INDIANAPOLIS — Christian Lundgaard is turning Indianapolis Motor Speedway into his favorite racing venue.
Less than 10 months after the 21-year-old from Denmark earned his first IndyCar podium finish on the 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course, he returned Friday and claimed his first career pole.
Lundgaard posted a lap of 1 minute, 9.3321 seconds, barely holding off Sweden’s Felix Rosenqvist for the top spot in Saturday’s Indianapolis Grand Prix. It’s the first time Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing has taken a pole since Takuma Sato in August 2020, and the team has three cars among the eight fastest on the 27-car starting grid.
“It feels awesome, getting my first P1,” Lundgaard said. “Having said that, Jack (Harvey) is P4 and Graham (Rahal) is P8 and that’s the best qualifying we’ve had in two years. Honestly, I didn’t think that lap was good enough.”
Rosenqvist certainly made the wait difficult for Lundgaard on his final hard-charging lap. But a bobble in the ninth turn dropped the Arrow McLaren driver to second with a time of 1:09.3348. Spaniard Alex Palou, the 2021 IndyCar champ, will start third.
For Lundgaard, it’s been an amazingly fast start at one of the world’s best-known racing venues. He was 12th on the road course in his only IndyCar start in 2020 then added two top-10s – ninth and second – in last year’s non-oval races on his way to becoming the series’ rookie of the year.
Rosenqvist, meanwhile, has won two previous poles on Indy’s road course but has never finished higher than sixth on that circuit.
But the cooling track was different from Friday’s first two practices, which were held in mostly sunny, hot conditions.
The result: Some pole favorites didn’t even make it out of the first round of qualifying. That list included defending race winner Colton Herta, four-time Indianapolis 500 champion Helio Castroneves, three-time Indianapolis GP winner Simon Pagenaud, two-time series champ Josef Newgarden and two drivers in the top five of the current standings — Scott McLaughlin and Romain Grosjean.
The six-car shootout also was left without any of Team Penske’s three cars and only included one car each from powerhouse teams Chip Ganassi Racing and Andretti Autosport, which had won three of the four previous poles this season.
Instead, Lundgaard and Rosenqvist, who won the pole at Texas last…