After a heartbreaking start to the season, Christian Rasmussen is locked in on winning the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires championship to advance his racing career, and he thinks his competition has taken notice.
Rasmussen dominated much of the season opener Feb. 27 on the Streets of St. Petersburg, but he ran out of fuel while leading coming to the white flag. His Andretti Autosport teammate Matthew Brabham darted around his stalled car to score the win, and Rasmussen finished 12th.
As far as debut performances go, it was top notch. But that’s to be expected from Rasmussen, who is looking to accomplish the same feat Kyle Kirkwood did last season by winning all three championships in the Road to Indy ladder system leading to the NTT INDYCAR SERIES.
Danish driver Rasmussen won the USF2000 championship in 2020 and the Indy Pro 2000 title last year, both for Jay Howard Driver Development. His USF2000 championship came in his second year in the series, while he won the Indy Pro 2000 title as a rookie in 2021.
With the momentum of winning championships in his last two seasons, as well as being paired with the Andretti team, which has won the last three Indy Lights championships, many within the paddock have pointed to Rasmussen, 21, as the odds-on favorite to win the Indy Lights championship this season. He agrees.
“I think it’s good that everybody is worried about me,” he said. “They should be. At the end of the day, I have a job to get done, whether the other guys think I’m a threat or not, that’s fine if they do and fine if not. I’ll show them that I will be a threat. Hopefully I’ll be able to be up there in the championship and pull off the win.”
Aside from the competitive drive than can be found inside every race car driver, Rasmussen has extra motivation for winning the Indy Lights championship: the scholarship that guarantees the winner entry into the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, including the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge.
Rasmussen said he doesn’t come from a family with money, and he doesn’t have big companies or corporations sponsoring him. Therefore, if he wants to move up the open-wheel racing ranks, he must earn it by winning. That’s how he rose from USF2000 to Indy Pro 2000, and now into Indy Lights.
“There’s always pressure,” he said. “I’ve always had that pressure on me to win. I think if you can use that right, you can turn that into a good thing. Hopefully I can do that again this year.
“That’s just the reality of my situation. It’s been like that for my whole career, so there’s nothing new with that. I’ve been pretty good at handling that pressure so far, I think.”
The win-or-go-home mentality has made Rasmussen ultra-motivated his entire racing career. In the seven years that he has raced in open-wheel competition, the worst he has finished in a championship is third: F4 Danish Championship, Formula 4 United States Championship and his rookie USF2000 season in 2019.
Plus, he has scored multiple wins in every single season, scoring as many as nine wins in his championship-winning USF2000 season and seven wins in his Indy Pro 200 championship-winning season.
If it’s any consolation, the 2022 season has started much like his Indy Pro 2000 season last year when he finished 13th in the season opener at Barber Motorsports Park. He went on to win the title by 38 points over Braden Eves.
Rasmussen is feeling optimistic about picking up where he left off on Lap 43 of the Indy Lights Grand Prix of St. Petersburg when the series is back in action May 1 at Barber.
Andretti Autosport still isn’t sure what caused his No. 28 car to run out of fuel, but it hasn’t deterred Rasmussen, who hails from Copenhagen, Denmark, from finding the positives in the performance in which he led 32 of 45 laps.
“I think St. Pete, in many ways, was a confidence booster just showing that I was able to run up front and compete for wins,” he said. “It was a great thing to show to everyone, including myself. I think if anything, St. Pete was really good in terms of confidence (moving forward).
“It’s a great accomplishment for my first weekend in Lights. I was quite happy with that. It was very unfortunate what happened, but I couldn’t really have done anything differently to make it last. It was just one where it was bound to happen, no matter what I did.”