Race Weekend Central

Christian Rasmussen Slips Through Chaos to Lead Rookies at Indianapolis

SPEEDWAY, Ind. – Christian Rasmussen drove a calculated and careful race to nab a career-best finish of 12th in his first Indianapolis 500, putting himself in contention for Rookie of the Year honors in the process.

Driving the No. 33 Chevrolet rather than his usual No. 20 entry, Rasmussen rolled off 24th, on the outside of row eight, for the May 26 event. The Dane was the lowest of the ECR cars in qualifying behind Rinus VeeKay, who advanced to Pole Day inside the top 12, and team owner Ed Carpenter, who qualified 17th for his lone appearance on the NTT IndyCar Series calendar for 2024.

Rasmussen’s effort eclipsed his previous best finish of 19th from the season-opening race at St. Petersburg. And with further finishes of 27th, 24th and 20th stretching from Long Beach to the Indianapolis road course, Rasmussen was more than pleased to lead the 2024 rookie class to the checkered flag in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

“I feel great,” Rasmussen told Fronstretch. “It’s been a rough start to my IndyCar career, so to finally get a result where I feel like we really deserved it, we fought for it, was awesome. And then doing it at this amazing place in front of all these amazing fans… so cool!”

Conditions couldn’t have been much more unorthodox for Rasmussen’s first attempt at the 500. A four-hour delay for heavy rain meant the race went green at 4:45 p.m. ET rather than the planned 12:45 p.m start. The resulting combination of a freshly-rinsed track, cooler temperatures and, likely, a fair amount of frustration and impatience among the drivers produced some of the most intense and frantic racing in recent memory at the Brickyard.

As a rookie on a good run, Rasmussen was confronted with the choice between pushing for more or knowing when to settle into a good position. He chose the latter.

“At the end I was like ‘Ugh! I want to move forward’ but I also don’t want to ruin a good day,” he recalled. “I was sitting in 12th, and I was very, very happy with that. I just tried to bring back the car, finish the day strong, and I think we did.”

See also
Josef Newgarden Wins Indianapolis 500 for the Ages With Last-Lap Pass

When asked about dodging the day’s chaos, Rasmussen joyfully recalled that his race was comparatively calm.

“It was a lot of chaos, most of it was behind me,” he said. “I think it was Colton [Herta] that hit the wall in front of me, that was the only incident that was in front of me. I just try and be smart, make high-percentage moves. Whenever you’ve got the opportunity, you’ve got to to go for it, but also be safe and get it to the finish, which I think we did a pretty good job of today.”

One piece of drama did find Rasmussen late in the race, albeit beside him rather than in front of him. On lap 148, the No. 33 driver was defending position from Will Power heading into turn 1. Power, whose car betrayed its qualifying performance with poor handling, tried to hang his Team Penske Chevrolet around the outside into turn 1 with disastrous results.

While Rasmussen held his line, Power began to lose the back end of his car as the two drivers approached the apex of the corner before the No. 12 spun around and took a hard hit to the short chute wall on the left-hand side. Power’s day was over, going from a second-place start to a 24th-place finish.

See also
Kyle Larson Gets 18th in 1st, but Maybe Not Final, Indy 500

Power was candid when discussing the accident outside the infield care center and took responsibility for the result.

“We struggled all day,” he admitted. “We just couldn’t get the front to work. From the outset, my car’s front… we just couldn’t get it to work … I shouldn’t have gone to the outside. My fault.”

After that close call, Rasmussen soldiered on and improved steadily over the race’s second half. A good finish at the hallowed grounds of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway can never do more harm than good for a driver’s confidence, and Rasmussen feels good about carrying this momentum into the rest of the season.

“Just continue that progression that we’re on,” Rasmussen said when asked about his ambitions going forward. “I think we’ve had some great pace in the car, and I feel like every weekend we’re getting better and better and better, but we just don’t really have anything to show for it – before this! I just want to continue my development, continue getting those consistent results, get better and better and get more top 12s, top 10s, top fives and hopefully wins at some point. That’s the goal.”

Follow Alex Gintz on X @AlexGintz1

About the author

0
 | Website

Alex is the IndyCar Content Director at Frontstretch, having initially joined as an entry-level contributor in 2021. He also serves as Managing Director of The Asia Cable, a publication focused on the international affairs and politics of the Asia-Pacific region which he co-founded in 2023. With previous experience in China, Japan and Poland, Alex is particularly passionate about the international realm of motorsport and the politics that make the wheels turn - literally - behind the scenes.

Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter

A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.

Share via