Nashville served up a scorching IndyCar initiation for Lundqvist

Nashville served up a scorching IndyCar initiation for Lundqvist
Nashville served up a scorching IndyCar initiation for Lundqvist

Of all the things on the menu in Nashville, ‘Roasted Swede’ was among the more unique items after Sunday’s Music City Grand Prix.

The dish in question was cooked inside the cockpit of the No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing Honda as IndyCar rookie Linus Lundqvist was put through the greatest physical test of his career during the hot and steamy NTT IndyCar Series race.

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With ambient temperatures creeping towards 90.F and humidity doing its best to match the ambient figure, Lundqvist and the rest of the 27 drivers in the field prepared for a torturous experience. Due to the high heat, IndyCar also mandated the use of overhead air scoops to help with cooling inside the cars.

For Lundqvist, the scoop was the first casualty of the day as it broke free from its mounts atop the leading edge of the aeroscreen early in the 80-lap race. Losing the air scoop early in the race wasn’t the only problem. In its quick flight backwards, the scoop hit the hose that feeds air to Lundqvist’s helmet and knocked it free from its connection. Adding to the misery, the tube that supplies fluids to Lundqvist’s helmet was the next item to fail, which meant he was unable to drink water and stay hydrated for most of the race.

And if that wasn’t enough to deal with, as he approached the final 30 laps of the race, Lundqvist was asked to turn off the cooling system which circulates fluid through vanes in a shirt worn beneath his fire suit. Compounded by the absence of the air scoop and the air feed to his helmet, minus a functioning drink tube, and wearing an extra layer of unused cool shirt clothing in the latter stages of the race, Lundqvist operated inside a 180mph sauna that should have melted the 24-year-old.

“I thought the weekend was going to be tough beforehand,” Lundqvist told RACER. “Then obviously, it started raining and they canceled final practice, so another thing that I don’t think a lot of people knew was that I hadn’t done a single live pitstop until the race! The team usually practices that kind of stuff during practice, but we didn’t have that time, so my first ever hot stop was the first time in the race. And we never got to practice proper out laps or in laps, so there was already a lot to do for the first time on Sunday.

“Then the air scoop got loose and disappeared around lap 12 or 13 in the race, and then it hit the air hose to the helmet, so it knocked out all the air going into it. And then after the first yellow, I stopped having water from lap 15. And then with 30 laps to go, they asked me to turn off the cool suit. I was definitely cooking in there.”

Lundqvist says the physical demands were heightened due to the strategy taken with the No. 60 Honda, but he never felt at risk while in the car.

“They put me on the more aggressive strategy, which meant very little fuel saving and tire management and push laps basically every lap of the race,” he said. “So yeah, man, it was very tough. But it was never dangerous or anything like that. If I’d felt it was getting too much for me with the heat, I would have stopped, but I was working on adrenaline the whole race and wasn’t feeling anything that was too bad.

“I’ve told this before, but after my first [IndyCar] test with Andretti in 2021, I knew my fitness was limiting my ability to perform, so I said I could never let that happen to me again, and I have to give a lot of thanks to all the people at PitFit, because they motivated me to take my fitness to the highest place it’s ever been.

“But we were definitely put to the test, and speaking to the team afterwards, they said it’s probably one of the toughest things that they could have asked me for because you’ve got to remember that I haven’t done a proper single-seater race since Laguna last September.”

Based on his performance at Nashville, Lundqvist proved he’s a major talent to be considered for a full-time IndyCar ride, and while he didn’t go into the event with anything else to demonstrate, he ended up showing he’s one incredibly fit and tough character in circumstances that nearly melted a few veterans who weren’t faced with the same cooling and hydration problems.

“After a while, I was just like, ‘Jesus, that was actually pretty tough!’” he said. “And it’s not like I’m in proper race shape. Obviously, I’ve been at the gym and kept myself ready, but being in proper race shape is a bit of a different deal. I’m proud of the weekend that we did with being fast, but the physical part and the just the extreme hotness to deal with was on another level.”


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