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Lundgaard takes pole at Honda Indy Toronto, IndyCar season leader Palou 15th

Christian Lundgaard Christian Lundgaard - The Canadian Press

TORONTO — Christian Lundgaard mastered driving in the rain when he was growing up in Denmark. He'll have to put that to the test at the Honda Indy Toronto.

Lundgaard took the pole on a wet street course at Toronto's Exhibition Place on Saturday, finishing 0.3223 seconds ahead of Scott McLaughlin and 0.3933 ahead of Pato O'Ward. The Danish driver was pessimistic about his chances to win the race, even as he starts on Sunday at the head of the grid.

"I do think that we will be fast tomorrow, I just don't think we'll be the fastest car," said Lundgaard. "I don't think we've shown that pace throughout the weekend.

"I hope the improvements that we did make from practice into qualifying, the changes that we made will pay off tomorrow."

IndyCar standings leader Alex Palou was one of the drivers eliminated in the first round of qualifying. Palou had won four consecutive races heading into the Toronto event but will start 15th in Sunday's race.

Reigning Honda Indy Toronto champion Scott Dixon didn't advance past the second round of qualifying and will be seventh on the grid. He's second in the IndyCar season standings behind Palou, his Chip Ganassi Racing teammate.

Toronto's Devlin DeFrancesco, the only Canadian driver in IndyCar, will be 22nd out of 27 to start the race.

"I wouldn't be disappointed with the win," joked Lundgaard. "We do lead the field off, but it's tough."

Rain dictated the pace for qualifying on Saturday afternoon, with a steady downpour leading to a track hold between the first and second groups in the first round of qualifying. Although the sun peaked through the clouds and started drying the course for the second and final rounds of qualifying, the street course's mix of surfaces dried at different paces.

"It's probably one of the toughest street courses I've ever combated in the rain," said McLaughlin. "The concrete dries quicker than the asphalt.

"Trying to figure that out, you've got to do that in split seconds and trust that the car is going to stop."

When the second group started its first-round laps, Agustin Canapino spun out on the slick, wet road but quickly recovered without doing any damage to his car. Graham Rahal spun out shortly after, with his front wing going into a wall and having to be replaced.

The sun came out in time for the second round of qualifying, but some sections, especially Turn 8 in the course's northwest corner, still had puddles as the top 12 went out.

O'Ward put in the best lap of the second round of qualifying in his last go-round to bump Dixon from the Firestone Fast 6.

McLaughlin also briefly lost control early in the final round of qualifying, narrowly getting out of the way of Marcus Ericsson.

It looked like McLaughlin might get penalized and dropped out of the second position but, after a 15-minute wait, the qualifying results were certified by race officials. McLaughlin was visibly angry as he sat in his car waiting for the verdict.

"I knew that everyone went faster from that point (in qualifying)," said McLaughlin. "I should lose my fastest laps up to that point but I shouldn't lose my best time because everyone went fast and I didn't slow down anyone else.

"So yeah, I've got to count to five sometimes."

There's a 70 per cent chance of more rain on Sunday, including thunderstorms. Lundgaard said that if it rains during the race visibility will be even worse since there will be more cars on the course than during qualifying.

"Luckily, I'm out there in the front and I won't have to deal with that, at least in the beginning," said Lundgaard.

"I'll probably pass you," quipped McLaughlin.

"We'll see," replied Lundgaard.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 15, 2023.