Cape Motorsports test driver Enaam Ahmed leads INDY NXT by Firestone test, along with other series notes

The No. 47 Cape Motorsports machine of test driver Enaam Ahmed stands out against the unique pastel teal walls at the Homestead-Miami Speedway (Photo Courtesy of Ahmed’s Instagram)

We hate to read too much into the first unofficial INDY NXT by Firestone test of the 2023 season. Still, we can’t help but be excited by the jumble of teams in the top five and how close all 18 drivers that took to the 2.21-Mile, 14-Turn Homestead-Miami Speedway were.

Four teams placed drivers in the top five, and 15 of the 18 drivers were within eight-tenths of a second of each other.

Cape Motorsports’ Enaam Ahmed led the way. The Pakistani driver is only in a test role at the moment, but we can’t help but think leading the test will help. Ahmed was joined by Juncos Hollinger Racing rookies Reece Gold (2nd) and Matteo Nannini (4th), along with HMD Motorsports and veteran Christian Rasmussen (3rd) and

“I’m the test driver for Cape Motorsports right now,” said Ahmed after jumping out of the No. 47. “We just finished the day in the preseason testing in P1 after our last new tire run. It’s the first time for this team on the Firestone tires as a rookie team. We worked really, really hard today, and we improved a lot, considering how far off we started. I’m really happy with how the day went with the Cape brothers. That’s it, test driver role over.”

When the lunch break came, it was a sextet of HMD Motorsports affiliated drivers that topped the timesheets, with Kyffin Simpson (77.169) leading Danial Frost, Christian Rasmussen, Nolan Siegel, Christian Bogle and Josh Green.

The only one to repeat in that group was Rasmussen, who was third quickest in the morning and the afternoon. The only driver that went faster in the morning was veteran Frost.

Matthew Brabham stands for Abel Motorsports regular Jacob Abel (see note below). The addition of the experienced race-winning Aussie for the test is wise, as he tested the new Firestone INDY NXT race tire at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for the series and manufacturer.

Also missing from the test is the reigning USF Pro 2000 champion Louis Foster, who will return for the next test.

The 18 drivers completed approximately 776 laps, with rookie Siegel the busiest with 62 laps or 137.02 miles.

Very unofficial testing results from Homestead-Miami Speedway

1Enaam AhmedCape Motorsports76.725 Afternoon39
2Reece GoldJuncos Hollinger Racing76.880-0.155Afternoon60
3Christian RasmussenHMD Motorsports w/Dale Coyne Racing76.979-0.254Afternoon37
4Matteo NanniniJuncos Hollinger Racing76.994-0.269Afternoon52
5Hunter McElreaAndretti Autosport77.060-0.335Afternoon42
6Nolan SiegelHMD Motorsports w/Dale Coyne Racing77.102-0.377Afternoon62
7Rasmus LindhHMD Motorsports77.113-0.388Afternoon44
8Kyffin SimpsonHMD Motorsports77.144-0.419Afternoon32
9Josh GreenHMD Motorsports w/Dale Coyne Racing77.211-0.486Afternoon46
10Matthew BrabhamAbel Motorsports77.332-0.607Afternoon37
11Danial FrostHMD Motorsports w/Dale Coyne Racing77.345-0.62Morning35
12Ernie Francis, Jr.Force Indy w/HMD Motorsports77.354-0.629Afternoon35
13Christian BogleHMD Motorsports w/Dale Coyne Racing77.365-0.64Afternoon34
14Jamie ChadwickAndretti Autosport77.366-0.641Afternoon50
15James Roe, Jr.Andretti Autosport77.469-0.744Afternoon32
16Colin KaminskyAbel Motorsports77.879-1.154Afternoon56
17Jagger JonesCape Motorsports77.930-1.205Afternoon42
18Josh PiersonHMD Motorsports77.939-1.214Afternoon41

The same teams and drivers will return to Homestead-Miami Speedway for one more private team test – on Monday, February 27 – before the season kicks off in St. Petersburg, Fla., on March 5.

Other INDY NXT by Firestone open tests will take place at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on the road course (April 5), Iowa Speedway (June 8) and World Wide Technology Raceway At Gateway (June 21).

New boots

Each team got two sets of Firestone INDY NXT race tires to utilize during the day-long test. The Monday test was the first time teams got their hands on the tires built alongside the NTT INDYCAR SERIES Firestone Firehawk race tires at the Advanced Tire Production Center in Akron, Ohio.

We’re here at Homestead Speedway; we haven’t been back here for a while,” said Cara Krstolic, Director of Race Tire Engineering and Production Bridgestone Americas Motorsports. “We’re out here with the INDY NXT by Firestone cars, and we’re running our tires for the first time with the full field. We’ve run them in testing many times before, and we’ve run them at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, but this is the first time they’ll see Homestead-Miami Speedway, which is pretty traditionally a high deg(radation) track.

