New Zealand’s Hunter McElrea ended the 2023 Indy NXT season with a podium in Race 2 at Laguna Seca to secure second in the championship in his sophomore campaign.
Having won the weekend’s opener, McElrea finished runner-up in the season finale, topped only by championship winner Christian Rasmussen, who only needed to make the start to secure the title.
Having qualified on the front row, 0.1195 seconds off Rasmussen’s pole-setting time, McElrea immediately slotted into second but could not match the leader’s pace over the opening stages.
A Lap 6 caution brought the field back together, only for Rasmussen to continue what he left off on the restart, cruising to a comfortable 17.8813-second victory, the biggest winning margin of the year by over 10 seconds.
McElrea came home second, 2.1 seconds ahead of 2023 New Zealand Grand Prix runner-up Louis Foster, who finished third.
The result sees Denmark’s Rasmussen finish the championship on 539 points, 65 more than McElrea. Nolan Siegel, who was seventh in the season-finale, finished third, 59 points behind, securing the Rookie of the Year title over Foster by just 5 points.
Victories at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Laguna Seca are season highlights for McElrea, who featured on the podium an additional four times in 2023. He only failed to finish outside the top ten in two races.
A place on the grid in next year’s IndyCar Series is the likely destination for Rasmussen, who pockets a guaranteed $850,000 to use towards an oval test at Texas Motor Speedway, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Open Test/Rookie Orientation Programme, the Indy 500 and an additional 2024 IndyCar event.
The Dane is the first to win each of the USF2000 Championship, USF Pro 2000 and Indy NXT on the Road to Indy pathway.
McElrea receives an estimated $125,000 for finishing second, while Siegel gets roughly $65,000.
Header Image: Penske Entertainment: Chris Owens