Veterans Foster and Abel lead INDY NXT by Firestone Chris Griffis Memorial Test at IMS

By Steve Wittich

Andretti Global returnee Louis Foster led a tight field of 21 INDY NXT by Firestone drivers at the 12th annual Chris Griffis Memorial on the 2.439-mile, 14-turn Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. Seventeen drivers were within one second of the 74.8432-second lap turned by the Odiham, England native on his 20th of 52 laps during a busy afternoon session.

Andretti Global returnee Louis Foster during INDY NXT by Firestone testing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in October 2023 (Photo courtesy of Penske Entertainment – Matt Fraver)

“We managed to get first, which doesn’t mean much right now,” said Foster after jumping out of his No. 26 Andretti Global machine. “Hopefully, we can keep our form like last year into 2024. I’m looking forward to the rest of the offseason and doing some more testing so we can improve on what we did today.”

The annual test that acts as an early kick-off for the next season of action is named after former Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team manager/owner Chris Griffis, who unexpectedly passed away at 45 in 2011.

Current USF Pro 2000 team owner Peter Dempsey led the first test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2011. The iconic track is hosting the test for the 10th time. Barber Motorsports Park (2013) and Circuit of The Americas (2015) have also hosted the annual early kick-off to the next season of action.

Less than two-tenths of a second separated the top five, which included veterans Foster, Jacob Abel (Abel Motorsports), and Nolan Siegel (HMD Motorsports), along with rookies Myles Rowe (HMD Motorsports) and Caio Collet (HMD Motorsports)

With crisp temperatures struggling to reach 50F, prevalent cloud cover and a damp track from overnight rain, running during the morning session was limited due to rain and limited tires.

Teams were allowed to use a set of rain tires during the test but would have to turn in one of their three sets of allocated Firestone INDY NXT slicks. That meant running, especially among newcomers, was limited.

Only four veteran drivers – Jacob Abel (Abel Motorsports), Christian Bogle (HMD Motorsports), Josh Pierson (HMD Motorsports), and Nolan Siegel (HMD Motorsports) – completed more than ten laps at speed.

Nolan Siegel (HMD Motorsports) was only one of four drivers to turn significant laps on a damp Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course during the Chris Griffis Memorial Test Photo Courtesy Of Penske Entertainment – Chris Jones)

Ed Carpenter Racing affiliated driver Pierson was the quickest of the group at 86.1617 seconds, with his teammate Siegel completing 30 laps, almost a quarter of the 122 laps.

“Yes, and it’s fun,” answered Abel when TSO asked him if running in the tricky conditions was beneficial in the long term. “I always like doing that. You never know what the conditions will be like on the race weekends. It’s very rare that it’s a perfect wet scenario on the race weekends where you get to run rain tires. More often than not, it’s drying, or you’re on slicks when it’s wet, so I think it’s good to be out there. “

Despite the limited laps, the two hours of morning testing saw several red flags as new drivers got used to a turbocharged engine for the first time or experienced drivers stepped over the limit.

Thankfully, the sun came out during the lunch break between 11:30 am and 12:30 pm, drying the damp track completely and putting enough heat in the asphalt for extended running to begin.

With plenty of tires remaining, the road course quickly buzzed with the distinctive sound of the AER 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder engines.

With two hours remaining in the test, Foster, with that lap at 74.8432 seconds, was the quickest driver, with the top 14 drivers within one second of the recently signed 20-year-old.

Just as quickly as it appeared, the sun returned into hiding, leading to a grey afternoon with brisk winds straight out of the north. That meant the quickest lap times for most drivers, generally set in the last hour of a test, were set earlier in the afternoon.

The afternoon saw fewer red flags, but, unfortunately, a late red for the reigning USF Pro 2000 champion Myles Rowe was the only one involving contact.

According to HMD Motorsports, the Georgian experienced an issue with the drive-by-wire throttle linkage as he attempted to enter pit road, leading to the No. 99 Force Indy liveried machine nosing into the tires at a moderate pace. Thankfully, Rowe was uninjured.

Combined INDY NXT timesheet for the Chris Griffis Memorial Test

126Louis FosterAndretti Global1:14.8432——55
251Jacob AbelAbel Motorsports1:14.92010.076973
399Myles RoweHMD Motorsports1:14.94870.105538
439Nolan SiegelHMD Motorsports1:14.99180.148683
518Caio ColletHMD Motorsports1:15.01600.172853
610Reece GoldHMD Motorsports1:15.15400.310846
77Christian BogleHMD Motorsports1:15.23030.387160
88Kaylen FrederickHMD Motorsports1:15.27060.427454
94Michael d’OrlandoHMD Motorsports1:15.33470.491539
1027Bryce AronAndretti Global1:15.37320.530063
1128Jamie ChadwickAndretti Global1:15.47140.628244
1222Yuven SundaramoorthyAbel Motorsports1:15.53240.689267
1329James RoeAndretti Global1:15.53440.691249
142Callum HedgeCape Motorsports1:15.67810.834955
1514Josh PiersonHMD Motorsports1:15.73890.895755
1640Jack William MillerMiller Vinatieri Motorsports1:15.74510.901953
175Johnathan BrowneAbel Motorsports1:15.90391.060766
183Jace DenmarkCape Motorsports1:16.04361.200455
1975Antonio SerravalleJuncos Hollinger Racing1:16.33341.490239
2033Niels KoolenHMD Motorsports1:16.55321.710047
2176Lindsay BrewerJuncos Hollinger Racing1:18.69423.851051