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Vindication for Lundqvist Following Confirmation of Joining Ganassi

Linus Lundqvist prepares for a new chapter in his racing career. (Photo: Jeremy Bryner | The Podium Finish)

PORTLAND, Ore. – In a season filled with shortcomings, asking around teams, and actually getting to race, Linus Lundqvist will be an INDYCAR rookie in 2024.

Last year’s Indy NXT champion will be driving for Chip Ganassi Racing full-time as part of a multi-year deal.

For much of the year, Lundqvist has spent time “harassing” organizations, specifically Ganassi, about an opportunity of driving for him in INDYCAR.

Following the announcement of Marcus Ericsson departing to Andretti Autosport at season’s end, speculations rose that Lundqvist will join CGR which became true Thursday morning. Safe to say, the Swede’s smile grinned from ear-to-ear and it will stay that way for a period of time.

The goal was to always end up in INDYCAR and now he will get to make his name in the sport going forward.

“It’s unbelievable. Still today I have difficulty to put into words how much this means,” Lundqvist said. “I’m incredibly thankful to Chip and Mike (Hull) and everybody involved who are making this happen.

“Firstly, it’s a dream to even be an INDYCAR driver, but to be able to do it with a team like Chip Ganassi Racing, it’s unbelievable. I know that it’s a big challenge ahead, but I know that I’m going to have a great team around me with some great people. I’m going to try to learn as much as I can and hopefully provide some good results for us.”

Indeed, it is a victory in his eyes as the announcement was vindication after scratching and clawing to be noticed over the last two and a half years, more so after last season’s finale at Laguna Seca where he can only control his own destiny.

“We’ve been finding — not only after Laguna but for many, many years,” Lundqvist commented. “This is the first time ever in my career that I’ve actually known that I’m going to be racing full time next year, and obviously as part of a multiyear deal I know that I’m going to be racing for a few years ahead of me, which is something unbelievable.

“Every year that I’ve gone into in the past has been like, ‘I don’t even know if I’m going to finish the season.’ To be in this position, to be racing in INDYCAR together with this team, my life has made a drastic change in the last couple of weeks.”

Lundqvist made three INDYCAR starts this season, filling in for Simon Pagenaud. (Photo: Eric Parks | The Podium Finish)

Prior to the Ganassi deal, Lundqvist has a strong Indy NXT campaign in 2022, beating runner-up Sting Ray Robb by 92 points and scored five wins along with seven pole positions.

In the past, the champion would get over a million-dollar scholarship that guaranteed them three races including the Indianapolis 500. However, it is not the case anymore with the prize fund being slashed in half a year ago. Such negative impact put Lundqvist in a tough spot where he had to market himself to teams or that teams have a seat for him.

When the dust settled, Lundqvist failed to land a full-time ride in this year’s championship trail which has not happened to the reigning Indy NXT champion since Pato O’Ward in 2019.

During that campaign, O’Ward’s deal with Carlin fell apart and took the Red Bull Junior Team gig, where he ran in Super Formula and one Formula 2 race with hope of running in Formula One. Once the vision collapsed, O’Ward ultimately landed an INDYCAR ride with Arrow McLaren in 2020 where he has been ever since.

As for Lundqvist, a chance of running at Dale Coyne Racing fell through. When the series kicked off its season at St. Petersburg, he had no ride whatsoever.

For a long period of time, it appeared the 24-year-old would become the first driver since Jean-Karl Vernay in 2011 to not run any INDYCAR races the year after winning the Indy NXT title. That would all change once Simon Pagenaud had a horrific tumble at Mid-Ohio which ended his season.

Three races later, Lundqvist finally got his chance of showing his worth as he ended up becoming one of three drivers, Conor Daly and Tom Blomqvist being the others, who have filled in for the Frenchman’s No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing Honda.

Lundqvist competed in Nashville, the Indianapolis Road Course and Gateway with promising performances. Aside from a late-race crash in his debut, Lundqvist brought the car home in one piece.

