MONTEREY, Calif. — Christian Rasmussen only needed to leave pit lane to clinch the Indy NXT by Firestone championship Sunday at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, but he decided to add an exclamation point to his magical 2023 season.
Rasmussen led all 35 laps from pole to earn his series-leading fifth victory of the season and win Race 2 of the Indy NXT by Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey doubleheader in the No. 6 HMD Motorsports with DCR car. He beat Race 1 winner Hunter McElrea’s No. 27 Smart Motors car to the finish by 17.8813 seconds – the largest margin of victory in the series this season by more than 10 seconds.
The win also easily sealed the season title and a prize package toward advancement to the NTT INDYCAR SERIES for Rasmussen, 23, from Denmark. He beat Andretti Autosport’s McElrea to the title, 539-474, after the 14-race season. Rasmussen became only the second driver to win championships in INDY NXT by Firestone, USF Pro 2000 and USF2000, joining current NTT IndyCar Series star Kyle Kirkwood in that exclusive club.
“As soon as I rolled over the start line and got the green flag, I knew I was champion,” Rasmussen said. “From there on out, it was just pure enjoyment. My last INDY NXT race; I just wanted to enjoy it, and I think I checked all the boxes. Fastest lap, quite a margin at the end, good management of the race.
“I’m just so happy. We’re champions.”
Rookie Louis Foster rounded out the podium finishers in the No. 26 Copart/USF 2000 Championship car of Andretti Autosport in the final race of the season for the IndyCar development series. Matthew Brabham finished fourth in the No. 76 Juncos Hollinger Racing machine, with Jacob Abel placing fifth in the No. 51 Abel Motorsports car.
Nolan Siegel’s seventh-place finish in the No. 39 HMD Motorsports with DCR car sealed third in the overall standings and ensured he ended the season as the top rookie driver, just five points ahead of fellow rookie Foster.
A caution period on lap six was the only foe that slowed Rasmussen on the 11-turn, 2.238-mile circuit. But he rocketed from the field on the restart on lap seven and gradually expanded his lead, lap by lap.
Rasmussen led by 5.2 seconds on Lap 22. But he found even more speed over the last 13 laps, when he started to cruise at least one second per lap quicker than the rest of the 17-car field.
From there, it was a drive on easy street into victory lane for Rasmussen at the picturesque circuit, where NTT IndyCar Series race winner and fellow Dane Christian Lundgaard awaited to greet his friend with a hearty embrace.