TORONTO — Christian Lundgaard has won the Honda Indy Toronto.
It is Lundgaard’s first victory of the IndyCar season.
The Dane started the race on the pole but ultimately won because of a failed strategic gamble by Scott McLaughlin and Scott Dixon.
IndyCar seasons standings leader Alex Palou took second despite starting 15th on the grid and a damaged front wing.
Colton Herta was third for his first podium of the season.
Toronto’s Devlin DeFrancesco, the only Canadian driver in IndyCar this season, exited the race after 10 laps due to a mechanical failure.
Palou had won three of the past four races on the North American open-wheel circuit’s schedule, but started 15th on the grid after an early exit from qualifying. His podium finish Sunday padded his lead in the season’s standings ahead of Dixon, his Chip Ganassi Racing teammate.
Dixon, the defending Honda Indy Toronto champion, started seventh on the grid and even led for several laps but finished fourth after his team miscalculated when he should pit.
IndyCar officials decided to start the race an hour early with rain predicted for the early evening. Wet conditions had helped Christian Lundgaard in Saturday’s qualifying, putting his rally car skills to work on the wet, slippery street course to take the pole.
Lundgaard’s father, Henrik, won the European Rally Car championship in 2000.
Hot, muggy conditions dried the track Sunday, arguably to Lundgaard’s disadvantage, as he said on Saturday that he didn’t think he would have the fastest car in the race.
That prediction bore out when McLaughlin and Lundgaard swapped the lead twice between the 29th and 38th laps.
Romain Grosjean went into a wall on the 42nd lap, forcing a stoppage in the race as his car was removed from the track. Helio Castroneves immediately went into a wall on the restart, extending the yellow flag.
McLaughlin again retook the lead in the 50th lap after Lundgaard pitted on the Castroneves yellow, with Dixon also moving up to second.
Both McLaughlin and Dixon gambled on softer tires for the final 30 laps, betting that there would be no more yellows and that they’d be able to stay out of the pit.
McLaughlin did have to pit in the 61st lap, putting Dixon in the lead just as Lundgaard passed Palou to move back into second. As Lundgaard made that move Dixon turned into his pit with 22 laps to go.
That put Lundgaard at the head of the pack, followed by Palou’s damaged car, and Colton Herta.
Playing defence the rest of the way, Lundgaard maintained his lead as Palou and Herta kept a careful watch on their gas tanks.
Palou’s visibly vibrating wing also played a role as he was unable to speed down the straightaways, forcing the rest of the pack to bunch up behind him and putting more distance between Lundgaard and everyone else.
McLaughlin, who started the race in second position, finished sixth.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 16, 2023.
John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press