crash, also recounting how he was an entertaining patient who remained in good spirits. Additionally, he mentioned how the president of Brazil called the operating room during to surgery to ask if there was anything he could do to help.
NASCAR Cup Series driver Daniel Suarez, who is engaged to Julia, was with her during the special moment and shared his perspective.
“It was very special, especially for Julia, to get to meet him because she has had a lot of conversations with her dad about that day because actually she was born the same day,” Suarez said. “She was born the day that her father had the accident, 12 hours later. So, yeah, it’s very crazy. But yeah, it was definitely a great moment. For me, I always love meeting new people, but it was a very special moment for Julia, and I was able to enjoy her excitement.”
Trammell called the chance to meet Julia “an experience I’ll never forget.“
Odds & Ends
- Race winner Scott Dixon, a six-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion, made his 319th consecutive start, breaking the record held by Tony Kanaan.
- Parnelli Jones, the 1963 Indianapolis 500 winner, celebrated his 90th birthday today. Jones was captivated by today’s race: "Wow, that was a great race – down to final lap, final turns with Scott staying out front and winning. Rahal sure pushed him – a fun race to watch. I'm happy for Scott, Chip (Ganassi) and the whole team. It takes a team to win. Scott is one of the best drivers to race in an open-wheel car. He proved it again today. Road course or oval, a win at the Speedway is always special."