Christian Rasmussen earned his second victory of the INDY NXT by Firestone season and took a big stride toward the ultimate prize Saturday at Iowa Speedway.
Danish driver Rasmussen guided his No. 6 HMD Motorsports with DCR car to victory by just .1227 of a second over fast-closing pole sitter Jacob Abel in the No. 51 Abel Motorsports machine. It was the closest INDY NXT by Firestone finish ever on the .894-mile oval.
SEE: Race Results
Rasmussen earned his fourth career win in INDYCAR’s development series after starting second. Perhaps just as important, he took the championship lead by 22 points over Nolan Siegel after entering this event trailing the rookie by 16, a swing of 38 points.
“We had good pace today,” Rasmussen said. “HMD has given me a great car. We’ve been fastest from the test (in June). Didn’t get the pole position but dominated the race.”
Rasmus Lindh earned his first podium finish by placing a career-best third in the No. 76 Juncos Hollinger Racing machine. Matthew Brabham, called in this week as a replacement driver for this event, finished fourth in the No. 75 Juncos Hollinger car.
Hunter McElrea rounded out the top five in the No. 27 Smart Motors car fielded by Andretti Autosport, the last driver on the lead lap.
Rasmussen wasted little time powering to the lead after the green flag. He drove under pole sitter Abel in Turn 4 on Lap 2 and never trailed thereafter, leading 74 of the 75 laps.
The Dane inexorably extended his lead lap after lap, pulling a gap of 8.5 seconds over Siegel by Lap 33. While Rasmussen was in cruise control out front, Siegel, McElrea and Abel engaged in a spirited joust for second through fourth place.
That close racing produced the only caution period of the race, on Lap 60, evaporating Rasmussen’s lead, which had narrowed to about five seconds. The right front wheel of McElrea’s car and the left rear of Siegel’s No. 39 HMD Motorsports with DCR car touched as they raced side by side for second in Turn 2, forcing Siegel into a spin with no contact.
The incident damaged the left rear suspension of Siegel’s car, and he retired with his second consecutive 15th-place finish of the season.
Rasmussen got a big jump on the restart on Lap 65 and started to pull away. Meanwhile, Abel passed McElrea for second and set sail for Rasmussen. Abel gained huge swaths of asphalt on the final lap but fell just short of earning his first career victory.
“I think I used up a little too much tire there at the start,” Rasmussen said. “We were super, super quick at the start, and then the caution came, and then everybody caught back up.”
The next race is the INDY NXT by Firestone Music City Grand Prix on Sunday, Aug. 6 on the streets of Nashville, Tennessee.