SPEEDWAY, Ind. – Linus Lundqvist made his first race at the historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway facility especially memorable this afternoon by scoring an emphatic victory in the first of two Indy Lights Grand Prix of Indianapolis Presented by Cooper Tires races this weekend.
Lundqvist, from Stockholm, Sweden, led every lap from the pole position for Global Racing Group with HMD Motorsports to claim his second win of the young Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires season. He also vaulted ahead of HMD Motorsports stablemate David Malukas, from Chicago, Ill., who finished second, in the quest for a scholarship valued at almost $1.3 million to guarantee entry into a minimum of three NTT INDYCAR SERIES races, including the Indianapolis 500, in 2022.
Toby Sowery, from Cambridge, England, finished third for Juncos Racing.
Lundqvist, 22, laid down a marker yesterday morning when he topped the charts in the first of two test sessions, and was quickest again this morning in qualifying to claim his second Cooper Tires Pole Award. He made an exemplary start to hold the lead into the first corner and was never seriously challenged throughout an all-green 30-lap race around the 2.439-mile Indianapolis Grand Prix road course.
Sowery, who started second, was out-foxed at the start and was simply unable to match Lundqvist’s pace. Instead he came under immediate pressure from erstwhile points leader Malukas, who drafted alongside on the front straightaway with three laps completed before sweeping past into Turn One.
Lundqvist, though, was already more than two seconds clear and continued to extend his lead to as much as 2.7 seconds after 13 laps. Malukas then turned a series of fastest laps to whittle the deficit down to 1.7 seconds, but he was never quite able to make up the additional two tenths which would have moved him within range of being able to deploy the AER engine’s push-to-push feature, worth an additional 50 hp.
Instead, Lundqvist responded by setting a new fastest lap of the race on his 23rd lap. The game was over. Malukas never gave up hope, continuing to turn laps almost as fast as the leader, but there was no catching Lundqvist this afternoon. His eventual margin of victory was a relatively comfortable 2.3922 seconds.
Sowery ran a relatively lonely third to score his best result of the season so far for the team based literally just down the street from the race track in Speedway, Ind.
Likewise Kyle Kirkwood, from Jupiter, Fla., who earned his first Indy Lights victory a few weeks ago on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., had nothing for Sowery and finished fourth for Andretti Autosport, chased home by Australian Alex Peroni (Carlin), who also recorded his best result of the year.
Singapore’s Daniel Frost (Andretti Autosport) had briefly moved ahead of Peroni when the Aussie locked up his brakes at Turn 12 on the 13th lap, only to do the same himself at Turn One just five laps later. Frost thus fell back into sixth where he remained, despite race-long pressure from the Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport Dallara-AER IL-15 of Italian-Canadian Devlin DeFrancesco.
Robert Megennis, from New York, N.Y., was unable to recapture the form that took him to victory at Indianapolis two years ago, but did gain a little consolation by earning the Tilton Hard Charger Award after working his way from 10th on the grid to eighth.
The Indy Lights Grand Prix of Indianapolis Presented by Cooper Tires will continue with a separate qualifying session tomorrow morning at 8:55 a.m. EDT, followed by a 35-lap race which will commence at 12:45 p.m., immediately before the NTT INDYCAR SERIES headline event.
Provisional championship points after 5 of 20 races:
1. Linus Lundqvist, 123
2. David Malukas, 119
3. Kyle Kirkwood, 105
4. Devlin DeFrancesco, 84
5. Danial Frost, 82
6. Toby Sowery, 80
7. Alex Peroni, 79
8. Benjamin Pedersen, 76
9. Robert Megennis, 69
10. Sting Ray Robb, 61
Linus Lundqvist (#26 HPD/Global Racing Group/FX Airguns/Paytrim/JULA-Global Racing Group w/HMD Motorsports Dallara IL-15): “This is very special, even more so because it’s my first time here. I didn’t know what to expect, but the team did a great job on the car and for David and I to be one-two, that says it all about the team and the cars we had today. We knew it was going to be close after qualifying. It was all about having that tenth of a second on your side. But tomorrow is another day – we know everyone else will make improvements ahead of Race Two, so we have to do that as well.”
David Malukas (#79 HMD Trucking-HMD Motorsports Dallara IL-15): “That was the first proper brawl that Toby and I have had in Indy Lights, and it was fun! Normally, I’d be anxious to get around someone quickly and it’s an intense battle, but this was my brother and we’re having a great time going sideways. The passing was great and I’m sure it was exciting to watch. But Indianapolis is tough. You can get right there behind a guy but you just can’t get close, but that’s what makes it so special to race here! It was good fun.”
Toby Sowery (#51 m-start/Kumpf-Juncos Racing Dallara IL-15): “There’s a mutual respect between David and I – we race hard and tough but at the end of the day, we’re friends. Obviously, they’ve been quicker than us and if I knew why, we’d have done something about it. They have a pace advantage now which means it’s been an uphill battle. I still don’t feel completely at home in the car [after the year’s hiatus in Lights] but it’s up to me to go out there and do my best, and I think third was a good result today.”