Nolan Siegel sets St. Petersburg track record on the way to his first INDY NXT by Firestone pole – new qual format a hit

HMD Motorsports’ veteran Nolan Siegel reacts to winning his first career INDY NXT by Firestone pole at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Photo Courtesy Of Penske Entertainment – Chris Jones)

By Steve Wittich

After starting in the first two rows in seven of 14 races during the 2023 season, HMD Motorsports veteran Nolan Siegel captured his first INDY NXT by Firestone pole in the new group qualifying format.

“It’s my first pole in INDY NXT (by Firestone),” said Siegel after waiting out the second group. “So, it feels really good. Starting 2024 upfront is the best way to do it.

“Everyone has worked super hard in the offseason. HMD (Motorsports) did a great job and it’s a nice reward for everyone’s hard work.”

The 19-year-old’s quickest lap of 64.5759 seconds set a new track record on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn St. Petersburg street circuit, besting a 2021 qualifying lap of NTT INDYCAR SERIES driver David Malukas.

It’s not the Palo Alto, California native’s first pole at this circuit after winning a USF Pro 2000 pole in 2022.

HMD Motorsports now has two poles on the St. Petersburg street circuit, with Siegel joining Malukas as pole winners. It’s the Brownsburg, Ind. based team’s 25th all-time series pole, moving him into fourth among the other teams.

Abel Motorsports veteran and championship contender Jacob Abel missed out on his second career pole by a scant 66 thousandths of a second. Red flags in the closing stages of the second group prevented him from taking a shot at the pole.

“Big shout out to the series,” said Abel after getting out of the car. “They’ve really listened to us drivers to work on something for qualifying this season this year. I think it’s better this year, but with the format, there is going to be a little bit of luck involved. Today, we got unlucky with all of the red flags in our session.

“We got the most out of it we could and starting on the front row won’t be too bad.”

Reigning USF Pro 2000 champion Myles Rowe missed out on grabbing the pole in his first INDY NXT by Firestone race by two-hundredths of a second. Andretti Global veteran Louis Foster, who led both practice sessions, will join him on the second row.

With only two-hundredths separating the top two rows, it’s safe to say that the new qualifying format was a success.

Due to the size of the 2024 INDY NXT by Firestone grid, the largest at a season opener in 2009, the series will utilize group qualifying for the first time.

If you’ve watched the NTT INDYCAR SERIES in the past, it’s similar to the procedures used at the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix on The Raceway On Belle Isle for a few years.

The groups are determined by the times from Practice 2, with the quickest driver determining whether they would like to go first or second. Drivers that finished 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th, 11th, 13th, 15th, 17th, 19th, and 21st, will join the quickest driver from practice. Drivers that finished practice in 2nd, 4th, 6th, 8th, 10th, 12th, 14th, 16th, 18th and 20th will form the other group going opposite the group with the quickest driver from practice.

After both groups have completed their 12-minute qualifying session, the quickest overall time will be the pole winner, with the drivers from that group starting on the inside of the grid. The fastest driver from the other group will begin outside the front row, with the rest starting from the odd-numbered spots on the grid.

The quickest driver from each group will earn one bonus point.

After a slight delay to clean up from a chaotic USF Pro 2000 race, the first group of ten INDY NXT by Firestone drivers, led by the Caio Collet (HMD Motorsports), the second quickest driver in the second practice, saw the green flag at 1:15 pm. The ambient temperature was 81F, and the track temperature was 117F. The humidity was at 77%, with a strong breeze from the southwest at 17mph.

The first group included seven drivers from HMD Motorsports, two from Andretti Cape, and one from Abel Motorsports.

Collet, a 21-year-old Brazilian, led the drivers onto the 1.8-mile, 14-turn St. Petersburg street circuit. After two laps, the FIA F3 veteran was the quickest driver, but times would continue to fall.

Collet led after each driver had completed three laps, but on the following circuit, and just before the session’s halfway point, HMD Motorsports veteran Nolan Siegel went quickest.

Lap times continued to fall, with Siegel leading Myles Rowe (HMD Motorsports w/Force Indy) by only two-hundredths of a second and Michael d’Orlando (Andretti Cape) third.

On the next lap, Rowe went to the top of the timing screens, going under the track record set in 2021 by David Malukas.

Myles Rowe, the pilot of the No. 99 HMD Motorsports w/Force Indy machine waits to be released for qualifying at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. (Photo Courtesy of Penske Entertainment- Joe Skibinski)

His time on the top of the timing screen didn’t last long as Siegel went two hundredths quicker than Rowe, resetting the track record.

