Christian Lundgaard

The speeds – and the wind – are picking up in the California desert, which should create plenty of intrigue and tense moments in qualifying for The Thermal Club $1 Million Challenge later today after four sessions of an Open Test.

Christian Lundgaard led the two-hour final test session Saturday by more than four-tenths of a second, turning a top lap of 1 minute, 38.2199 seconds in the No. 45 Hy-Vee Honda. That’s the quickest time so far in two days of testing despite gusty winds that swirled sand in the air and on the 17-turn, 3.067-mile circuit near Palm Springs, California.

SEE: Session 4 Results | Overall Test Results | Qualifying Groups

Up next is qualifying at 8 p.m. ET tonight (Peacock, INDYCAR Radio Network) for the non-points The Thermal Club $1 Million Challenge on Sunday. The field of 27 drivers will be divided into two heat races Sunday based on qualifying, with the top six finishers in each heat race combined into a 12-driver, 20-lap feature race that pays $500,000 to the winner. Live coverage Sunday starts at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC, Peacock and the INDYCAR Radio Network.

Lundgaard’s pace in the final test session was no fluke. He was second quickest overall Friday and third in the morning session today in his machine fielded by Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.

“It’s a little bit hit or miss out there with the wind and the gusts,” Lundgaard said. “It’s probably 30-plus mph, which is never fun, but the No. 45 Hy-Vee Honda has been quick all week. The pace has been there. We’ve proved it now.”

Two-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Will Power was second quickest in the final session at 1:38.6404 in the No. 12 Verizon Business Team Penske Chevrolet. Lundgaard and Power are on track in the first qualifying group later today, when the track could be dustier if the wind continues.

“I’m just looking forward to seeing what this wind is going to do for Group 1; I’m in Group 1, so is Will,” Lundgaard said. “It’s going to be a race between me and Will in the first group, I think. We’ve both been up there and showed good laps.”

Scott McLaughlin was third in the final session at 1:38.7240 in the No. 3 XPEL Team Penske Chevrolet, putting two Team Penske cars in the top three.

Alexander Rossi ended up fourth at 1:38.8104 in the No. 7 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet. Rossi led a parade of three Arrow McLaren cars in lockstep, as Pato O’Ward was fifth in the team’s No. 5 entry at 1:38.8775 and Saturday morning session leader Callum Ilott clocked in sixth at 1:38.8892 in the No. 6 Chevrolet.

The first qualifying group appears to be stacked, as top-three runners Lundgaard, Power, McLaughlin all are in that session. The top three times for the two-day test were turned in the final session today by that trio.