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Lundgaard captures Honda Indy Toronto for first win of season

Christian Lundgaard Christian Lundgaard - The Canadian Press

TORONTO — Chstian Lundgaard couldn't wait to shave off his moustache, removing the hair from his upper lip right there on victory lane at the Honda Indy Toronto.

Lundgaard started on the pole and took advantage of the car troubles of IndyCar standings leader Alex Palou to hang on to victory Sunday. His first win on North America's top open-wheel auto racing circuit also brought to an end a pact with his best friend to keep his moustache until he climbed atop an IndyCar podium.

Lundgaard said he was happy to be rid of the facial hair.

"But I haven't seen it yet, so I don't really know what it looks like," said the 21-year-old Dane, who rubbed his upper lip throughout the post-race news conference. "I guess I'll wait and see."

Lundgaard took the pole Saturday as steady rainfall made the street course around Toronto's Exhibition Place slippery. The son of 2000 European rally car champion Henrik Lundgaard, the IndyCar sophomore took advantage of his off-roading background to secure the No. 1 start position in the race.

But after qualifying, Lundgaard was pessimistic about having the fastest car in the actual race. Ultimately, he felt he had the race under control from start to finish.

"We struggle, especially on the super speedways," said Lundgaard, who led the race for 53 of the 85 laps. "We're moving forward even though we don't have the pace and performance on the super speedways.

"It just means that we're going to be doing pretty good elsewhere and I think we proved that today."

Palou took second despite starting 15th on the grid and nursing a damaged front wing for more than 20 laps. Colton Herta was third for his first podium finish of the season.

Palou had won three of the past four races on the circuit's schedule. His podium finish Sunday padded his lead in the season's standings ahead of Scott Dixon, his Chip Ganassi Racing teammate.

"I am glad that we were able to overcome. It's not easy in IndyCar and especially in races like that," said Palou, who now has 417 points to Dixon's 300. "I think our race was a lot more difficult than it might seem if you only look at the results.

"At one point, I was in the wall, I didn't know if we were going to be able to make it from there or not."

Scott McLaughlin and Dixon both briefly held the lead around the halfway point of the race. But their decisions to not pit during a lengthy yellow flag eventually gave Palou and Lundgaard the chance to move into the lead when they did need to stop.

Lundgaard passed Palou with 24 laps to go and, knowing the Ganassi car's front wing was coming loose, he floored it.

"I knew I would get past him and that the cars ahead of him had to pit anyway because they wouldn't be able to make it either on their tires or fuel," said Lundgaard, who moved into seventh in the IndyCar standings. "I knew I had to overtake just one car and he was struggling.

"As soon as I got past him I just took off."

Palou's front wing was barely hanging on by the end of the race, with one end drooping down to the ground and a large crack in the car's nose.

"I could feel it dragging and I was like 'Oh man, that's not good,'" Palou said, adding that he tried to avoid curbs on the street course in an effort to preserve the wing. "I honestly thought that we were not going to end the race with that nose.

"I think it was only the (sponsor stickers) that were holding it on because there was nothing else there."

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.

McLaughlin, who started the race in second position, finished sixth.

Toronto's Devlin DeFrancesco, the only Canadian driver in IndyCar this season, exited the race after 10 laps due to a mechanical failure.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 16, 2023.