Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing got off to a rough start to the 2023 IndyCar season, but the program appears to be making  strides towards a recovery in the past couple weeks.

At the head of that charge is the team’s young sophomore driver Christian Lundgaard, whose strong results have helped to show what the team is capable of.

At the first race of the new year in St. Petersburg, all three of the team’s drivers found themselves struggling with cars that were not cooperating with the bumps of the seaside street course.

The team was able to get the worst of the handling problems under control by time the race was run on Sunday, but again found themselves struggling with handling at the second race at Texas Motor Speedway.

After a disappointing day on the high speed oval, Graham Rahal labeled the team’s performance as ‘absolutely unacceptable’ and was at a loss to explain why the car setups were so far off.

The past couple races have seen RLL put in a far better showing, however, and Lundgaard in particular has been able to bring the team back into competition with some of the other teams near the front of the pack.

At Barber, the fourth race of the year, the 21-year-old remarked that he was comfortable behind the wheel for the first time of the season, and was able to put his car into the Fast Six qualifying shootout.

He then captured his first pole at IMS in an impressive display this past weekend, went on to finish in fourth position, and now sits ninth in the overall points standings.

Even with a couple good results under the team’s belt, there are still some inconsistencies with the car’s handling that show there’s still work to do to fully understand the car’s performance.  

“It was a tough day,” Lungaard told NBC after the race from Indianapolis. “The RLL #45 Hy-Vee Honda has just been quick all weekend. It wasn’t as quick today, unfortunately.

“To come home fourth – there was a point in this race where I thought we weren’t going to finish in the top 10. With that pace and the balance of the car, to end up fourth is a win right now.

“It was strange, because that one set [of red tires], the rears were going off. The previous red set, I was just understeering like crazy. So I didn’t really understand how we got the balance so wrong.

“But again, it’s things we need to learn from now on. These are the things we need to learn moving forward.”

Lundgaard struggled with the car’s balance on the red tires at IMS. Photo: Kevin Dejewski

The other two drivers of the RLL team have not found as much success in the past couple races, but are still showing signs that the team is moving in the right direction.

Rahal was able to put a second team car in the top 10 at IMS, and Jack Harvey looked set to join his team-mates in the front half of the field until early wing damage and a spin knocked him off the lead lap.

RLL was hoping that the team’s brand new race shop, which debuted for this season, was going to give them an advantage in the form of being better prepared for each race weekend.

It’s unknown if growing pains related to the new facility played a part in any way in the team’s early struggles with handling characteristics, but it seems that the initial car setups the team brings to the track are at least trending the right direction.

And at the moment, the driver that seems best able to take advantage of the cars he’s given is Lundgaard, the same driver that gave the team its only podium last year.

One of the biggest tests for car setups lies ahead, with practice for the Indianapolis 500 getting underway this week. The famous race itself takes place on Sunday, May 28.

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