Rookie Reece Gold earned a dramatic first career victory Saturday, passing the crippled car of leader Nolan Siegel on the final straightaway with the checkered flag waving at the INDY NXT by Firestone Detroit Grand Prix.
Gold drove his No. 10 HMD Motorsports with DCR car to victory by .2974 of a second over the No. 98 Lead Sled car driven by fellow rookie Jagger Jones, grandson of 1963 Indianapolis 500 winner Parnelli Jones. Veteran Ernie Francis Jr., driving with a surgically repaired broken wrist, finished third in the No. 99 HMD Motorsports with Force Indy car, .5169 of a second behind Gold.
SEE: Race Results
“I don’t know what happened to Nolan,” Gold said. “That sucks. They ran a great race. I’m super happy to get my first win. Thank you to the team. Everyone at HMD has done an amazing job.
“Yeah, never give up. That was a crazy ending.”
All three podium finishers earned the first top-three results of their respective INDY NXT by Firestone careers. Francis became the first Haitian American driver to earn a podium finish in the INDYCAR development series.
Jacob Abel finished fourth in the No. 51 Abel Motorsports machine. Rookie Enaam Ahmed drove to a career-best finish of fifth in the No. 47 Rickshaw Rocket machine, joining his Cape Motorsports teammate Jones in the top five.
While Gold celebrated his first win, the polar opposite emotion was endured by Siegel. He led by more than five seconds on the last of the 45 laps around the nine-turn, 1.7-mile temporary street circuit when his No. 39 HMD Motorsports with DCR car slowed suddenly with two turns to go due to an apparent broken driveshaft.
Siegel guided the wounded machine through Turns 8 and 9 in the lead with the checkered flag in the air, but the podium finishers and a host of other cars passed him on the short straightaway to the flag stand. Siegel ended up eighth.
The finish was especially cruel considering the gap Siegel built after passing Gold with a classic inside-out maneuver in Turns 3 and 4 on Lap 39. Gold and Siegel went side by side into the left-hand hairpin Turn 3 at the end of the long back straightaway. Siegel was on the outside in Turn 3, giving him the preferred inside line into the right-handed Turn 4.
Siegel completed the pass and then drove away over the next six laps, adding nearly one second per lap to the gap, before calamity struck with two corners left.
Gold, who started third, and Siegel, who started fourth, became the class of the field after pole sitter Louis Foster and No. 2 starter Hunter McElrea were involved in a first-lap incident that triggered the first of the two caution periods in the race.
McElrea’s No. 27 Smart Motors car hit the rear of Andretti Autosport teammate Foster’s No. 26 Copart/USF Pro Championship machine entering Turn 3 after the green flag, spinning Foster backward into the wall and out of the race. McElrea was assessed with a stop-and-go penalty for avoidable contact and ended up finishing seventh.
From there, Gold and Siegel controlled the front of the field, with Gold leading by anywhere from one-half to one second until about 10 laps to go. Then Siegel clawed back the gap and drove right on to Gold’s gearbox before passing Gold for the lead in Turn 4 on Lap 39.
Christian Rasmussen overcame a Lap 1 pit stop to replace a damaged front wing and left-front Firestone tire on his No. 6 HMD Motorsports with DCR car and rallied to finish ninth. That was enough to keep the championship lead by 15 points over Siegel, 138-125.
Race 2 of the doubleheader is scheduled for 12:45 p.m. ET Sunday (live, Peacock and INDYCAR Radio Network).