Christian Rasmussen has one goal this weekend – to clinch the INDY NXT by Firestone championship – and he looks to be on the fast track to achieving that aim after leading practice Friday for the Grand Prix of Monterey at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
Rasmussen, from Denmark, paced the 50-minute session with a top lap of 1 minute, 12.3656 seconds in the No. 6 HMD Motorsports with DCR car. That lap was nearly two seconds quicker than the official series track record of 1:14.2329 set by Max Chilton in 2015, as speeds have climbed this year at the 11-turn, 2.238-mile circuit due to repaving after last season.
SEE: Practice Results
“It’s fast,” Rasmussen said. “Turn 9 is, wow, it’s amazing. I think it’s (racetrack) really, really cool to drive. It has a good flow to it. It seems like it just gets faster and faster.”
Rasmussen leads second place Hunter McElrea of Andretti Autosport by 65 points entering this season-ending doubleheader. Rasmussen will clinch the title if he leads by 54 points or more after Saturday’s race (3:25 p.m. ET, Peacock, INDYCAR Radio Network) or leads by any margin after Sunday’s race (12:50 p.m. ET, Peacock, INDYCAR Radio Network).
“I feel good,” Rasmussen said. “I feel we made some good steps on the car. P1 – can’t complain about that. I think if we just continue that through the weekend, we’ll be in good shape.”
Being in good shape almost wasn’t the case for Rasmussen, who leads the series with four wins this season and won one of the doubleheader races last season at this track. With less than five minutes remaining, Danial Frost spun in the No. 68 HMD Motorsports with DCR car in the famous “Corkscrew” corner, which features a 59-foot drop in just 450 feet of track. Rasmussen just missed Frost’s stranded car as he dropped into the famous turn complex.
“Very close call,” Rasmussen said. “Thank God for quick thinking there. I got by him unharmed, but man, that was close.”
McElrea ended up second in practice at 1:12.3954 in the No. 27 Smart Motors car. Kyffin Simpson was third at 1:12.7230 in the No. 21 HMD Motorsports with CGR machine.
Reece Gold was the quickest rookie, fourth at 1:12.9178 in the No. 10 HMD Motorsports with DCR machine. Victor Franzoni rounded out the top five at 1:12.9346 in the No. 75 Juncos Hollinger Racing car.
The next session for INDYCAR’s development series is qualifying at 12:05 p.m. ET Saturday. The starting grid for both races will be set in that session.