By Steve Wittich
A second chaotic INDY NXT by Firestone practice ended when the fourth driver in two practices found the concrete barrier.
After missing out on the quickest lap in yesterday’s practice by a slim three-hundredths of a second, the 18-year-old set the fastest lap in the last practice before qualifying.
With eight drivers – Reece Gold (Juncos Hollinger Racing), Christian Rasmussen (HMD Motorsports w/Dale Coyne Racing), Josh Pierson (HMD Motorsports), the fastest driver in the first practice Jacob Abel (Abel Motorsports), Louis Foster (Andretti Autosport), Matteo Nannini (Juncos Hollinger Racing), and Danial Frost (HMD Motorsports w/Dale Coyne Racing) – within two-tenths of a second of Siegel.
With qualifying in less than five hours, keeping your car in one piece was essential.
When the session started a few minutes late at 9:07 pm due to track clean-up from an entertaining Mazda MX-5 Cup, the ambient temperature was 77F. The drivers were still afforded the full 45 minutes.
With the sun shimmering off Tampa Bay, the track was quickly busy, with 18 drivers quickly turning laps on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn St. Petersburg street circuit.
The No. 27 of Hunter McElrea was on pit road, with the Andretti Autosport checking over a few things on the sophomore’s car before he got out on track with 35 minutes remaining.
After 15 minutes, HMD Motorsports w/Dale Coyne Racing veteran Danial Frost with a 65.6546-second lap. The top ten included Frost, yesterday’s fastest driver Jacob Abel (Abel Motorsports), Kyffin Simpson (HMD Motorsports), Enaam Ahmed (Cape Motorsports), Christian Rasmussen (HMD Motorsports w/Dale Coyne Racing), Nolan Siegel (HMD Motorsports w/Dale Coyne Racing), Rasmus Lindh (HMD Motorsports w/Dale Coyne Racing), Josh Pierson (HMD Motorsports w/Dale Coyne Racing), Colin Kaminsky (Abel Motorsports) and Reece Gold (Juncos Hollinger Racing).
The top 14 were within one second of Frost’s quick lap, below last year’s best practice time.
The first red flag of the session came with 23 minutes remaining when the No. 21 HMD Motorsports machine piloted by Simpson was in the tire barriers at the exit of Turn 4 after being unable to get stopped on the new bumps in the heavy braking zone. As a result, the right front suspension of the red, white and blue car was caved in, giving the crew plenty of work to prepare the car for qualifying.
Simpson was checked and released by INDYCAR Medical.
Just before the red, Matteo Nannini turned a lap of 65.2562 seconds to jump to the top of the timing screens. Reigning USF Pro 2000 champion Louis Foster was a tenth of a second behind Nannini, with the top 14 drivers within one second of the best time.
Green flag conditions returned with 17 minutes remaining in the session, with the entire field, minus Simpson, quickly returning to work.
Like most other sessions on the tricky street circuit, the run-offs in Turn 4, 8 & 10 all had multiple visits.
Drivers behind the top three continued to get faster, but with 10 minutes remaining, Nannini still held the top spot.
The next driver to jump to the top of the timing screens was Frost, who lowered the best time to 65.1441 seconds, only two-tenths of a second off the track record.
With six minutes remaining, the INDY NXT by Firestone track record of 64.9562 seconds set in 2019 by Kyle Kirkwood fell when Siegel turned a lap of 64.8896 seconds.
The second red flag of the session came with five minutes remaining with Josh Green and the No. 3 stopped against the wall on the driver’s left at the exit of Turn 9.
Green climbed out of his car with a pancaked left side under his own power.
There was not enough time to resume the session.
When qualifying rolls around at 1:35 pm, the procedure will differ from what we’re used to.
Instead of a half-hour session, the clock will be set to 15 minutes, and the checkered flag ending the session will come out after 15 minutes total time, or eight minutes of green. That change will put more pressure on the drivers, closely aligning with what they face in NTT INDYCAR SERIES qualifying.
INDY NXT by Firestone Practice #2 results
|RANK||CAR NO.||DRIVER||TEAM||BEST LAP||DIFF.||LAPS|
|1||39||Nolan Siegel||HMD Motorsports||1:04.8896||——||28|
|2||76||Reece Gold||Juncos Hollinger Racing||1:04.9714||0.0818||22|
|3||6||Christian Rasmussen||HMD Motorsports||1:04.9777||0.0881||26|
|4||14||Josh Pierson||HMD Motorsports||1:04.9870||0.0974||26|
|5||51||Jacob Abel||Abel Motorsports||1:05.0220||0.1324||22|
|6||26||Louis Foster||Andretti Autosport||1:05.0378||0.1482||24|
|7||75||Matteo Nannini||Juncos Hollinger Racing||1:05.0727||0.1831||19|
|8||68||Danial Frost||HMD Motorsports||1:05.0990||0.2094||24|
|9||10||Rasmus Lindh||HMD Motorsports||1:05.2701||0.3805||22|
|10||27||Hunter McElrea||Andretti Autosport||1:05.2948||0.4052||18|
|11||47||Enaam Ahmed||Cape Motorsports||1:05.4597||0.5701||21|
|12||99||Ernie Francis Jr.||HMD Motorsports||1:05.5330||0.6434||25|
|13||3||Josh Green||HMD Motorsports||1:05.6770||0.7874||23|
|14||28||Jamie Chadwick||Andretti Autosport||1:05.7648||0.8752||24|
|15||57||Colin Kaminsky||Abel Motorsports||1:05.7730||0.8834||23|
|16||29||James Roe||Andretti Autosport||1:05.7735||0.8839||23|
|17||21||Kyffin Simpson||HMD Motorsports||1:05.8412||0.9516||13|
|18||98||Jagger Jones||Cape Motorsports||1:06.1836||1.2940||26|
|19||7||Christian Bogle||HMD Motorsports||1:06.4012||1.5116||20|