By Steve Wittich
The third round of the 2023 INDY NXT by Firestone season will be a 35-lap (or 50-minute) race held on the 2.439-mile, 14-turn Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. It will be the series’ 21st race on the infield road course at the iconic facility.
Marco Andretti won the first Liberty Challenge on the road course. That race and the next three, between 2005 and 2007, supported the Formula One United States Grand Prix.
Current NTT INDYCAR SERIES drivers Jack Harvey, Colton Herta, Rinus VeeKay and David Malukas have won at this event.
HMD Motorsports w/Dale Coyne Racing has been the dominant team since 2021, winning all four races and poles.
Previous INDY NXT by Firestone race winners on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course
|2022 Race #2||Linus Lundqvist||HMD Motorsports|
|2022 Race #1||Danial Frost||HMD Motorsports|
|2021 Race #2||David Malukas||HMD Motorsports|
|2021 Race #1||Linus Lundqvist||Global Racing Group w/HMD|
|2019 Race #2||Rinus VeeKay||Juncos Racing|
|2019 Race #1||Robert Megennis||Andretti Autosport|
|2018 Race #2||Colton Herta||Andretti Steinbrenner Racing|
|2018 Race #1||Colton Herta||Andretti Steinbrenner Racing|
|2017 Race #2||Kyle Kaiser||Juncos Racing|
|2017 Race #1||Nico Jamin||Andretti Autosport|
|2016 Race #2||Dean Stoneman||Andretti Autosport|
|2016 Race #1||Ed Jones||Carlin|
|2015 Race #2||Sean Rayhall||8Star Motorsports|
|2015 Race #1||Jack Harvey||Schmidt Peterson Motorsports|
|2014 Race #2||Luiz Razia||Schmidt Peterson Motorsports|
|2014 Race #1||Matthew Brabham||Andretti Autosport|
|2007 Race #2||Bobby Wilson||Brian Stewart Racing|
|2007 Race #1||Hideki Mutoh||Panther Racing|
|2006||Alex Lloyd||AFS Racing|
|2005||Marco Andretti||Andretti Autosport|
Other Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course notes and numbers
- Andretti Autosport leads all active teams with seven wins, with HMD Motorsports (four) and Juncos Hollinger Racing (two) also winning.
- Six of the last 11 INDY NXT races have seen a lead change, proving that passing is possible even though the pole sitter has won 13 of the 20 races.
- The average starting position of the 20 winners is 1.6, and the lowest a winner started was Dean Stoneman from inside the third row in 2016.
- Linus Lundqvist won three of the last four poles and is one of 15 different drivers to win a pole on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. That includes current drivers David Malukas, Rinus VeeKay, Pato O’Ward, Jack Harvey, and Graham Rahal.
- The average finishing position of the 20 pole winners is 2.2, with O’Ward’s seventh-place finish in 2018 being the worst.
- A dozen different Andretti Autosport drivers have stood on the podium 16 times, giving them the team lead over the other active teams, Juncos Hollinger Racing (eight) and HMD Motorsports (five).
- INDY NXT races on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course average 0.5 cautions and 1.2 laps under yellow. Eleven of the races have been caution free.
- Last year’s rain-interrupted race #2 had three yellow flag periods, with seven laps run under caution.
- This year’s race will have the second most entries on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, trailing only the 25 drivers that started the 2007 doubleheader.
- All 20 races have finished under the green flag. In 2007 Bobby Wilson beat Alex Lloyd to the twin checkers by 10.526 seconds, the most significant margin of victory. Two years ago, David Malukas crossed the start-finish line 0.0283 seconds ahead of Toby Sowery, the closest INDY NXT by Firestone finish on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
The INDY NXT by Firestone field took part in an open test on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course on April 6th. A pair of Andretti Autosport – Hunter McElrea and Louis Foster – drivers led the way.
McElrea’s best lap was timed at 74.0499 seconds, and he was one of 11 unofficially under the track record.
Unofficial testing times from the April 6th open test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway
|RANK||CAR NO.||NAME||TEAM||FAST LAP||DIFF.|
|1||27||Hunter McElrea||Andretti Autosport||1:14.0499||——|
|2||26||Louis Foster||Andretti Autosport||1:14.2921||-0.2422|
|3||6||Christian Rasmussen||HMD Motorsports||1:14.3765||-0.3266|
|4||39||Nolan Siegel||HMD Motorsports||1:14.4578||-0.4079|
|5||75||Matteo Nannini||Juncos Hollinger Racing||1:14.4722||-0.4223|
|6||3||Josh Green||HMD Motorsports||1:14.5813||-0.5314|
|7||21||Kyffin Simpson||HMD Motorsports||1:14.5875||-0.5376|
|8||68||Danial Frost||HMD Motorsports||1:14.6120||-0.5621|
|9||10||Rasmus Lindh||HMD Motorsports||1:14.6323||-0.5824|
|10||47||Enaam Ahmed||Cape Motorsports||1:14.6422||-0.5923|
|11||98||Jagger Jones||Cape Motorsports||1:14.6562||-0.6063|
|12||51||Jacob Abel||Abel Motorsports||1:14.7425||-0.6926|
|13||28||Jamie Chadwick||Andretti Autosport||1:14.8047||-0.7548|
|14||14||Josh Pierson||HMD Motorsports||1:14.8335||-0.7836|
|15||76||Reece Gold||Juncos Hollinger Racing||1:14.8367||-0.7868|
|16||29||James Roe||Andretti Autosport||1:14.8646||-0.8147|
|17||99||Ernie Francis Jr.||HMD Motorsports||1:14.9295||-0.8796|
|18||57||Colin Kaminsky||Abel Motorsports||1:14.9938||-0.9439|
|19||40||Jack William Miller||Abel Motorsports||1:15.1142||-1.0643|
|20||7||Christian Bogle||HMD Motorsports||1:15.3712||-1.3213|
Most of the field also tested at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on Monday. Once again, McElrea led the way with a lap at 70.9504 seconds, unofficially over half a second under the track record of 71.580 seconds set by Jack Harvey in 2015. This time, the top nine drivers were under the track record. The drivers from second through ninth – Kyffin Simpson (HMD Motorsports w/Chip Ganassi Racing), Reece Gold (HMD Motorsports w/Dale Coyne Racing), Foster, Jacob Abel (Abel Motorsports), Danial Frost (HMD Motorsports w/Dale Coyne Racing), Christian Rasmussen (HMD Motorsports w/Dale Coyne Racing) and Matteo Nannini (Juncos Hollinger Racing) separated by only two-tenths of a second.
