Christian Rasmussen saw his championship lead in INDY NXT presented by Firestone shrink to just two points over rookie Nolan Siegel after the doubleheader at the Detroit Grand Prix on June 3-4.
But a recent open test for INDYCAR’s development series showed Rasmussen could claw back some of the points at the upcoming two oval races.
Rasmussen was the fastest of 17 drivers testing June 8 on the .894-mile oval at Iowa Speedway, tops at 157.518 in the No. 6 HMD Motorsports with DCR car.
It’s not shocking that championship leader Rasmussen was fast. But his margin to second was a bit surprising, as he was 1.29 mph faster than second place Jacob Abel in the No. 51 Abel Motorsports machine.
Abel also had a significant gap over third place Danial Frost, whose best lap was 154.333 in the No. 68 HMD Motorsports with DCR car.
Other trends from the test, which prepared drivers for the INDY NXT by Firestone race on July 22 at Iowa Speedway:
Abel Hangs Tough
It appeared at the start of the season that HMD Motorsports and Andretti Autosport, which combine to field most of the cars in the field, would be the top two power teams this season in the series.
But Jacob Abel and Abel Motorsports have tested that conventional wisdom since Abel started second and finished third in the season-opening event in March at St. Petersburg. Abel has slipped to fifth in the standings since that event, but he’s only 10 points behind third place Hunter McElrea of Andretti Autosport.
Abel also showed his speed on an oval during the Iowa test, ending up second. He was the only driver close to leader Rasmussen, ending up just .1687 of a second behind. Every other driver was at least four-tenths of a second slower than Rasmussen.
Experience Matters on Ovals
While teams and drivers often don’t show their entire hand during testing, one trend was easily detectable after looking at the final time sheet – experience matters.
The top eight drivers at the Iowa test all are veterans of INDY NXT by Firestone. The fastest rookie was Louis Foster of Andretti Autosport, ninth at 153.227 mph in the No. 26 Copart/USF Pro Championship car. That’s more than 4 mph slower than leader Rasmussen.
Fellow rookie Siegel, who won the second race of the doubleheader last weekend at Detroit, was 10th at 152.216 in the No. 39 HMD Motorsports with DCR car.
Rookies occupied eight of the last nine spots on the time sheet, illustrating the challenge of finding speed on ovals in a new machine for the first-year drivers.
While time gaps showed Rasmussen and Abel were the class of the test, the margins from third place Frost to eighth place Ernie Francis Jr. were slim.
Just .1369 of a second separated Frost and Francis’ No. 99 DCR with Force Indy machine at the end of the test. That’s a margin of 1.006 mph.