Abel grabs second straight INDY NXT by Firestone win. Siegel and Chadwick join him on the podium

By Steve Wittich

It’s a tale as old as time in racing; a much-needed first victory can open the floodgates for a driver, creating confidence and more trips to the top step of the podium. 

Despite struggling on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in the past and rolling off in the first practice with a car that needed work, Jacob Abel and his Abel Motorsports team went to work to improve the Abel Construction-sponsored No. 51.

Whatever they did worked; the 23-year-old scored a double pole and led all 35 laps of the first leg of a doubleheader on Friday evening on the way to a second straight INDY NXT by Firestone win. 

Abel Motorsports driver Jacob Abel celebrates his second straight INDY NXT by Firestone victory (Photo Courtesy of Penske Entertainment – Chris Owens)

“This was awesome,” said Abel. “We’ve always just kind of struggled at this track, which is unfortunate because we race here a lot, but in the past, it wasn’t really a good track for us so to get this win today is really special. That it felt like a long race, just managing tires the whole time so I could be ready if there was a restart. Unfortunately, the first yellow took away the four-second lead that I had – and was just taking a nice sunset cruise on! But it was still good at the end, though Nolan made me work for it there a little bit. Props to him for driving me clean and we will see how tomorrow goes.” 

Behind Abel, the action was hot and heavy, with 136 passes for position. 

HMD Motorsports sophomore, the co-points leader when the weekend began and one of 34 drivers that will attempt to qualify for the 108th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge, Nolan Siegel, started the race from the inside of the third row and took advantage of the battling in front of him to move into second place. That allowed the 19-year-old to remain second in the championship. 

After showing pace late during her rookie season and at the first two races of the 2024 season, three-time W-Series champion Jamie Chadwick converted that speed into her first series podium. Chadwick’s podium is the first by a female driver since fellow Brit Pippa Mann’s win at Kentucky Motor Speedway. 

A happy Jamie Chadwick (Andretti Global) gives a thumbs-up after scoring her first INDY NXT by Firestone podium (Photo Courtesy of Penske Entertainment – James Black)

“A lot more, for sure,” said a clearly relieved and equally happy Chadwick when asked how this result ranks with all of the wins, podiums and championships in the W-Series. “I think especially coming off the back of last year, which was a tough year and tough transition into the series, to then find what I felt was good form and pace this year but struggling to convert that into a result, to then get our first podium here definitely means a lot.

“I think it did fall into our hands nicely, but like I say, we’ve had good pace all year, and it just felt like we were knocking on the door for a good result. Very happy with the result. I think we had a really, really good car underneath us today, and I think that was probably shadowed a bit by the fact my teammates weren’t up there, as well. But I think tomorrow we should be in a good place.”

Reigning Formula Regional Americas Championship Powered By Honda champion Callum Hedge drove an intelligent race to come home fourth, the best result of his rookie season. 

Reigning USF Pro 2000 champion Myles Rowe continued his impressive run of race craft, moving from 12th to fifth place and ending the day fourth on the championship table, the best of the rookies.

HMD Motorsports w/Force Indy rookie continued his impressive rookie campaign with a season best fifth place finish (Photo Courtesy of Penske Entertainment- Joe Skibinski)

The command to fire the 21 AER-prepared turbo-charged 2.0L four-cylinder engines came at 6:15 pm, bringing an almost 12-hour day of track activity to a close. 

After two laps behind the pace car, the front row of Abel and Collet brought the sizable field to the green flag on the 5/8ths of a mile front straight. 

Collet appeared to want to get in line right behind the pole sitter when the green flag flew, but the driver starting behind Abel, James Roe, was right under the gearbox, blocking that maneuver. 

Abel and Roe led the first five rows cleanly through the first corner. Still, further back, the drivers who started in the back half of the field got together, with Bryce Aron (Andretti Global), Josh Pierson (HMD Motorsports), Myles Rowe (HMD Motorsports w/Force Indy) and Jordan Missig (Abel Motorsports) all sustaining some level of contact. 

Jacob Abel (No. 51 Abel Motorsports) and James Roe (No. 29 Andretti Global) lead the 21 car INDY NXT by Firestone field through the first turn at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway ((Photo Courtesy of Penske Entertainment- Dana Garrett)

Rowe missed the Turn 5/6 chicane and gave up one position when race control caught up with the chaotic start. 