TBAs and Question Marks
When the INDY NXT by Firestone entry list came out on Tuesday, it featured a pair of too-be-announced (TBAs) and one question mark. However, as of Thursday at 3 pm, both TBAs had drivers, and the question mark had an answer.
The No. 76 Juncos Hollinger Racing ride was left without a pilot when Reece Gold moved into the empty No. 10 at HMD Motorsports w/Dale Coyne Racing seat, which Rasmus Lindh vacated before Barber Motorsports Park.
It turns out that the two drivers essentially swapped seats when the Speedway, Ind.-based Juncos Hollinger Racing announced on Wednesday that 21-year-old Lindh would join the team for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course race.
The Swede is no stranger to the Ricardo Juncos-led team, winning three races and standing on 13 of 16 possible podiums on the way to a USF Pro 2000 (then Indy Pro 2000) vice-championship in 2019. He also made half-a-dozen INDY NXT starts for the team in 2021.
The driver for the No. 3 from the HMD Motorsports w/Dale Coyne Racing stable was also listed on the initial entry list as TBA, but earlier on Thursday, the team announced that Josh Green would remain in that seat. The 20-year-old is sixth on the points table.
HMD Motorsports w/ Force Indy sophomore Ernie Francis, Jr. was a question mark for this weekend.
The No. 99 was side-by-side with Jamie Chadwick’s No. 28 (Andretti Autosport) when the 25-year-old was squeezed by Christian Bogle’s No. 7 as he re-entered the track after running wide in Turn 1. The three cars made contact with Francis, Jr., catching air and Chadwick sustaining suspension damage and spinning.
The contact fractured the scaphoid in his left wrist. Despite the pain, the seven-time Trans-Am Series driver completed all 35 laps finishing the race in eighth. The Floridan had successful surgery last week, and noted orthopedic surgeon Dr. Terry Trammell fitted him with a brace and steering wheel grips. However, he was not cleared for wheel-to-wheel competition, and the car was eventually withdrawn.
Francis, Jr. is 34 points behind championship leader Christian Rasmussen, tied for fourth.
Each INDY NXT by Firestone entry will receive three sets of Firestone Firehawk slicks for practice, qualifying and the 35-lap race. With rain in the forecast, the teams might have to use one of the two sets of rain tires that they receive. The tires are the exact construction and compound used at all road and street course races this season (possibly except Road America).
TSO note: On the subject of Road America, Linus Lundqvist conducted a tire test at the 4.014-mile, 14-turn natural terrain road course earlier this week. Our spies told us that between the new tarmac and Firestone Tires, laps times were more than 2.5 seconds quicker than the track record.
With less than 15% of the possible points doled out and 15 drivers within one race win worth of points, it’s a little early to start making championship predictions.
Veteran Christian Rasmussen, a race winner last time out at Barber Motorsports Park, holds a slight advantage over his rookie teammate Nolan Siegel, the only driver with two podiums to start the season.
Only six of the 20 drivers have completed all 75 laps so far. Those drivers hold down the top three spots in the championship, and the lowest driver on the championship table is eighth.
2023 INDY NXT by Firestone championship standings after two of 14 races
|1||Christian Rasmussen||HMD Motorsports w/Dale Coyne Racing||86|
|2||Nolan Siegel – r||HMD Motorsports w/Dale Coyne Racing||81|
|3||Danial Frost||HMD Motorsports w/Dale Coyne Racing||71|
|4||Jacob Abel||Abel Motorsports||52|
|5||Ernie Francis, Jr.||HMD Motorsports w/Dale Coyne Racing||52|
|6||Josh Green – r||HMD Motorsports w/Dale Coyne Racing||48|
|7||Hunter McElrea||Andretti Autosport||47|
|8||Colin Kaminsky – r||Abel Motorsports||47|
|9||Christian Bogle||HMD Motorsports w/Dale Coyne Racing||44|
|10||James Roe, Jr.||Andretti Autosport||43|
|11||Enaam Ahmed – r||Cape Motorsports||43|
|12||Reece Gold – r||Juncos Hollinger Racing||37|
|13||Jamie Chadwick – r||Andretti Autosport||36|
|14||Toby Sowery||HMD Motorsports||35|
|15||Louis Foster – r||Andretti Autosport||34|
|16||Kyffin Simpson||HMD Motorsports||32|
|17||Matteo Nannini – r||Juncos Hollinger Racing||30|
|18||Jagger Jones – r||Cape Motorsports||30|
|19||Rasmus Lindh||HMD Motorsports w/Dale Coyne Racing||22|
|20||Josh Pierson – r||HMD Motorsports||14|
INDY NXT by Firestone weekend schedule
- 11 am – 11:50 am – INDY NXT Practice
- 12:45 pm – 1:15 pm – INDY NXT Autograph Session
- 2:20 pm – 2:40 pm – INDY NXT Qualifying
- 1:10 pm – INDY NXT Race #1 (35 laps or 55 minutes)