Rahal, Fittipaldi and Lundgaard Look Forward to Chance at Winning the $1 Million Challenge at The Thermal Club

Source: Team PR

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
Pre-Race Notes
The Thermal Club $1 Million Challenge – Ther Thermal Club, Thermal, California
Round 2 of 17 in the 2024 NTT INDYCAR SERIES

Friday – Sunday, March 22-24, 2024
PRACTICE BROADCAST:     Live on Peacock on Friday from 12–2 p.m. ET and 5-8 p.m. ET, Saturday from 12-2 p.m. ET and 4-6 p.m. ET. Also live on the INDYCAR Radio Network (IRN) and www.indycar.com(timing & scoring + live analysis).
QUALIFYING BROADCAST:     Live on Peacock, the IRN and www.indycar.com (timing & scoring + live analysis) from 8-8:45 p.m. ET Saturday.
RACE BROADCAST:     Live on NBC Sunday, March 24 from 12:30-3:00 p.m. ET. And also on Peacock and the IRN.
TRACK LAYOUT:     3.067-mile, 17-turn street course
RACE LENGTH:     10-lap qualifying race (field split into 2 groups) + 12-car, 20-lap “All Star Race”
2023 WINNER:     Inaugural event
2023 POLESITTER:     Inaugural event
RAHAL’S BEST SERIES START / FINISH:     5 Poles – St. Pete (street) 2009, Kansas (oval) 2009, Detroit (street) 2017, IMS (road) 2023, Portland (road) 2023 / 6 Wins – St. Pete 2008, Fontana (oval; 500 miles) 2015, Mid-Ohio (road) 2015, Texas (oval) 2016; Detroit Race 1 (street) 2017, Detroit Race 2 2017
FITTIPALDI’S BEST SERIES START / FINISH:     10th at Phoenix (2018) / 9th at Portland (2018) – 10 series starts to date
LUNDGAARD’S BEST SERIES START / FINISH:     2 Poles – IMS (road) May 2023, Toronto (street) 2023 / 1 Win – Toronto 2023
The Thermal Club $1 Million Challenge is the first non-championship INDYCAR SERIES race since the Nikon Indy 300 in 2008 at Surfers Paradise, Australia. The Thermal Club $1 Million Challenge event weekend includes a crucial two-day Open Test, group qualifying sessions, two heat races and a 12-car “all-star” race with $1.756 million at stake – the largest purse for an INDYCAR SERIES race outside of the Indianapolis 500. The team has entered the No. 15 Code 3 Associates Honda for Graham Rahal, the No. 30 Mi-Jack Honda for Pietro Fittipaldi and the No. 45 Hy-Vee Honda for Christian Lundgaard.Rahal and Lundgaard participated in the pre-season test here in 2023 but it will be the first time at the track for Pietro Fittipaldi. More information on the format can be found in the INDYCAR website.
Rahal, who splits his time between Indianapolis and Yorba Linda, California, will have the shortest commute to The Thermal Club of RLL’s three competitors. He participated in the previous non-points INDYCAR race in Australia in 2008 and won Iowa Heat Race 2 in 2013, the previous time the series held them. He is looking forward to another unique experience this weekend.

“I think it’s an interesting format for sure. I’m actually quite excited about it. I think it’s a good opportunity for INDYCAR to be at a place where there are so many influential people and leaders across multiple industries, many who could be interested in the sport and helping to move it forward. I’m also excited by what Jay (Frye), Mark (Miles) and the entire group has put together. The track layout is phenomenal. It’s fast, and I mean fast! The passing opportunities are going to be interesting because, to me, the opportunities will depend on how bad tire degradation is, which I’m sure we will see. It will be an all-out battle to the end to make sure that you get into the group that advances to the final event. The team’s road course performance has been phenomenal as of late. At the end of last year, it was certainly our strength and hopefully we can keep that going this weekend.”

(On what he would do with the prize money if he won:) “Lord knows what I would do with the prize money. Nowadays, I’ve got plenty of projects on my hands so a little extra money would go a long, long way toward those.”
Fittipaldi made his return to the INDYCAR SERIES at the 2024 season-opener in St. Pete and earned the “Biggest Mover of the Race” award for gaining 11 spots in the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Pete. He has only driven on four of the 16 tracks the series will race on this season but since the series has only tested at The Thermal Club once, other drivers don’t have as much of an advantage as they might at other venues. There are nine hours of testing on the schedule before qualifying and Fittipaldi plans to make the most of the opportunity.  

“I think the $1 Million Challenge is great, it’s going to be awesome. It’s really like a dash for cash. We’ve got qualifying and then heat races and the short feature race. It’s going to be exciting. It’s not an easy place to overtake so qualifying is going to be very important and then making sure you have good heat races so you actually qualify for the feature race. And then I think the starts and restarts are going to be key to winning the race, basically.

“Mostly everybody has tested or been at the Thermal track last year but of course it’s not the same level of experience some have at St. Pete, for example. Some drivers have been doing that race for 20 years. I’ve never been to Thermal but some guys have had test days there, but the fact that the series has only been there once definitely evens out the playing field a little bit more. We’re going to go in with more confidence due to already having one race under our belt for the whole 30 crew. There are a lot of new people as well in the 30 car, so just being able to have that one race worth of experience is going to be a big help for Thermal and I’m looking forward to it. Looking at the track, the first part of it is very tight with a lot of hairpins which I think is going to be where most of the passing is done. There are chicanes and then towards the middle to the end of the track, you have some high-speed corners, which looks very exciting. I’m looking forward to going there and learning the track and then pushing when it when it counts in qualifying, the heat races, and then the feature race. RLL is known for having a good road course car so I’m confident we’re going to be competitive.

“If I win the $1 Million Challenge at Thermal, I’m not sure what I would do with the money to be honest. Right now, the energy and focus is on winning it, arriving there well prepared and then doing our best. And then once we win and the money hits our bank account, then we’ll think about what we’ll do with the money. Our whole lives my parents sacrificed everything and invested everything into me and my brother’s racing so I’m sure it would have to do something with that. Let’s focus on winning first. Figuring out what to do with the money, that’s an easy problem to solve.”
Lundgaard was the highest qualifier for the team at the season-opener in St. Pete at 12th place but was hit on the start and forced to pit to replace his punctured right tire, which reduced his potential at a higher finish. After setting the fifth fastest time in testing at Barber Motorsports Park on Monday, March 18, he is looking forward to getting back on track in Thermal. 

“I’m super excited for the $1 Million Challenge. Thermal is one of the events we are all looking forward to even though there are no points given. I think we’re all excited to have a couple of days of testing and end it with a showdown run with $1 million dollars up for grabs. Overall, we want to make progress from St. Pete. I think the car was in a better window than it’s been there the past two years so there was a lot of excitement going into St. Pete and also leaving St. Pete. The result didn’t come our way, but I think there were a lot of positives for us to carry on from there so going into the Thermal event, we are very excited. And also to be carrying information that we gained from Monday’s test at Barber Motorsports Park should help. We’re just going to get at it and try to put the Hy-Vee Honda up front!”