Friday, September 22, 2023

IndyCar’s NXT Wave of Drivers?

But how many will land Full season IndyCar rides?


By now, if you’re a Hard Core IndyCar Afficionado, then you know that Denmark’s Christian Rasmussen driving for the HMD Motorsports Armada won the 2023 Indy NXT Championship. With the Dane’ claiming five wins, eight podiums and five Pole positions enroute to this year’s title aboard the No. 6 HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing entry.


Rasmussen’s closest competitor ultimately was Andretti Autosport’s Kiwi’ Hunter McElrea who finished runner-up with two wins, six podiums and two Pole positions this season.


As both drivers were contesting their sophomore Indy NXT season’s, and entering the Laguna Seca season finale doubleheader weekend, Rasmussen held a comfortable 65-point lead over Mcelrea.


In qualifying, McElrea clamed Pole position for Race-1, with Rasmussen claiming Pole for Sunday’s Race-2; hence each driver claimed  one point apiece for Pole position.


McElrea led Flag-to-flag in Saturday’s Race-1 with Rasmussen effectively “cruising” Home second. Thus with McElrea claiming the maximum 54-points available vs. Rasmussen’s 40-points; McElrea trimmed the points deficit to 51-points. Seeing Rasmussen three shy of clinching the title Saturday.


Sunday’s second race saw the same outcome, albeit with Rasmussen leading wire-to-wire and McElrea finishing runner-up. Thus seeing Rasmussen return His final points advantage back to the 65 points He’d begun the weekend with, finally being crowned the 2023 Indy NXT Champion.


Penske Entertainment, owners of Indy NXT’s Championship, sees the revised, previously neutered prize fund now awarding the series Champion $850,000 to be used for testing an IndyCar at Texas and Mother Speedway, ergo Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Plus running the Indianapolis 500 and one further IndyCar race. While second place pays a paltry $125,000 and third place a meager $65,000.


And I say paltry since I’m 99% certain I’ve read that Anderson Promotions who run the lower Junior Formula’s, just wrote a cheque for $654,000 for 2023 USF Pro 2000 championship winner Myles Rowe to advance to Indy NXT. Where He’ll replace Ernie Francis Jr. in the No. 99 HMD Motorsports with Force Indy entry next year.


What I found interesting over the Laguna Seca weekend was how Hunter McElrea was garnering All of the Headlines for wanting to move up to IndyCar next year, although He doesn’t come from a wealthy family or have a considerable budget to bring with Him.


While where will title winner Rasmussen land? And can He manage to find the necessary budget for a full season Big boyz’ (IndyCar) ride?


As I know I shouldn’t type this but, is Ed Carpenter Racing a viable option right now? As ECR has had a fairly miserable season this year, along with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. Although RLLR seems to have righted it’s floundering “ship” at season’s end.


While I believe that Racer’s Marshall Pruett has previously speculated that current Indy NXT driver Danial Frost might possibly have a contract to drive one of the empty Dale Coyne racing seats next year?


And if Andretti Autosport, Err Global decides to drop it’s fourth IndyCar entry? Which would be the ideal landing spot for Rasmussen, then does the Honda engine lease become available for another IndyCar team


As ‘Ol Derek Daly would say; Hang onto your HollyHocks Folks! As Thars miles to go towards sorting out the 2024 Indy NXT and IndyCar season line-ups…