Rasmus Lindh delivered a season-defining drive in INDY NXT by Firestone on July 22 at Iowa Speedway.
Despite starting 10th, the 22-year-old Swede jumped to seventh on the opening lap and broke into the top five by Lap 42 of 75 on the .894-mile oval. When the caution flag flew on Lap 60, the field bunched and allowed Lindh to put pressure on those ahead, which he did on the restart four laps later. While battling with Jacob Abel for the final spot on the podium, the pair caught and surged by Hunter McElrea to move up one spot with six laps to go, advancing the No. 76 Juncos Hollinger Racing (JHR) entry of Lindh into third, where he remained through the checkered flag to collect a career-best finish.
It was the kind of breakout performance needed for Lindh, as perhaps no driver has endured so much uncertainty and change behind the scenes. His 2023 campaign began with HMD Motorsports on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida, but budget woes left him missing the following race at Barber Motorsports Park. He then switched to JHR for the third round on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in early May.
“Yeah, we started off St. Pete, and we were pretty strong in all the preseason preparations with the other team and everything,” Lindh said. “Then, just what we've gone through with backers backing out and things like that, it's not easy. Then also jumping into a new team in the middle of the season is difficult, with testing and things. It's just digging through it, and it's just big relief now.”
To say this result has been a long time coming would be an understatement.
Lindh has been nothing short of exemplary throughout the developmental ranks of open-wheel racing. He finished as runner-up for the 2018 USF2000 title while driving for Pabst Racing, a championship won by current NTT INDYCAR SERIES race winner Kyle Kirkwood.
Kirkwood and Lindh climbed to USF Pro 2000 the following year, sparring for supremacy in one of the closest championship battles in series history. Lindh, driving for JHR (known as Juncos Racing at the time), drove to three wins, a series-high 13 podium finishes and five poles across 16 races. In the end, though, he finished just two points behind Kirkwood, who claimed nine wins to overrule Lindh’s consistency to win the title.
The pandemic in 2020 impacted sponsorship, which had a hangover effect over the next couple of seasons. That left Lindh patching together random opportunities, including a partial campaign of six races in INDY NXT by Firestone in 2021 with JHR, showing glimpses of pace that included a fifth-place finish in just his third career start (Race 1, WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca). He also contested the entire 2021 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, driving in the LMP3 category for Performance Tech Motorsports. Last year, Lindh scored two podium finishes (12 Hours of Sebring, Six Hours of The Glen) in a partial campaign in IMSA.
Although Lindh continues to take on the occasional race in IMSA, his heart remains in open-wheel racing. And momentum is building as his podium in Iowa came after a seventh-place result July 2 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
“We've been close,” Lindh said. “In Mid-Ohio, we had pace, and it's just been difficult to put it together for us. I think we're there. It's a good boost for the team and also for myself to be able to be on the podium. I've done it before in the Road to Indy. It feels good.”
At Iowa, Lindh was also able to lean on veteran Matthew Brabham, who got the late call to fill in for the weekend after the team parted ways with Matteo Nannini. Brabham, who finished second at the Iowa bullring in 2022 while driving for Andretti Autosport, ended up finishing directly behind Lindh in fourth and provided a boost in JHR’s full-time return to INDY NXT by Firestone.
“He has a lot of experience, and it was my first really oval race with this car,” Lindh said. “On a fast oval like this, a short oval, you know, he almost won the race last year. So, it's just the small tips like using your (track) bars when you need to use them, how the high line can work, and it's just small things. And we work well together, me and Matt. It's been good.”
With no budget concerns for the rest of 2023 and sitting 12th in the championship standings with four top 10s despite missing a race, the focus for Lindh is simple for the final six races.
“We want to collect as much points as we can, but I think podiums and wins is the goal for us,” Lindh said. “So, we go all out.”