Milwaukee Test – Update #5 – Wednesday Indy NXT Test Day Notes and Quotes

By Tony DiZinno

Wisconsin weather is wild, man. After three of the coldest days I can remember just over just 60 miles to the north in Elkhart Lake at Road America with rain and ambient temperatures in the 50s and 60s, the summer heat dial got turned up to 11 today for the Indy NXT by Firestone test at the Milwaukee Mile as the ambient pushed 90 and the track temp exceeded 120 today. Such is summer in Wisconsin.

Tuesday’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES Open Test at the Mile, largely in the 70-degree ballpark, covered more than 3,500 incident-free laps while also featured the 20 cars running the new hybrid power unit for its most robust field size yet prior to its race weekend competition debut at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The extra heat made things interesting for the 20 drivers testing today, the second of two days, for the Indy NXT by Firestone field.

On a slippery track with limited grip and high reported degradation, with many drivers comparing it to Iowa Speedway, the Abel Motorsports team had two incidents but also made two day-of quick repairs to get both cars back on course. And the value of new tire runs was quantified towards the end of the day when the fastest time of the day was set. All told, there were just under 2,800 laps today.

The Combined Timesheet

Times are here, which will lead into the sections of the notebook.

126Louis FosterAndretti Global24.4133149.525144
251Jacob AbelAbel Motorsports24.4438149.338112
32Salvador de Alba JrAndretti Cape INDY NXT24.5088148.942158
439Christian RasmussenHMD Motorsports24.5113148.927100
529James RoeAndretti Global24.5434148.732157
618Caio ColletHMD Motorsports24.6403148.148142
799Myles RoweHMD Motorsports with Force Indy24.7909147.248136
828Jamie ChadwickAndretti Global24.8162147.097149
97Christian BogleHMD Motorsports24.8646146.811155
1022Yuven SundaramoorthyAbel Motorsports24.9092146.548179
1114Josh PiersonHMD Motorsports24.9185146.494144
1227Bryce AronAndretti Global24.9287146.434142
1340Jack William MillerMiller Vinatieri Motorsports24.9427146.351146
1417Callum HedgeHMD Motorsports25.1660145.053130
1575Ricardo EscottoJuncos Hollinger Racing25.2518144.560144
1610Reece GoldHMD Motorsports25.3648143.916116
1711Nolan AllaerHMD Motorsports25.5766142.72495
1876Lindsay BrewerJuncos Hollinger Racing25.7394141.821151
1923Jonathan BrowneHMD Motorsports25.9471140.686123
2055Taylor FernsAbel Motorsports26.7402136.514166

The Pacesetters

Louis Foster led the Open Test for the INDY NXT by Firestone Series at the Milwaukee Mile at the Wisconsin State Fair Park. (Photo by Chris Jones | IMS Photo)

Championship contenders Louis Foster, in his No. 26 Copart/Novara Technologies Dallara for Andretti Global and Jacob Abel, in his No. 51 Abel Construction Dallara for Abel Motorsports, ended the day 1-2 on the combined timesheets.

Foster bolted on a set of fresh Firestones inside the final five minutes of running, in the hottest conditions of the day at 89F ambient and 120F track, to post a best time of 24.4133 seconds (149.525 mph).

For reference, the last time Indy NXT was here in 2015, they had the same chassis (in its first year) albeit different tires (Cooper Tires, in their second season after Firestone) and the pole time was a combined 48.4397 seconds (two laps of 24.2347 and 24.2050 seconds, respectively) yielding an average speed of 150.868 mph, set by eventual champion Spencer Pigot of Juncos Racing.

“Learned the track, obviously Milwaukee is a new circuit and everyone’s learning and teams are relearning. Happy with the day. It’s quite a hard place to pass, so we’ll see what the race weekend brings,” said the Englishman, who closed to within 19 points of Abel leaving Road America.

“Been to IRP and the ones last year. Nothing compares. The banking is so low. They’re all very different. This one is definitely the flattest. It’s really fun and makes it fun to drive because the car is quite loose.”  

Abel was second, three hundredths of a second and two tenths of a mile an hour off. His day was interrupted when he and the Abel Motorsports team were discussing whether to go for another race simulation or seek to gather qualifying simulation data in the heat. After opting to go the qual-sim route, Abel had a slight, lazy spin off Turn 2 and nudged into the barrier.

After a quick check of the rear end, the John Brunner-led Abel Motorsports team rapidly responded and got the No. 51 car out from the paddock with a new rear wing in less than half an hour so Abel could get back on track.

“It was a super slow-motion spin there. It’s no worries. We’re really fast,” said Abel, who leads the championship. “Just trying to squeeze a little bit more out of it. It was on my warmup lap of my last quali run. Went a little bit too much, too soon. It was easy to do that. I’ve been super confident in the car.

