TSO’s INDY NXT by Firestone preview from Detroit

By Steve Wittich

An artists rendering of the 1.7-mile, 9 turn, downtown Detroit street circuit that will host an INDY NXT by Firestone doubleheader on June 3 & 4, 2023 (Rendering Courtesy of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix)

Detroit basics

  • Event: 4
  • Races: 4 & 5
  • Track: 1.7-mile, 9 turn, downtown Detroit street circuit – runs counterclockwise
  • Race distances:
    • Saturday: 45 laps or 55 minutes
    • Sunday: 45 laps or 55 minutes
  • Entry list:
  • Tires: three new sets of Firestone INDY NXT tires and one carry-over from the last race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course
  • Push to pass: 150 seconds of total time with a maximum time of 15 seconds per activation
  • Qualifying: one 30-minute session is into a pair of fifteen minutes portions, of which eight minutes will be green. The first half sets the field for Saturday’s race, and the second half sets the field for Sunday’s race
  • Video: the INDY NXT by Firestone Detroit Grand Prix doubleheader will be streamed on Peacock, with practice and qualifying shown on INDYCAR LIVE
  • Audio: all INDY NXT by Firestone sessions air live on network affiliates, SiriusXM 160, racecontrol.indycar.com and the INDYCAR App powered by NTT DATA

INDY NXT by Firestone weekend schedule:

Friday11:30 am – noon – INDY NXT Autograph Session

  • 11:30 am – noon – INDY NXT Autograph Session
  • 1:50 pm – 2:40 pm – INDY NXT Practice #1
  • 5:30 pm – 6 pm – INDY NXT Qualifying


  • 12:05 pm – INDY NXT Race #1 (45 laps or 55 minutes)


  • 12:50 pm – INDY NXT Race #2 (45 laps or 55 minutes)

The doubleheader will be the 18th and 19th INDY NXT by Firestone races held in the Motor City. Three previous races were held on the original downtown Detroit circuit, while 14 were contested at The Raceway On Belle Isle. 

Previous INDY NXT by Firestone winners in the Motor City include:

The Raceway On Belle Isle

2022 Race #2Linus LundqvistHMD Motorsports
2022 Race #1Linus LundqvistHMD Motorsports
2021 Race #2Kyle KirkwoodAndretti Autosport
2021 Race #1Kyle KirkwoodAndretti Autosport
2012Gustavo YacamanTeam Moore
2000Jonny KaneTeam Green
1999Derek HigginsTeam Mexico Herdez
1998Airton DareTasman Motorsports
1997Tony KanaanTasman Motorsports
1996Tony KanaanTasman Motorsports
1995Robbie BuhlDorricott Racing
1994Steve RobertsonTasman Motorsports
1993Steve RobertsonTasman Motorsports
1992Adrian FernandezJohn Martin Racing

Detroit Downtown Street Circuit – 2.52-mile street circuit

1991Eric BachelartLandford Racing
1990Tommy ByrneGenoa Racing
1989Ted PrappasTeamkar International

Downtown Detroit has played host to the following American open-wheel junior formula races:

  • Super Vee – 1982 – Jerrill Rice
  • Formula Atlantic – 1983 Josele Garza
  • Super Vee – 1985 – Peter Pandur
  • Super Vee – 1986 – Scott Attchison
  • Super Vee – 1987 – Paul Radisch
  • Super Vee – 1988 – Paul Radisch 
  • American Racing Series – 1989 – Ted Prappas
  • American Racing Series – 1990 – Tommy Byrne
  • Indy Lights – 1991 – Eric Bachelar
1991 Firestone Indy Lights Championship from Downtown Detroit

Points permutations

Despite being only three races into a 14-race schedule, it’s never too early to start looking at the season-long championship. With a doubleheader this weekend, the chase for the big prize will heat up.

Things can change quickly this early in the season, as evidenced by the winner last time out, Juncos Hollinger Racing rookie Matteo Nannini moving from 17th to fourth on the championship table.

With 19 entries, limiting your finishes outside the top ten is essential, proven by current points leader HMD Motorsports w/Dale Coyne Racing sophomore Christian Rasmussen. The Dane is the only driver to have finished in the top ten and top five in the three races to start the season, giving him an 18-point lead over teammate Nolan Siegel.

Siegel, an 18-year-old Californian, started the season with two straight podiums before a disappointing 13th-place effort last time out on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

The drivers between fourth and 12th in the title standings are separated by only 21 points, making each and every point important.

2023 INDY NXT by Firestone points standings

1Christian RasmussenHMD Motorsports w/Dale Coyne Racing 116 
2Nolan Siegel – rHMD Motorsports w/Dale Coyne Racing 98-18
3Danial FrostHMD Motorsports w/Dale Coyne Racing 90-26
4Matteo Nannini – rJuncos Hollinger Racing 84-32
5Hunter McElreaAndretti Autosport 79-37
6Josh Green – rHMD Motorsports w/Dale Coyne Racing 76-40
7Jacob AbelAbel Motorsports 74-42
8Louis Foster – rAndretti Autosport 74-42
9James Roe, Jr.Andretti Autosport 69-47
10Kyffin SimpsonHMD Motorsports 67-49
11Colin Kaminsky – rAbel Motorsports 65-51
12Enaam Ahmed – rCape Motorsports 63-53
13Christian BogleHMD Motorsports w/Dale Coyne Racing 56-60
14Ernie Francis, Jr.HMD Motorsports w/Dale Coyne Racing 52-64
15Reece Gold – rJuncos Hollinger Racing 51-65
16Jamie Chadwick – rAndretti Autosport 51-65
17Jagger Jones – rCape Motorsports 46-70
18Rasmus LindhHMD Motorsports w/Dale Coyne Racing 46-70
19Toby SoweryHMD Motorsports 35-81
20Josh Pierson – rHMD Motorsports 27-89
Eventual INDY NXT by Firestone champion Linus Lundqvist celebrates a victory on Belle Isle in 2022 (Photo Courtesy of Penske Entertainment – Chris Owens)