Abel led Roe down Hulman Blvd., with the Irish driver putting on a smoke show, locking up the right front in the heavy braking zone of Turn 7. The No. 29 went through the grass and ended with a flat tire coming to the pit road before the opening lap’s end. 

“That one was on me. We had a great qualifying position starting on the inside of the second row,” said the Irishman whose helmet is replica of those worn by the Notre Dame Irish football team. “Going into Turn 7, I locked up my fronts, went straight and got a flat spot on my tires. It is what it is. We have to go tomorrow, but we have the fastest car on track so we’ll see what we can do.” 

Behind that front group, Niels Koolen and Missig made contact, with the pair of drivers dropping to the rear of the field.

Abel, Collet, Foster, Siegel, Chadwick, Hedge, Reece Gold (HMD Motorsports) Yuven Sundaramoorthy (Abel Motorsports), Jonathan Browne (HMD Motorsports), Michael d’Orlando (Andretti Cape), Salvador de Alba (Andretti Cape), Aron, Pierson, Rowe, Jack William Miller (Miller Vinatieri Motorsports), Christian Bogle (HMD Motorsports), Nolan Allaer (HMD Motorsports), Lindsay Brewer (Juncos Hollinger Racing), Missig, Koolen and Rowe (on pit road).

Abel led the first lap, with Foster pressuring Collet, who drove the Andretti Global driver toward the pit wall on the driver’s right. The incident was under review, with the Brazilian being penalized for blocking and forced to serve a drive-thru. 

Before getting the penalty, Collett spun in Turn 4 with what looked like a flat right rear tire. He had dropped behind Foster and Siegel. 

We quickly learned what caused Collet’s flat on Lap 4 when the Peacock broadcast showed Foster with a damaged front wing. Collet drove across Foster’s nose in Turns 3 and 4, damaging both cars. 

After five laps, Abel’s lead was 3.5 seconds but continued to grow as Foster defended well against Siegel. 

On Lap 6, Pierson pulled off into the safety area in Turn 1, eventrually getting out of the No. 14. 

On Lap 8, Foster eventually came to pit road for a new front wing. 

After ten laps, Abel’s lead over Siegel was already five seconds. The driver, who will attempt to make his Indianapolis 500 debut in a week, held a two-second advantage over Chadwick. Hedge, Gold, Sundaramoorthy, de Alba, Jr., Brown, Miller and d’Orlando comprised the rest of the top ten. 

On Lap 12, Miller missed Turn 1, going through the ‘long cut’ after dropping spots to d’Orlando, Browne and Rowe. 

In front of that group, Sundaramoorthy was working hard to hold off de Alba, Jr., and d’Orlando. 

At the front of the field, Siegel slowly started eating into Abel’s lead. 

On Lap 16, de Alba, Jr., made the difficult outside pass of his former USF Pro 2000 teammate at Exclusive Autosport, Sundaramoorthy. That balked the Indian American driver, and in Turn 1, he lost spots to d’Orlando, Browne and Rowe. 

On the next lap, Miller made contact with Sundaramoorthy in Turn 7, cutting down the tire on the recent University of Wisconsin graduate and forcing him to come to the pit road for repairs. 

At the front of the field, the gap between Abel and Siegel was consistent at four seconds, with drivers running laps within a tenth of a second of each other. Chadwick, who was running third, was running at times similar to those of the leaders. The No. 28 of Chadwick held a comfortable 4.2-second lead over Hedge, with Gold running fifth. 

On Lap 21, Abel’s 4.1-second lead was erased when Sundaramoorthy’s No. 22 spun into the gravel in Turn 4. 

The running order under yellow was Abel, Siegel, Chadwick, Hedge, Gold, de Alba, Jr., d’Orlando, Browne, Rowe, Miller, Allaer, Koolen, Missig, Bogle, and Foster, who were all on the lead lap. Aron and Rowe were one lap back, Brewer and Sundaramoorthy were two laps back, and Collet was three laps behind. 

The restart was to come with eleven laps remaining in the 35-lap race. As the field came to Turn 13, d’Orlando turned de Alba, Jr. before coming to the green flag, with the start waived off. The start was waived off on the next lap as the field was out of order. Race control ordered de Alba to restart at the back of the field along with d’Orlando, who was sent to the back for avoidable contact with his Andretti Cape teammate. 