“So, we’ll look at what we see as high as lap time drop-offs. So far, all the feedback we’ve gotten is pretty consistent. We’ve got a good overall view of the tires; a little bit of rear sliding, but everything looks great right now.”

We’re still talking to drivers, but early reviews were good.

“So far, it’s been an awesome day,” exclaimed HMD Motorsports w/Dale Coyne Racing rookie Josh Green during a morning break. “These tires are way better in the first three or four laps of the run. (compared to the previous tires). They get up to speed really, really quick, and they don’t drop off as hard as we expected. So we’re just continuing to learn and continue to build on what we have, and I’m excited to go to new tires (after lunch). Homestead has super high degradation on the tire, so after one or two runs, the tire starts to fall off a second or second and a half a lap, which I think it’s pretty exciting.”

Abel gains valuable seat time

INDY NXT by Firestone sophomore to be Jacob Abel missed today’s test for a good reason. The 21-year-old is spending five weeks in New Zealand to participate in the 2023 Castrol Toyota Formula Regional Oceania Championship.

The Louisville, Ky. native scored two podiums and was mistake-free in the first two of five events while driving for Kiwi Motorsport.

Abel’s results in the first two rounds are as follows:

Highlands Motorsport Park – Cromwell, Otega (South Island)

  • Race #1 – started 7th and finished 5th – 6th quickest lap of the race
  • Race #2 – started 3rd and finished 2nd – 5th quickest lap of the race
  • Race #3 – started 5th and finished 6th – 7th quickest lap of the race

Teretonga Park – Invercargill, Southland (South Island)

  • Race #1 – started 3rd and finished 3rd – 3rd quickest lap of the race
  • Race #2 – started 6th and finished 6th – 2nd quickest lap of the race
  • Race #3 – started 5th and finished 5th – 7th quickest lap of the race
Jacob Abel (No. 51) leads a pack of cars at Teretonga Park (Photo Courtesy of Castrol Toyota Formula Regional Oceania Championship)

Abel’s capable consistency leaves him in third place as the field heads north for the final three events of the five-event calendar. The Butler University student trails third-generation driver Charlie Wurz, son of former F1 driver Alexander Wurz, by 43 points. Kiwi Callum Hedge, a regular in the Porsche Carrera Cup Australia, is in second, 19 points ahead of Abel.

The action heads to Fielding and the Manawatū District of North Island, where the drivers will take on the Circuit Chris Amon.

New digs for HMD Motorsports

HMD Motorsports new shop in Brownsburg, Ind. (Photo Courtesy of HMD Motorsports)

With nine INDY NXT by Firestone cars operating out of their current 6,000-square-foot shop, staff at HMD Motorsports are working in cramped quarters, but that’s about to change.

The Brownsburg, Ind.-based team recently got approval from that city, located west of Indianapolis, to renovate their new shop at 843 E. Main St. Work has already begun on the 65,000-square-foot former Marsh grocery store, with the team planning to move in this summer.

“We love the Town of Brownsburg as there are a ton of motorsports-related businesses and vendors in the area,” said General Manager Mike Maurini. “While the buildout is in progress, we are excited to move into our new headquarters and look forward to what the future holds for HMD Motorsports.”

Straight down I95

Six drivers made the journey south from Daytona International Speedway on Interstate 95, where they took part in The Roar Before the Rolex 24.

A trio of drivers is in the Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) class.

  • Kyffin Simpson is in the No. 8 Tower Motorsports car with Team Penske NTT INDYCAR SERIES drivers Scott McLaughlin and Josef Newgarden.
  • Christian Rasmussen is part of a stacked line-up, including Ryan Dalziel and Oliver Jarvis in the No. 18 Era Motorsport machine.
  • Josh Pierson is part of the driver line-up, along with former Formula 1 driver Giedo van der Garde, in the TDS Racing No. 35

A pair of HMD Motorsports w/Dale Coyne Racing drivers will represent INDY NXT by Firestone in the Le Mans Prototype 3 (LMP3) class.

  • Rasmus Lindh is one of a quartet of drivers in the No. 36 Andretti Autosport entry.
  • Danial Frost will be behind the wheel of the No. 43 MRS GT-Racing entry.

A single driver is part of the Michelin Pilot Challenge Field.

  • HMD Motorsports rookie Nolan Siegel will be behind the wheel of the No. 39 CarBahn with Peregrine Racing Porsche 718 GT4 RS CS.

Good news soon?? (aka burying a lede)

Reigning 2022 INDY NXT by Firestone champion Linus Lundqvist was at Homestead-Miami Speedway working with the HMD Motorsports drivers, making him gainfully employed in racing.

No, he’s not going to get an entire season of NTT INDYCAR SERIES action, but a number of our sources have told us that an Indianapolis 500 seat is getting closer.