Try finding a Danish driver in the annals of starters in the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge. Christian Lundgaard tried. Dug into the internet. The search was futile.
That makes the 20-year-old driver of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s No. 30 PeopleReady Honda unique, at least for now.
The irony is, it has taken 106 years of racing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for Denmark to have a driver in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” and next year there could be three.
Benjamin Pedersen and Christian Rasmussen are on the fast track to the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. They stand fourth and sixth in the standings, respectively, early in this Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires season, and each has a path that could find them starting in the “500” alongside Lundgaard as early as 2023.
Pedersen, 22, is expected to test an AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet next month on the IMS road course. This is his second season of being a top-five talent in Indy Lights, which means he wants the NTT INDYCAR SERIES to be next on his resume.
Rasmussen, 21, is one of Andretti Autosport’s Indy Lights drivers, and his resume is strong. His past two seasons have resulted in series championships – USF2000 in 2020, Indy Pro 2000 in 2021.
Rasmussen and Pedersen are from Copenhagen, Denmark’s largest city and capital. Lundgaard is from Hedensted, a town of about 50,000 people three hours to the west.
Lundgaard and Rasmussen raced against each other in karts in their pre-teen years, but then they went their separate ways -- until Lundgaard moved to Indianapolis’ Northside to join RLLR.
“And now (we live) on the same floor in the same building,” Lundgaard said.
Lundgaard said he is proud to be the first Dane to compete in the “500,” although there likely isn’t award for that.
“Maybe I’ll get a record on Wikipedia,” he said, laughing.
Lundgaard, who starts 31st in Sunday’s “500” and had the 12th-fastest lap in Monday’s practice at 225.616 mph, is part of what could be the most global of Memorial Day weekend races ever at IMS. Fifteen nations are represented in this 33-car driver field: Australia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, England, France, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Netherlands and the United States.
Continuing that storyline, the Firestone Fast Six was comprised of drivers from six different countries: New Zealand, Spain, Netherlands, United States, Sweden and Brazil.
Clean Qualifying Sweep for Ganassi, Carpenter Teams
Chip Ganassi Racing and Ed Carpenter Racing did something in PPG Presents Armed Forces Qualifying that’s only been done once by two teams since 1958: They locked all other teams out of the first two rows for the “500.”
CGR snared four positions (drivers Scott Dixon, Alex Palou, Marcus Ericsson and Tony Kanaan), ECR two (Rinus VeeKay and Ed Carpenter).
The last time a such a feat was achieved was 2012 when the top six qualifiers belonged to Team Penske and Andretti Autosport. Ryan Briscoe won the pole for Roger Penske’s organization with Michael Andretti’s James Hinchcliffe, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Marco Andretti taking the next three positions.
Will Power and Helio Castroneves were fifth and sixth, respectively, for Team Penske.
Odds And Ends
- The traditional full-field photograph with the Borg-Warner Trophy was taken at the Yard of Bricks was taken just ahead of Monday’s practice. The eight former “500” winners were gathered around the trophy, with Kanaan seated on one side and Takuma Sato the other.
- The two-hour practice featured the first opportunity for drivers to pit off Turn 4, which they will do during the race but haven’t been allowed to earlier this month. There were no incidents with that part of practice.
- Scott Dixon (No. 9 PNC Bank Honda of Chip Ganassi Racing) needs to lead only 75 laps to pass Al Unser as the all-time lap leader in “500” history. Unser has held the record of 644 since 1988, taking it from Ralph DePalma, who had held it since 1912 with 612 laps led.
- Due to participating in the Firestone Fast Six and the car committed to the annual front-row photo shoot Monday at 7 a.m., Dixon’s race engine wasn’t installed in time for the start of practice. He ran 32 laps in the second hour, the second-lowest overall total of the day. Teammates Alex Palou (No. 10 NTT DATA Honda) and Tony Kanaan (No. 1 The American Legion Honda) ran the fewest with 31.
- Takuma Sato (No. 51 Nurtec ODT Honda of Dale Coyne Racing with RWR) completed the most laps in the practice, with 106. His best lap of 228.381 mph ranked fourth on the speed chart.
- While many teams have an Indy-only oval car, NBC noted that Marcus Ericsson (No. 8 Huski Chocolate Honda of Chip Ganassi Racing) is one of those using the same car all season.
- Quote of the Day, from Marco Andretti (No. 98 KUHL Technology Curb of Andretti Herta Autosport w/Marco & Curb-Agajanian): “I don’t care what my last name is – I want to win this race.”
- Andretti noted that Sunday’s start will give him 17 for his “500” career, one more than his father, Michael. Family patriarch Mario Andretti made 29.
- Andretti said Sato sent him “a paragraph” apology for interfering with his qualifying run Saturday. Sato had that four-lap run invalidated, but he requalified in the 10th position.
- Bobby Labonte, the 2000 NASCAR Cup Series champion, was at IMS on Monday and watched practice from pit road.
- The next opportunity for cars to practice at IMS comes Friday on Miller Lite Carb Day. The two-hour session begins at 11 a.m. (ET) with live coverage of Peacock Premium and the INDYCAR Radio Network.