It came as little surprise to see Linus Lundqvist’s name atop the time sheet after practice Friday for the Indy Lights Grand Prix of Monterey, as Lundqvist only needs to compete Saturday in the first race of the weekend doubleheader to clinch the season championship.
But the name in the second spot after practice raised a few eyebrows in the paddock at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
SEE: Practice Results
Lundqvist, from Sweden, led the 50-minute session with a best lap of 1 minute, 16.2159 seconds in the No. 26 HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing car. His new teammate this weekend, 17-year-old Nolan Siegel, was second at 1:16.9746 in the No. 11 HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing entry in his Indy Lights debut.
“Great first practice,” Lundqvist said. “Numbers don’t really tell the full story. I wish that was the case, but me and Nolan were the only ones who got a proper run on the new tires. That’s why there’s a big difference in the times.
“But before that, when everyone was on olds (tires), I think it was super close. Five guys within a tenth. So, I’m expecting a close qualifying and fun races.”
Indy Lights will conclude its season with a doubleheader featuring 35-lap races. The Saturday show is set for 3:25 p.m. ET, with the capper Sunday at 1 p.m. Both races will air live on Peacock Premium, INDYCAR Live! and the INDYCAR Radio Network. Qualifying is set for 12:30 ET Saturday, live on INDYCAR Live! and the INDYCAR Radio Network.
Lundqvist holds a 103-point lead over Matthew Brabham and has won five of the 12 races so far this season. He will clinch his first Lights championship by taking the green flag Saturday.
Siegel, from Palo Alto, California, jumped to Indy Lights this weekend after winning two races in the recently completed Indy Pro 2000 Presented by Cooper Tires championship, the middle rung of the three official development series leading to the NTT INDYCAR SERIES.
“It went really well,” Siegel said. “I’m not sure how the actual pace is. I went to (new) tires, and I’m not sure who else did. But P2 in the first practice session is a really strong start. Definitely a strong start, and I’m looking to build on that in quali and in the races.”
Brabham was third in practice at 1:17.5963 in the No. 83 Andretti Autosport entry on the 11-turn, 2.258-mile circuit that includes the daunting “Corkscrew” turn complex. Danial Frost ended up fourth at 1:17.6377 in the No. 68 HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing car.
Benjamin Pedersen, who earned his first career Lights win last weekend in Portland, rounded out the top five at 1:17.6575 in the No. 24 Global Racing Group with HMD entry.
There were two red flags during the session. The first came 21 minutes after the green flag when Christian Bogle went off track in Turn 6 and hit the tire barrier in the No. 7 HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing car. Bogle was unhurt.
Sting Ray Robb triggered the second red flag with five minutes remaining when he stopped on course adjacent to Turn 2 when his No. 2 Sekady car had a mechanical problem.