Christian Rasmussen

Christian Rasmussen was the fastest driver during the first practice Friday for the INDY NXT by Firestone at Iowa Speedway, as he looks to close the gap on championship leader Nolan Siegel in the first oval race of the season.

Rasmussen, from Denmark, led with a top lap of 161.352 mph in the No. 6 HMD Motorsports with DCR car on the .894-mile oval. Rasmussen, who finished second in this race last year, was fastest at 157.518 in June during the Open Test at Iowa.

SEE: Practice Results

“HMD has given me a great car,” Rasmussen said. “We were super strong here at the test, and it seems like we’re still strong. I’m looking forward to a good weekend. Firestone has done a great job with the tire. We’re all very happy with it.

“Going into qualifying, this is a big confidence booster. We seem good on both the quali sim and the long runs. I think we’re in a good spot.”

Up next is qualifying at 6:30 p.m. ET Friday, live on INDYCAR Live and the INDYCAR Radio Network. Live coverage of the 75-lap race starts at 11 a.m. ET Saturday on Peacock and the INDYCAR Radio Network.

Jacob Abel continued his strong season by ending up second in practice with a best lap of 161.213 in the No. 51 Abel Motorsports entry. Last year’s Iowa race and pole winner, Hunter McElrea, was third at 160.641 in the No. 27 Smart Motors car fielded by Andretti Autosport.

Ernie Francis Jr. was fourth at 160.356 in the No. 99 HMD Motorsports with Force Indy car, while Louis Foster was the top rookie and fifth overall at 160.138 in the No. 26 Copart/USF Pro Championship car fielded by Andretti Autosport.

Siegel, who leads second-place Rasmussen by 16 points, was seventh at 159.710 in the No. 39 HMD Motorsports with DCR car.