Pedersen leads, Lundqvist lurks in Lights Practice at Portland

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Linus Lundqvist hasn’t officially secured the Indy Lights championship with two race weekends left in the season, but he looked primed to do so this weekend by posting the second-quickest lap in the opening practice of the Indy Lights Grand Prix of Portland on Friday at Portland International Raceway.

Driving the No. 26 entry of HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing, the dominating driver of the 2022 season finished the 45-minute practice less than a tenth of a second behind teammate Benjamin Pedersen.

Pedersen’s best lap around the 12-turn, 1.964-mile permanent road course in the No. 24 car of Global Racing Group with HMD was 1 minute, 4.4820 seconds. Lundqvist turned a lap of 1:04.5247 with Matthew Brabham third at 1:04.5694 in the No. 83 Andretti Autosport entry.

Lundqvist leads Brabham by 108 points heading into Sunday’s 35-lap race (1:05 p.m., Peacock Premium, INDYCAR Live! and the INDYCAR Radio Network). The 23-year-old Swede can clinch the title by exiting this event with a 109-point lead.

“I feel good,” Lundqvist said after Friday’s practice. “I didn’t do too many laps (11 compared to Pedersen’s 20); the car was hooked up from Lap 1. It’s good to see my teammate up there (on the speed chart), as well. So, getting a 1-2 was nice. We’ll see. It’s only (the first practice).”

Like Brabham, fellow Andretti Autosport drivers Hunter McElrea and Sting Ray Robb are clinging to slim title hopes. They are 109 and 119 points from the top spot, respectively. Robb was sixth on Friday’s speed chart at 1:04.7967 with McElrea 12th at 1:05.4431.

Pedersen, who is fifth in the standings and 149 points behind Lundqvist, would like to end the season with his first career series victory, and Friday was a good start toward that pursuit.

“It feels like a home race 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 I think we had some pretty big issue with the car in terms of how it was feeling, but it still managed to make a time for (fastest of the session). We’re trying to figure out what the issue is, and once we that sorted, we will be able to go quite a bit quicker.”

Making his series debut 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 Indy Lights debut after brief appearances in USF2000 (two races in 2017) and Indy Pro 2000 (four races in 2021).

Lazier’s best lap Friday in the No. 15 Abel Motorsports entry was 1:05.1873, good for ninth. Lazier is also scheduled to compete in next week’s season-ending doubleheader at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

“Ever since 2019 we’ve been trying to make it here,” Lazier said of his family’s efforts. “This opportunity came really late – really, we got things done maybe two weeks ago. I’ve been waiting for this for a really long time and to have it come together in two weeks has been a lot, but I’m just really excited.”

The second practice of the weekend will be held Saturday at 2:15 p.m. ET, with qualifying to follow at 6:25 p.m.