Perhaps it was fitting that Christian Rasmussen recently drove to a class victory in the Rolex 24 At Daytona because his path to the NTT INDYCAR SERIES has been all about endurance.
The 23-year-old Dane came to the United States to build his racing resume much earlier than most Europeans, and it was a wise move. He has finished in the top three of each of his six seasons, delivering 31 wins in 95 races. In the acknowledged steps to the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, he won a race in every three starts, capturing season titles in USF2000, Indy Pro 2000 and INDY NXT by Firestone.
But none of those years were easy, especially last year.
By Rasmussen’s admission, he was on the verge of losing his ride several times due to a lack of funding, and if he hadn’t been in championship contention, he might not have been able to finish the season with HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing. Somehow, he endured.
“We had to find a full budget – that proved to be very hard,” he said. “We pushed through, but not without issues.
“Like three times during the year we were less than 24 hours from losing my ride, which was hard. But we pushed through, made it happen and still won the championship, which got me into INDYCAR.”
Now, Rasmussen is preparing for a partial-season ride with Ed Carpenter Racing. Rasmussen will compete on the road courses and street circuits in the team’s No. 20 GuyCare Chevrolet – Ed Carpenter will drive on the ovals -- and he will be the third entry for the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge alongside Carpenter and Rinus VeeKay.
Rasmussen’s funding can be traced to investors who have believed in his future, and he has added a group of sponsors, as well. Like so many of the drivers who have advanced through the U.S. support system, Rasmussen has greatly benefited from the career advancement prize packages tied to winning series titles.
For Rasmussen, three season championships have led to three opportunities the next season, including this one. It can’t be overstated the pressure that comes with competing when funding for the opportunity to keep driving is on the line. Having finished third in INDY NXT by Firestone in 2022 made assembling last year’s budget particularly challenging.
“That was why like last year was very hard for us because that was the first time in a while where we didn’t have a scholarship, or I didn’t have a scholarship,” he said.
A 14-race season is an endurance march of sorts, and Rasmussen had to stay the course after a less-than-spectacular first half of last year. He reached victory lane only once in the first seven races – at Barber Motorsports Park in the second outing – and trailed Nolan Siegel by 16 points in the standings coming out of the INDY NXT by Firestone Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio on July 2.
Rasmussen knew he had work to do in the year’s second half to earn the career-advancement financial package for 2024, and he pulled it off. Over the next seven races, he won four times and added a second-place finish to amass a 140-point swing. Rasmussen’s final advantage over second-place Hunter McElrea at year’s end was 65 points.
The financial benefits that came with the title provided Rasmussen with relief.
“Having that financial burden off my shoulders is very, very great,” he said. “And, yeah, I just look forward to start racing and focusing on my craft and getting better.”
Rasmussen will make his NTT INDYCAR SERIES debut in the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 10, and because the “500” is the only oval event until the middle of July, he should have plenty of opportunities to shine.
Always known for his one-lap speed, Rasmussen will try to do what he did in completing the Rolex 24 class victory in LMP2 for Era Motorsport: Successfully bring this car home. He will have done that if he is a full-time driver in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES in 2025.
“Obviously the goal is always to run the entire season, but I’m very thankful for the opportunity to run the road and street circuits (this year),” Rasmussen said. “We’ll see. I think there is a lot to learn when you step up into INDYCAR, so having to only focus on road and street circuits might be a good thing.”
So, there are two goals: Learning this year, being a regular next year. Again, it’s an endurance run for the driver from Copenhagen.
“For now, I’ll focus on the cards that I have been dealt and see where that takes me,” he said.