This was highlighted with a best finish of 12th in the Gallagher Grand Prix at Indianapolis. More importantly, he out-qualified and outperformed his temporary teammate Helio Castroneves, something Lundqvist felt with such runs that might have played a role of landing a seat in INDYCAR.

As the old saying goes, “You’re as good as your last race.”

“I know how this business works in the sense of I knew the pressure and the opportunity that I had going into Nashville that if we were to perform, I was going to do myself and my career a huge favor,” said Lundqvist. “But it’s the same the other way around. If I would have gone in and didn’t perform, then that’s probably the end of my career. I knew the pressure that I had going into it, and I did everything that I could to prepare myself for it and do the best job that we could.

“I think that is one of the bigger reasons that we sit here today. I also don’t believe that’s the full reason. I want to believe that the effort and work and results that we put in years prior to this and maybe me harassing Mike and Chip over these last couple of years have actually paid off. I want to believe a combination of all that made this happen.”

Lundqvist ahead of Ganassi driver Marcus Armstrong during his INDYCAR debut in Nashville. (Photo: Kyle Ritchie | The Podium Finish)

With two rounds remaining, Lundqvist will not be racing as MSR announced earlier this week that Tom Blomqvist will finish out the season in the No. 60 Honda. Blomqvist will also be a part of next season’s Rookie of the Year battle which will make the job for everyone difficult because of their last names ending with a -qvist.

“I mean, a ‘qvist will — I wouldn’t say win it, but I think those are the only two confirmed rookies that we have right now, so as of right now, you would bet on a ‘qvist,” he said.

Although Lundqvist will not be racing at Portland International Raceway, he will be around the Ganassi paddock this weekend. In the eyes of many, some see it as Lundqvist replacing Ericsson, but it is not certain if he will be the one taking the No. 8 Honda, let alone what car number he will be carrying next season.

As of right now, the future of the No. 11 Honda that is shared between Marcus Armstrong and Takuma Sato is yet to be confirmed. For Lundqvist, he knows the pressure of driving the team that will win its 15th INDYCAR title as soon as this weekend is clear as day.

Such pressure is what the doctor ordered and Lundqvist is satisfied with the prescription.

“I have not been told that it’s the 8 car that I’m going to be racing. But I can tell you that no matter car you will be racing, when you race for Chip Ganassi Racing, there’s going to be pressure. There’s no doubt about it. But as a driver, that’s exactly what you want,” he said. “You want that pressure, and at least in my experience, the biggest pressure has always been from my side.

“I want to be in a situation that you’re put under pressure because it usually means that you have the possibility to win, and that is what I love to do, and that’s why I’m here.”

Another thing is certain as both Swedes have spoken from time-to-time, even sharing the same flight heading to Portland this morning. But they have not discussed about ins-and-outs of Ganassi as Lundqivst has yet to sit down with Chip Ganassi himself on this topic.

“(Chip and I) haven’t sat down and set exact targets,” Lundqvist said. “I usually don’t do that for myself because there’s so many variables in this sport. It’s very difficult to say that this was a good weekend or bad weekend, just depending on the end result. It’s very much how you approach and what you do with things.

“I’m sure that we’ll sit down and talk about our little targets across the first five races or ten races or whatever it might be.”

Throughout my young motorsports media career, my number-one goal is to be a personnel that can be flexible with my writing and photography in the world of NASCAR and INDYCAR. Content delivery is vital because this is my main passion and what keeps me going. On the side, I also do sports production ranging from Seattle Kraken hockey to the 2023 NCAA Women's March Madness. All for the love of the game. With four National Motorsports Press Association photography awards, I'm not slowing down anytime soon. Outside of media, I'm super vocal about my musical tastes that goes from Metallica to HAIM. At times, there might be some Paul Thomas Anderson and Southern California references in my social media.

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