Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship rookie Christian Rasmussen clearly is enjoying his second full season racing in America. The 19-year-old Dane rarely is seen without his trademark grin, finding a home with Jay Howard Driver Development and the Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires in what he calls “the land of opportunity.”
That smile became even wider two weeks ago, when Rasmussen captured his first series pole, podium and victory in a breakout weekend on the streets of Toronto. Rasmussen continued a duel with Cape Motorsports’ Darren Keane that began on the opening weekend in St. Petersburg, Fla., as the pair traded poles and wins in the two Toronto races filled with the nonstop action that has become a trademark of the first rung of the Road to Indy.
“Looking back over the weekend, I am of course very happy with how it all went,” Rasmussen said. “I made a braking mistake and lost the lead in Race 1, so I was even more hungry to take Race 2. All weekend, I was confident with my pace and knew it would be enough to challenge for a win. I drove a very good race, did a couple of good restarts and minimized the mistakes. I hope we can continue to build on that momentum and score some more race wins – and something tells me we can.”
The young racer comes to his love of racing naturally. His father, Niels, owns a car dealership and service shop near the family home just outside of Copenhagen, so the young Rasmussen became intrigued with motorsports at a very young age.
“I’ve always been into cars,” Rasmussen said. “My dad took me to the local karting track when I was five years old and I have been hooked on racing ever since – it was meant to be that I went racing, I think. We started racing every Sunday and then it took off from there.”
Racing began to get serious for the young Rasmussen when he started at age 11. He finished second in the DASU Racing Academy in 2014 and won several Danish and Nordic titles in 2015. Graduating to cars in 2016, Rasmussen finished second in the Danish Formula Ford Championship, and third in the F4 Danish Championship in 2017, which earned him the nod as Motorsport Talent of the Year by the DASU.
Rasmussen and his dad began to consider his next move, whether it would be into the European formula ranks or further afield. America had begun to beckon, and Rasmussen seized the opportunity.
“We had offers in Europe, but we didn’t think the budgets were achievable for us,” he said. “America was the best chance we had to go racing within the budget we could afford. It is the land of opportunity, isn’t it?“
Finishing third in the US F4 Championship Powered by Honda in 2018, with the most victories of any driver (five), eight podiums and two pole positions, Rasmussen looked for his next move up. His Danish F4 engineer had worked with Jay Howard’s NTT IndyCar Series team, so introductions were made, and Rasmussen found a home. A quick study, Rasmussen finished fourth in the season opener in St. Petersburg, Fla. and fought USF2000 veteran Darren Keane for the lead in Race 2 until the pair tangled in the final corner. The lessons learned so far this season from the veteran Howard, along with teammate Christian Bogle, have Rasmussen in a positive frame of mind as the season passes the midpoint.
“I love being here, I love my teammates, and I love having Jay (Howard) as a mentor,” he said. “It’s great to have a former IndyCar driver to teach me stuff. I’ve learned so much from him and it’s really improved my driving – that’s why I’m here, to become a better race car driver and to have a professional career. He has taught me all kinds of driving techniques, tips and tricks.
“It’s so competitive, though I’d not had the best season before we got to Toronto. The first weekend was quite good; we were fighting for a win and had the fastest lap. We’ve lacked some pace since, but we started turning that around at Road America. I’m so happy to have finally gotten my first series win. I had been waiting such a long time for that first win. We’re on a roll now and I can’t wait for Mid-Ohio.”
One of the main bonuses for Rasmussen in 2019 has been the chance to get an up-close view of the premier open-wheel series in America, the NTT IndyCar Series. With every USF2000 race weekend run in conjunction with INDYCAR, he knows that team owners are watching the junior series, and he hopes to emulate the path so successfully taken by drivers Colton Herta, Zach Veach and Spencer Pigot.
“It’s great to be with INDYCAR, to have the opportunity for us to showcase ourselves as the young, up-and-coming drivers that we are. And with INDYCAR, there are a lot of fans at the track – it’s more fun to race when there are a lot of fans watching.”