Christian Lundgaard stood on the second step of the podium after finishing second in the Gallagher Grand Prix on Saturday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but it almost felt like a victory.
Rookie Lundgaard, from Denmark, drove to his first career podium finish in the No. 30 Shield Cleansers Honda, 3.5441 seconds behind winner Alexander Rossi. He started sixth, earning his first spot in the Firestone Fast Six in qualifying this season.
The career-best finish for Lundgaard continued a recent resurgence for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, which has suffered through a disappointing season. Teammate Graham Rahal finished seventh Saturday in the No. 15 One Cure Honda, while Rahal and Lundgaard finished fourth and eighth, respectively, on July 17 in the Honda Indy Toronto.
“It feels amazing,” Lundgaard said. “I think the best feeling right now is that the team really deserves it. They've worked super hard, and we've had such a struggling beginning to the season, and I think coming to Toronto was when things started to change. We saw sort of a streak where we started to perform better.
“To come here and finish second, I think the team deserves every bit of it. I'm just a guy doing my job, really. I want to win, so I try as best I can every event.”
It was only fitting Lundgaard, who turned 21 on July 23, achieved the best weekend of his young NTT INDYCAR SERIES career at IMS. He qualified fourth in his series debut in this event in August 2021. He also finished ninth in the GMR Grand Prix in May, his best result this season before the eighth place in Toronto.
“It’s my second home,” Lundgaard said. “I love to be in Indy.”
Now that he has stood on the podium after a road race at the Racing Capital of the World, his next goal is simple: Standing triumphant on the Victory Podium after winning the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge.
“We'll take that next year,” he said with a smile.
But until then, Lundgaard is savoring the meaningful improvement over the last month for Rahal Letterman Lanigan. The team – consisting of Rahal, Lundgaard and Jack Harvey -- only had six top-10 finishes overall through the end of June. It recorded six in July.
“I think the results speak for itself, really,” Lundgaard said. “I think coming in this weekend we knew we had a strong car.”
And the strong performance from the team complimented the speed of his car.
“We needed to execute this weekend,” Lundgaard said. “We knew coming into this weekend that this was the track we were going to be at least the most competitive at, together with, perhaps Toronto, where we ended up being very competitive. We came into this event and knowing we were going to have a car that was able to finish in the good end of top 10.
“I wouldn't say we overachieved, but we for sure got everything out of the package we had.”
Lundgaard is eager to keep the momentum going. He hopes this success will set in motion a streak for the team as it heads into future races such as this weekend’s Big Machine Music City Grand Prix in Nashville.
“It's also good for the team that we now have a podium because I think just for the future, it's going to be a massive confidence boost for everyone to keep digging,” Lundgaard said. “For me to get it done, it just proves that the car was there, which is why I really feel like the team deserves this podium. I hope there's more to come.”