Foster quickest in second INDY NXT by Firestone practice – Collet and Abel close

By Steve Wittich

The 8:25 am alarm clock for the denizens of the hundreds of condos surrounding the 1.8-mile, 14-turn St. Petersburg street circuit was the sweet sound of 21 AER-prepared turbo-charged 2.0L four-cylinder engines.

The ambient temperature at the beginning of the session was 75F with high humidity. The track temperature was 80F.

The track was immediately busy, with drivers quickly dicing for position, including a three-wide run into Turn 4. Michael d’Orlando (Andretti Cape) had a lazy spin at the exit of Turn 1 while trying to get by a slower car. The 2022 USF2000 champion kept the engine running and continued.

Times continued to drop with Myles Rowe (HMD Motorsports w/ Force Indy), James Roe (Andretti Global), Caio Collet (HMD Motorsports), and finally, Friday’s quickest driver, Louis Foster (Andretti Global), topping the timing screens.

After 15 minutes of practice, Foster led the way, followed by Collet, Jacob Abel (Abel Motorsports), Yuven Sundaramoorthy (Abel Motorsports), Jamie Chadwick (Andretti Global), Jack William Miller (Miller Vinatieri Motorsports), Salvador de Alba (Andretti Cape), Bryce Aron (Andretti Global), Reece Gold (HMD Motorsports) and Nolan Siegel (HMD Motorsports). These times were all set on scuffed Firestone Racing tires.

On Friday afternoon, Foster was the only driver under 66 seconds. At the halfway point of Saturday’s practice, the top five had laps in the 65-second range.

Once fresh Firestones went on, lap times started to fall. Roe, who had a transponder issue on Friday, briefly knocked his teammate out of the top spot.

With 15 minutes remaining in practice, Foster went to the back to the top timing screens as the first driver under 65 seconds, with a lap within a tenth of a second from the track record of 64.6491 set by David Malukas in 2021.

Turn 1 was a hot spot for issues, with Siegel, Gold, and Nolan Allaer (HMD Motorsports), among others, all going long at the end of the 3,677-foot-long runway 7/25 of the Albert Whitted Airport.

Drivers continued to push until the first red flag of the session flew with seven minutes remaining. Christian Bogle (HMD Motorsports) gave Miller room to get inside him in Turn 4, getting a little too deep and ending up in the tire barriers with left front suspension damage.

After super quick work by the AMR INDYCAR Safety Team, the green flag came out with four minutes remaining. Nineteen of the 21 drivers headed out on track in an effort to go quicker, and a number of drivers got closer to Foster’s quick time of 64.7916 seconds. Those getting closer included Collet and Abel, who ended up within two-tenths of a second of Foster as the only three drivers under 65 seconds.

Just as the checkered flag was about to fly, Martini-sponsored No. 11 of Allaer made contact with the concrete barriers in Turn 8 and Turn 9, sustaining damage to the left front and rear of the car.

After the session, Chadwick, who ended up fifth quickest, told Ryan Myrehn:

“It’s a very different feeling the second year in. I feel a lot more comfortable and a bit more settled at these style of tracks with the Andretti Global team. We’ve got a really quick car this weekend, but a big, big gap to P1, so a lot of work still to do. I think it’s going to close up in qualifying.”

The second quickest driver on Friday, d’Orlando, told Myrehn that they were having some mechanical issues that only allowed them to turn eight laps. The 21 drivers completed a total of 542 laps.

Grand Prix Of St. Petersburg Practice #1 Results.

126Louis FosterAndretti Global1:04.7916——23
218Caio ColletHMD Motorsports1:04.91880.127229
351Jacob AbelAbel Motorsports1:04.98980.198227
414Josh PiersonHMD Motorsports1:05.30760.516030
528Jamie ChadwickAndretti Global1:05.42050.628926
639Nolan SiegelHMD Motorsports1:05.43660.645028
729James RoeAndretti Global1:05.46330.671724
823Jonathan BrowneHMD Motorsports1:05.52880.737230
940Jack William MillerMiller Vinatieri Motorsports1:05.65420.862627
1099Myles RoweHMD Motorsports with Force Indy1:05.71250.920926
1127Bryce AronAndretti Global1:05.71850.926931
1222Yuven SundaramoorthyAbel Motorsports1:05.75870.967128
1317Callum HedgeHMD Motorsports1:05.83001.038427
142Salvador de AlbaAndretti Cape1:05.86701.075426
1510Reece GoldHMD Motorsports1:05.92361.132029
163Michael d’OrlandoAndretti Cape1:06.40881.61728
177Christian BogleHMD Motorsports1:06.58421.792624
1811Nolan AllaerHMD Motorsports1:06.63651.844923
1921Josh MasonAbel Motorsports1:07.06192.270322
2033Niels KoolenHMD Motorsports1:07.15102.359427
2176Lindsay BrewerJuncos Hollinger Racing1:08.81794.026327

Qualifying for Sunday’s 45-lap race is scheduled to get the green flag at 1:05 pm.

Andretti Global’s Louis Foster during the 2024 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on the streets of St. Petersburg. (Photo by Joe Skibinski | IMS Photo)