“I honestly don’t think we’ll change the setup. I think it was just a mistake on my end. Our car is really fast and that’s all that matters.”

On the heat in the afternoon, Abel said: “It’s definitely way up this afternoon. I don’t know if that’s necessarily related. The track is still getting better with the more tires on it. We’ll figure it out and see if we can get back out for a little bit.”

The Past Champion Interloper

Thumbs up to returning to his HMD Indy NXT title-winning steed for Christian Rasmussen. (Photo by Chris Jones | IMS Photo)

The No. 39 HMD Motorsports Dallara in Indy NXT and the No. 51 Dale Coyne Racing with RWR Honda in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES may as well be siblings, because they’ve both had three different drivers in their respective seats in the last three weeks.

On the DCR IndyCar side, Katherine Legge (Indianapolis 500, Milwaukee test), Tristan Vautier (Detroit) and Luca Ghiotto (Road America) have all taken turns in the No. 51 car.

For the HMD No. 39 car, Nolan Siegel was in the car up until halfway through Road America practice, before Kiko Porto took it over Saturday morning and raced it Sunday. And then by Wednesday, 2023 Indy NXT by Firestone champion Christian Rasmussen was back in the car.

This was a strategic move by the team to provide the 10-car HMD armada Rasmussen’s expertise from his short oval experience last year, when he won both oval races at Iowa Speedway and World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway.

“It’s good. It was less bumpy than I first anticipated. I got up to speed quick. The goal is to try to help these guys develop the car to be stronger for the race weekend,” Rasmussen said.

“We’re heading in the right direction and gathering valuable data. I think it’s more similar to Iowa than it is to Gateway. It’s short oval racing, right? A lot of the same techniques apply.”

Rasmussen topped the morning session at 24.5708 seconds (148.567 mph) and while he improved to a 24.5113 second lap (148.927 mph) in the afternoon, that dropped him to fourth on the combined timesheets.

This may be Rasmussen’s last oval day in a car this year, as the Danish rookie’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES season only has four more road and street course race weekends remaining in Monterey, Mid-Ohio, Toronto and Portland with Ed Carpenter Racing.

He told TSO at Road America there have not been much if any discussion about reprising his role in a third car on any subsequent ovals this year despite finishing as the top rookie in the Indianapolis 500.

The Newest Indy NXT Winner Makes Her Milwaukee Debut

Jamie Chadwick meets Taylor Ferns at the Milwaukee Mile. The plants in the background seem fitting. (Photo by Chris Jones | IMS Photo)

Jamie Chadwick ended eighth in the combined timing in her No. 28 VEXT Dallara for Andretti Global. The Englishwoman was beaming, two days after winning her first Indy NXT race at Road America, but just as keen to get back to work and continue her impressive sophomore season of progression in the championship.

“It’s started to sink in a bit,” she told TSO. “But, it’s quite fun as well that we’re right back into it, which I like. I can enjoy the moment, but it’s straight back into it. It’s always nice to get back into with a little more confidence as well. 

Her initial Milwaukee impressions: “It’s nice. I enjoy driving it. On our own, it’s one thing, but in traffic I expect it’s something else. It seems quite tricky to pass, so trying to learn the race craft and the line is going to be a big thing come the race weekend.”

Wisconsin is the only state on the Indy NXT calendar the series visits twice, so Chadwick has a unique opportunity to score both wins later this year.

“That’s the thing, maybe this is my state. We’ll see,” she laughed. “We’ve got to work on the ovals. Testing is going OK today, but it’s something not something I’m as familiar with as the road courses, so that’s the focus now.”

The Newest Indy NXT Driver Makes Her Series Debut

Chadwick and Lindsay Brewer were joined today by Taylor Ferns as the third female driver in Indy NXT. The short-track, sprint car star who’s spent most of her career in USAC made her first laps in an Indy NXT car. There was a marginal setback in the afternoon session when she made light contact in Turn 2 with her right front, but the Abel Motorsports crew repaired her No. 55 Dallara in time to go back out and get more running in later in the afternoon. Her spotter this test was Jacob Wilson, who has extensive sprint car and Silver Crown driving experience himself and made two Indy NXT starts at Kentucky and Las Vegas in 2011 for Belardi Auto Racing.

Ferns is a metro Detroit native who will run the four oval race weekends left this season. She’ll debut at Iowa with additional starts at Gateway, Milwaukee and Nashville.

“This is my literally my first time in the car, my first time in a formula car outside of Skip Barber racing school. A lot different than my 900-plus horsepower sprint car,” said Ferns, who got to meet Chadwick in victory lane Wednesday as part of the media availability session.

