Christian Bogle

Regardless of what Christian Bogle accomplishes in this Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires season, it won’t exceed the personal growth he has achieved in recent years.

Coming out high school in Louisiana, Bogle lacked a career path and was unsure of his future. At 6-foot-4, he was pushing 285 pounds and beginning to feel the weight of it all.

He needed something to feel passionate about, and studying mechanical engineering at Auburn University wasn’t it. His father suggested driving a race car in an academic gap year.

Jay Howard, the three-time Indianapolis 500 starter who fields junior formula cars under the banner Jay Howard Driver Development, became Bogle’s first connection to the sport, but Howard wasn’t initially sure it was going to work for the youngster, then 17.

“He was 286 (pounds) when he got on the scale,” Howard said. “I told him, you’re in the wrong sport; you should be a (football) lineman. But if you want to do this, you’ve got to get on a diet and get to work.”

Bogle did. Within a few months he had shed 40 pounds, and his drive to improve his chances at being fast driving a race car hasn’t slowed. Since moving to Indianapolis, he has been a six-day-a-week regular at PitFit, where many NTT INDYCAR SERIES drivers and those who aspire to be train. Bogle’s transformation has been inspiring.

He now says he weighs 200 pounds, although PitFit founder Jim Leo, who began working with INDYCAR SERIES drivers in 1993 as a Penske Racing employee, estimated Bogle is in the 190s.

“I saw him at (the St. Petersburg race) with his hair swept back and looking good, and I couldn’t believe it,” Leo said. “I took a picture and sent it back to my staff and said, ‘Who is this good-looking guy?!’”

Said Howard: “He’s a poster child for what a lot of young people should do. He came here, didn’t know anything about racing and got to work.

“It would have been so easy for him to say, ‘I’m playing race car driver,’ and stay big, but that’s not what he’s done, not at all. He has kept working and working.”

Leo added that Bogle is “a really good kid, too, the kind of kid you want in your program.” Leo has asked to meet Bogle’s parents, Kenny and Christa, because “I want to tell them they’ve done a really good job raising him.”

Bogle, the driver, is far from finished product, but his progress is true.

Remember, he was 17 years old when he made his competitive debut, running in the final eight races of the F4 U.S. Championships in 2018. That’s significantly behind where most drivers start, in karting, but the next year he won two races in that series at Circuit of The Americas, one of the sport’s most challenging road courses.

Howard has long believed that young drivers benefit from testing cars higher in class than those they are racing, so he began testing Bogle in an Indy Lights car before he was ready. What they discovered was that due to his height, Bogle fit better in that car, which led to the decision to have him skip Indy Pro 2000 last season to join Indy Lights. He seems to be benefitting now.

After finishing 15th in the standings last year with Carlin, Bogle started this season by qualifying eighth and finishing ninth in St. Petersburg in a car fielded by HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing. Bogle said he learned several things that should be beneficial when the series resumes with the May 1 race at Barber Motorsports Park.

Now 21, Bogle isn’t boastful, but it’s clear he is proud of how far he’s come.

“It’s been a long road, but when I look back over the past four or five years, it’s crazy how time kind of flies by,” he said. “Everything started to come together for me once I found my passion in racing. I’m really thankful for what racing has done for me.

“We started down this rabbit hole, and this is where we’re at.”

There is more to Bogle’s story, too. If he’s seen around Indianapolis, it’s likely driving a charcoal pearl metallic 1992 Nissan Skyline R-32 pushing 50,000 miles. He has big plans for it and works on it in his spare time. He also is part of a group of drivers, including roommate Wyatt Brichacek, an Indy Pro 2000 driver, that are emerging in the junior categories.

“Christian, Wyatt and Christian Rasmussen (now in Indy Lights) have basically been together in the same categories for four years, and they’re all really good guys,” Howard said. “It’s fun to watch them develop.”