Previous INDY NXT by Firestone champions that won in the Motor City:

  • 2022 – champion Linus Lundqvist won both races
  • 2021 – champion Kyle Kirkwood won both races
  • 1997 – champion Tony Kanaan won
  • 1994 – champion Steve Robertson won
  • 1991 – champion Eric Bachelart won

Street Circuit Prowess

Abel Motorsports sophomore Jacob Abel led 27 laps at the first street circuit event of the 2023 INDY NXT by Firestone season in St. Petersburg, Fla., after starting outside the first row. The 22-year-old brought his No. 51 Abel Motorsports IL-15 home in third place, which should give the team confidence heading into the second street event of the season.

Jacob Abel leads during the last INDY NXT by Firestone street circuit race in St. Petersburg, Fla. (Photo Courtesy of Penske Entertainment- Joe Skibinski)

However, it’s not just Abel’s fantastic performance in St. Pete that should leave the Speedway, Ind.-based team confident as they head to the Motor City for a critical doubleheader.

Team manager John Brunner and Abel’s engineer Kent Boyer had plenty of success on street courses at Belardi Auto Racing. Between 2016 and 2019, the team with drivers – Felix Rosenqvist (three), Aaron Telitz (two), Santi Urrutia (two), Zachary Claman (one) and Felix Serralles (one) – won nine of the series 16 street course races.

The team should also carry momentum from their debut in the 107th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge, where despite the odds being stacked against them, they easily qualified with driver RC Enerson, besting a recent Indianapolis 500 winning team to make the field.

A Little More Equal Footing & A Lifetime Experience

TSO caught up with Cape Motorsports co-owner Dominic Cape at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park, who was at the Clermont, Ind. oval for the USF Pro Championships Freedom 75 and Freedom 90.

The new two-car team has performed well, considering their competition has far more experience in the INDY NXT by Firestone series. However, Cape explained that they were looking forward to this event because everybody is on equal footing on the 1.7-mile, 9-turn, downtown Detroit street circuit, a new venue for everybody.

The Brownsburg, Ind. team’s rookie Jagger Jones spent Memorial Day weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which was capped off by what the 20-year-old called a “lifetime experience.”

The third-generation racer joined Mario Andretti, Al Unser, Jr, Tom Sneva and other notable drivers in the annual parade of historic winners. An incredible experience that became ‘lifetime’ when he rolled out onto the track behind the wheel of ‘Ol’ Calhoun,’ the car his grandfather Parnelli Jones drove to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Victory Circle in 1963.

Jagger Jones behind the wheel of the No. 98 Offenhauser/Watson that his grandfather Parnelli wheeled to victory in the 1963 Indianapolis 500 (Photo Courtesy of Kevin Dejewski – ShutterSpeed Photography)

The Offenhauser-powered Watson roadster owned by J.C. Agajanian made five appearances in the “Greatest Spectacle In Racing.” Rodger Ward piloted the No.98, the number long associated with Agajanian, in 1960, before giving way to west coast sprint car star Jones in 1961.

Jones led 27 laps, finishing 12th and sharing Rookie Of The Year honors in his first Indianapolis 500 appearance. The following year, the chassis built by A.J. Watson took the pole, officially becoming the first car to break the 150mph barrier. Jones led 120 laps before fading late.

Agajanian, Jones and crew turned up in May 1963 with some subtle aerodynamic, again winning the pole, but this time leading 167 of 200 laps on the way to victory. The chassis returned in 1964, with Jones starting fifth, leading seven laps, before a fire forced an early retirement.

Parnelli Jones celebrates winning the 1963 Indianapolis 500 (Photo Courtesy of Penske Entertainment)

The No. 98 was then purchased by Tony Hulman and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, where the car that led 321 laps at the Brickyard is kept in running order and on display.

One Of Ours Won The Big One – INDY NXT by Firestone grads in the Indianapolis 500

  • The 107th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge was won by 2011 INDY NXT – then Indy Lights – champion Josef Newgarden, the ninth time a series graduate has won the “Greatest Spectacle In Racing.”
  • The Team Penske driver, the victor in the Freedom 100 in 2011 is the first driver to win the INDY NXT and NTT INDYCAR SERIES races held on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval. 
  • Helio Castroneves (2001, 2002, 2009 & 2021), Dan Wheldon (2005 & 2011), Scott Dixon (2008) and Tony Kanaan (2013) are the other series graduates to win the Indianapolis 500. 
  • The 107th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge featured 19 graduates of INDY NXT, including four of the six drivers that started on the front two rows. 

The following INDY NXT by Firestone graduates (and their final year in the ladder series) started the 107th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge:

  • Helio Castroneves (1997)
  • Tony Kanaan (1997)
  • Scott Dixon (2000)
  • Marco Andretti (2005)
  • Ed Carpenter (2005)
  • Graham Rahal (2006)
  • Josef Newgarden (2011)
  • Conor Daly (2013)
  • Jack Harvey (2015)
  • RC Enerson (2016)
  • Felix Rosenqvist (2016)
  • Colton Herta (2018)
  • Pato O’Ward (2018)
  • Rinus VeeKay (2019)
  • Devlin DeFrancesco (2021)
  • Kyle Kirkwood (2021)
  • David Malukas (2021)
  • Benjamin Pedersen (2022)
  • Sting Ray Robb (202