When Ed Carpenter spots young driving talent to add to his NTT INDYCAR SERIES program, he doesn’t have to look far.
His eyes are usually at the other end of the paddock.
Ed Carpenter Racing’s pick of 2023 INDY NXT by Firestone champion Christian Rasmussen as the road/street course driver for its No. 20 Chevrolet continues a trend of the team hiring and nurturing development series standouts in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES.
In addition to current ECR driver Rinus VeeKay, Carpenter has employed INDY NXT by Firestone champions such as JR Hildebrand, Josef Newgarden, Spencer Pigot and Ed Jones as either the team’s road course specialist or full-time driver. Another former series champion – 2019 INDY NXT by Firestone champion Oliver Askew – filled in for the team as VeeKay’s injury substitute in 2021.
“It's something that I've enjoyed over our time with Ed Carpenter Racing,” said Carpenter, also a graduate of the INDYCAR development series. “I worked with quite a few guys coming out of (INDY NXT by Firestone) and out of the ladder system. Especially in recent years, I think that program has really been graduating guys that have what it takes to compete at a high level in the INDYCAR SERIES.
“There's definitely a learning curve, but at the same time, people are coming out of it prepared and making a pretty immediate impact put in the right situation.”
Enter Rasmussen, who won seven races and recorded 13 podium finishes over his two seasons in INDY NXT by Firestone. The 23-year-old Danish driver moved to the U.S. in 2018 because he saw a path to the top level of the sport through financial benefits given to series champions to move to the next level.
“It's something we have been working toward for a long time now,” said Rasmussen, who won three championships in his six seasons in the U.S. development series. “It's super cool for me also to show that the ladder system works because that's really how I've been able to make this happen, is through the ladder system.“
Yet despite his success in the junior series, Rasmussen only started talks with NTT INDYCAR SERIES teams after clinching the championship in September.
Conversations with Carpenter led to the opportunity to test with ECR at Barber Motorsports Park shortly after the season ended, and his performance in in what he called a “one-day job interview” impressed his future employer.
“The biggest thing we saw in the test day at Barber was the natural ability and speed that he has,” Carpenter said. “There are definite things we know he needs to work on, that Christian is aware he needs to work on, but we're excited to get that journey started. Really excited for what his ceiling is going to be.”
Rasmussen knows that he’s far from a finished product and now that he has arrived in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, he knows the work doesn’t stop especially if he wants to have a long career and stay in the series long term with Ed Carpenter Racing.
“I think I've learned a lot of valuable lessons through my career,” Rasmussen said. “It's all about applying those for the following year. Putting another layer on that, learning from this year, applying all those lessons to next year is going to be important. The same thing for the future. I'm going to put another layer on from my first year in INDYCAR, I'm just going to improve and see how it all ends up.
“It's all about improving. I'm a big believer in that. There's always something that you can improve on yourself or whatever. It's just going to be about keep getting better.”