Linus Lundqvist hasn’t officially clinched the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires championship with two race weekends remaining in the season, but he looked poised to do so this weekend by posting the second-fastest lap in Grand Prix opening practice by Indy Lights. of Portland on Friday at Portland International Raceway.
Driving the No. 26 entry for HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing, the dominant driver of the 2022 season finished the 45-minute practice session less than a tenth of a second behind teammate Benjamin Pedersen.
Pedersen’s best lap on the 12-lap, 1.964-mile permanent track in the No. 24 Global Racing Group car with HMD was 1m4.482s. Lundqvist turned in a lap of 1m04.5247s with Matthew Brabham third in a 1m04.5694s in the No. 83 Andretti Autosport.
Lundqvist leads Brabham by 108 points heading into Sunday’s 35-lap race (1:05 p.m. Peacock Premium, INDYCAR Live! and INDYCAR Radio Network). The 23-year-old Swede can clinch the title if he comes out of this event with a 109-point lead.
“I feel good,” Lundqvist said after Friday practice. “I didn’t do too many laps (11 compared to 20 for Pedersen); the car was hooked from the first lap. Good to see my teammate there [on the speed chart], also. So getting a one-two was good. We’ll see, it’s just [the first practice].”
Like Brabham, Andretti Autosport drivers Hunter McElrea and Sting Ray Robb cling to slim title hopes. They are 109 and 119 points behind first place, respectively. Robb was sixth in Friday’s speed chart with a 1m04.7967s with McElrea 12th with a 1m05.4431s.
Pedersen, who is fifth in the standings and 149 points behind Lundqvist, would like to end the season with his first career series win, and Friday was a good start for that quest.
“It feels like a home run for me growing up in Seattle most of my life,” he said. “It’s really special to be back in the Pacific Northwest.
“It’s a really good feeling considering the fact that I think we had a pretty big problem with the car in terms of how it felt, but he still managed to put in some time to [fastest of the session]. We’re trying to figure out what the problem is, and once we fix it, we’ll be able to go a little bit faster.”
Making his series debut on Friday was Flinn Lazier, the 23-year-old son of Buddy Lazier, the winner of the 1996 Indianapolis 500 Presented by Gainbridge and the 2000 INDYCAR championship. The third-generation driver is making his debut in Indy Lights after brief appearances at USF2000 (two races in 2017) and Indy Pro 2000 (four races in 2021).
Lazier’s best lap on Friday in the No. 15 Abel Motorsports was a 1m05.1873s, good for ninth place. Lazier is also scheduled to compete in next week’s season-ending doubleheader at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
“Since 2019 we have been trying to get here,” Lazier said of his family’s efforts. “This opportunity came very late, really, we did things maybe two weeks ago. I’ve been waiting for this for a long time and to have it ready in two weeks has been a lot, but I’m very excited.
The second practice of the weekend will take place on Saturday at 2:15 p.m. ET, with qualifying to follow at 6:25 p.m.