“The plan was at the beginning of the day or the week to build up to it. Rome wasn’t built in a day. As much as I’d love to go out there and ‘hot dog’ it, I’m not too familiar with these cars, I’m actually proud of my progress so far. I know there’s a ways to go. I think I ran the most laps that session (127 laps). So I had the oldest tires and I ran pretty consistent times.

“There’s still some things I need to work on to pick up some speed. When I’m confident in the place we’re at and put on some stickers, I think we’ll keep building on that.”

The Will Power Protégé, Myles Rowe, Reflects on Willy P and Milwaukee

Myles Rowe was effusive in his praise of the Milwaukee Mile. (Photo by Chris Jones | IMS Photo)

Myles Rowe, driver of the No. 99 HMD Motorsports with Force Indy Dallara, was positively beaming when he arrived at the media bullpen on Wednesday. The Milwaukee Mile marked his second oval he’s driven in his run up the North American open-wheel ladder, with Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park (IRP) the only other one. That made Rowe more effusive than most in talking about the Milwaukee track.

“It’s really good. It’s really fun. I love it! (I like it) so much more than IRP. I’m having a blast. IRP was only a good time when you were racing. It’s my first time on a normal oval. IRP is its own dynamic,” he said.

“So that was the thing, I thought I’d do Gateway when I came to (USF) Pro, but they took it off the calendar. So I’m looking forward to Gateway as well. IRP is the only thing I ever did.

“Here is really cool. My first time down the front and back straights, I was kind of taken away. It was so big! So much room. So that was really interesting. You can really float some speed on exit. You have a lot of room to unwind the wheel. You can open up the entries for the corners. That was really fun learning this morning.

“It was interesting. I watched a lot of IndyCar practice yesterday; they don’t open up the corners as much as we do.  Some of them open it up more than others, naturally, but you have a lot of room with the NXT car on this track. When I thought I opened up really wide, I realize I have another car length, two car lengths more because of the different car. Seeing that with (Rasmussen) and everything was really good.”

Rowe, who’s also counted Will Power as a mentor and guide throughout his career, was also thrilled to see Power’s win Sunday at Road America to help make up for what had been a tough Indy NXT race of his own. He also called out how special of people Will and wife Liz are.

“Super cool! It’s really cool with the whole Penske guys up there. That’s super inspiring to me and hopefully that’s me one day,” Rowe told TSO.

“Yeah man he’s been a big help to my career. Him and his wife Liz. I appreciate them and I’m so grateful for them. They really help me avoid all the bad things and stay focused on the people really important to get me where I need to be.

“We are (in touch) every year. Not every week, but we talk when it’s necessary. He’s always more than willing to give a word and he welcomes me calling him as well.”

The Leftover Notes That Didn’t Merit their Own Breakout

  • Quietly, the entry list for this test dropped from 21 down to 20 with the absence of Michael d’Orlando’s second Andretti Cape INDY NXT car. TSO understands that d’Orlando’s participation absence may extend further past this test.
  • The other car that dropped off the entry list, the No. 33 HMD Motorsports Dallara previously driven by Niels Koolen, will be back in action at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course at least. But it’ll be with a different driver. Jagger Jones, who just completed a weekend sweep of two wins in IMSA VP Racing Challenge LMP3 competition at Mid-Ohio to honor recently deceased grandfather Parnelli, will return to action in Indy NXT at Mid-Ohio with support from Adriel, a foster care organization based in Ohio. Koolen’s status for the rest of the season is unknown.
  • Juncos Hollinger Racing team co-owner and founder Ricardo Juncos was in attendance at today’s test. Rasmus Lindh was also on-site to help support rookies Lindsay Brewer and Ricardo Escotto, who got up to speed fairly well throughout the day.
  • Juncos did not have any updates regarding the status of the No. 78 JHR Chevrolet IndyCar when we spoke to him other than to say “something was coming out today,” and as of 5:30 p.m. CT and local time it had – Agustin Canapino is set to return to action, per this exclusive Q&A with JHR other co-owner Brad Hollinger done by writer Joey Barnes.
  • We caught up with a pair of USF Pro 2000 championship contenders hanging out at the track today, Turn 3 Motorsport team owner Peter Dempsey and Pabst Racing driver Jace Denmark. Both are good dudes. Dempsey was coming off the high of a USF Pro 2000 weekend sweep at Turn 3’s de facto home race – they’re from the Chicago metro area – from driver Lochie Hughes that has propelled him to a 50-point lead over Denmark. Denmark, smartly, took the opportunity to come up from Indianapolis and spend time in the Milwaukee area post-Road America to show his face at track and meet folks on otherwise quiet days. If all goes to plan, Hughes and Denmark will both be Indy NXT rookies in 2025, as they will vie for the USF Pro 2000 championship over the three remaining doubleheader race weekends at Mid-Ohio, Toronto and Portland.