Early leader Collet tagged the wall on his eighth lap, coming to pit road and ending the session in fifth.

When Siegel pulled into his pit stall after setting the track record at 64.5759 seconds, was NTT INDYCAR SERIES team owner Dale Coyne. The 19-year-old Californian will debut with Dale Coyne Racing at the Thermal Club in two weeks.

INDY NXT by Firestone Group 1 Qualifying Results

139Nolan SiegelHMD Motorsports64.5759—-
299Myles RoweHMD Motorsports with Force Indy64.5985-0.0226
33Michael d’OrlandoAndretti Cape64.7224-0.1465
518Caio ColletHMD Motorsports64.8855-0.3096
614Josh PiersonHMD Motorsports64.8912-0.3153
723Jonathan BrowneHMD Motorsports65.0445-0.4686
822Yuven SundaramoorthyAbel Motorsports65.0898-0.5139
92Salvador de AlbaAndretti Cape65.0966-0.5207
1011Nolan AllaerHMD Motorsports65.6638-1.0879
1033Niels KoolenHMD Motorsports66.1214-1.5455

The second group, led by the quickest driver in practice was Andretti Global veteran Louis Foster, left pit road at 1:34 pm.

After the 11 drivers had turned a quartet of laps, 20-year-old Foster was the quickest driver, followed by Jacob Abel (Abel Motorsports), Bryce Aron (Andretti Global), James Roe (Andretti Global) and Jack William Miller (Jack William Miller).

On the next lap, Abel went to the top of the timing screen with a lap of 64.5825 seconds, only one-hundredth of a second behind Seigel’s quick lap in the first group.

Jacob Abel on track at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the veteran Abel Motorsports driver will start Sunday’s race from the outside of the front row Photo Courtesy Of Penske Entertainment – Chris Jones)

The red flag came out with five minutes remaining in the session when rookie Josh Mason (Abel Motorsports) looped his No. 21 at the exit of Turn 10. The newcomer could not get the engine refired and needed aid from the AMR INDYCAR Safety Team to get going again. Unfortunately, he lost the two quickest laps, and his session ended.

The green flag returned with two and a half minutes remaining, enough time for one lap at speed to try to improve their lap times.

With the drivers jumbled up, Foster and Abel didn’t have a clean track, which didn’t matter when the reigning Formula Regional Americas Championship Powered by Honda champion made contact with the tire barriers in the final corner, bringing out the local yellow and red flag.

INDY NXT by Firestone Group 2 Qualifying Results

151Jacob AbelAbel Motorsports64.5825——
226Louis FosterAndretti Global64.6027-0.0202
310Reece GoldHMD Motorsports64.7922-0.2097
427Bryce AronAndretti Global64.8883-0.3058
528Jamie ChadwickAndretti Global64.9225-0.3400
67Christian BogleHMD Motorsports65.2313-0.6488
729James RoeAndretti Global65.2440-0.6615
840Jack William MillerMiller Vinatieri Motorsports65.4054-0.8229
917Callum HedgeHMD Motorsports65.9366-1.3541
1076Lindsay BrewerJuncos Hollinger Racing67.3566-2.7741
1121Josh MasonAbel Motorsports71.2964-6.7139

Starting Line Up

139Nolan SiegelHMD Motorsports
251Jacob AbelAbel Motorsports
399Myles RoweHMD Motorsports with Force Indy
426Louis FosterAndretti Global
53Michael d’OrlandoAndretti Cape
610Reece GoldHMD Motorsports
718Caio ColletHMD Motorsports
827Bryce AronAndretti Global
914Josh PiersonHMD Motorsports
1028Jamie ChadwickAndretti Global
1123Jonathan BrowneHMD Motorsports
127Christian BogleHMD Motorsports
1322Yuven SundaramoorthyAbel Motorsports
1429James RoeAndretti Global
152Salvador de AlbaAndretti Cape
1640Jack William MillerMiller Vinatieri Motorsports
1711Nolan AllaerHMD Motorsports
1817Callum HedgeHMD Motorsports
1933Niels KoolenHMD Motorsports
2021Josh MasonAbel Motorsports
2176Lindsay BrewerJuncos Hollinger Racing

The 45-lap INDY NXT by Firestone St. Petersburg Grand Prix will get the green flag at 10:10 am on Sunday. Depending on your location, you can catch the action on Peacock or INDYCAR Live!