“It wasn’t the result we were looking for. I had an incident with my teammate Salvadar [de Alba],” said the native of Hartsdale, N.Y., who is on a race-by-race deal and looking for sponsorship to continue deeper into the season. “The tire grid stopped up in Turn 13 on the restart, and I didn’t have the time to slow down. I was behind Salvador just making sure I was going to get a good restart and then everyone stopped up and I ended up into the back of him. I got put to the back of the pack, but the Andretti Cape team put together a great car for me this weekend. We had really fast lap times throughout the race and were working our way forward, so I’m just really disappointed we couldn’t bring a good result to the team. We had the pace and could’ve had the result, but it’s just unfortunate.” 

The start finally came with nine laps remaining. Abel held the advantage over Siegel and Chadwick, but Miller locked up into Turn 1 behind them, suffering a broken front wing and flat front tire.

The big mover in the first two laps after the restart was Foster, who had moved into the top ten. 

With five laps remaining, Abel’s lead over Siegel was just over one second, and Chadwick was another second back. 

Later on that lap, newcomer Missig had an incident in Turn 7 while fighting for a spot in the top ten. 

With less than five laps remaining, race control moved the lapped cars to the back of the field. 

Siegel’s engineer, Nathan Toney, told him to give it everything, avoid the vibration and utilize all of the push-to-pass he had remaining. 

“It’s nice to know those guys want it almost as much as I do, and it’s fun to work with people that are so passionate and invested in these races and what I’m doing and what they’re doing,” explained the recent high-school grad who recently accepted into Stanford University. “I definitely want to bring results back for Nathan and CR and the whole HMD Motorsports team. Having them on the radio pushing me is definitely helpful, and we’ve worked together for long enough now that they know what I need to hear.

“I did what I could. There’s always something that you can do better. Definitely going to look into it, and we’ll see what we can do tomorrow. I feel like today was pretty well executed, to be honest, so I’m happy. But not going to get complacent.”

Abel brought the field back to green with three laps remaining but didn’t get the best jump, with Siegel and Chadwick ready to pounce. 

Behind them, Hedge, Gold, Rowe, Brown, Koolen and Foster were battling fiercely but cleanly, with Rowe moving up to fifth and Foster continuing his recovery into seventh place. 

The 20-year-old returned to the track in 16th place after pitting for a new front wing on Lap 8, gaining nine spots over the remainder of the race. 

“I got punted by another driver and I wasn’t sure what race control was going to do, but they took a really long time to make a decision and by that point it was too late,” said the Brit, who had the third quickest lap of the race. “I’d already gone for a move and the guy had shut the door and damaged my front wing. All-in-all, not a great race, but we did manage to bring in some points. Not where we wanted to finish and a little bit disappointed, but we’ll try again tomorrow.” 

With two laps remaining, Abel’s lead was only 0.3 seconds, and when they received the white flag, it was 0.5 seconds. 

Abel got a little loose in Turn 4 on the final lap, allowing Siegel to close in Turn 7, but the driver from Louisville could hold on to collect his second straight win. 

Siegel came home second for the second straight race, maintaining second place in the points standings. 

INDY NXT by Firestone Race #1 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway

151Jacob AbelAbel Motorsports35 LAPS
239Nolan SiegelHMD Motorsports-0.547
328Jamie ChadwickAndretti Global-2.0681
417Callum HedgeHMD Motorsports-3.6526
599Myles RoweHMD Motorsports with Force Indy-4.4706
610Reece GoldHMD Motorsports-5.2579
726Louis FosterAndretti Global-5.6844
823Jonathan BrowneHMD Motorsports-7.3758
97Christian BogleHMD Motorsports-7.9286
1033Niels KoolenHMD Motorsports-9.0195
112Salvador de Alba JrAndretti Cape-9.367
123Michael d’OrlandoAndretti Cape-11.153
1311Nolan AllaerHMD Motorsports-13.5268
1427Bryce AronAndretti Global-1 LAP
1529James RoeAndretti Global-1 LAP
1640Jack William MillerMiller Vinatieri Motorsports-1 LAP
1776Lindsay BrewerJuncos Hollinger Racing-2 LAPS
1821Jordan MissigAbel Motorsports-2 LAPS
1918Caio ColletHMD Motorsports-3 LAPS
2022Yuven SundaramoorthyAbel Motorsports-4 LAPS
2114Josh PiersonHMD Motorsports-29 LAPS