Nolan Allaer is making the challenging leap from SCCA and Formula Ford to INDY NXT by Firestone in 2024 with HMD Motorsports. It’s a daunting, ambitious task to step from the lower junior formula ranks to one step below the NTT INDYCAR SERIES.
If anyone has the poise needed in this process, it’s Allaer. This feat has nothing on his journey to INDY NXT.
Allaer has a rich family bloodline in racing. His father, Robert, is a two-time SCCA National Championship Runoffs champion. His uncle, J. Lewis Cooper III, is also a Formula F SCCA National Champion. His grandfather also raced in SCCA.
Allaer, 21, initially followed in their footsteps when he started karting at age 8. But those racing days didn’t last long.
“I was not having a good time in karting,” Allaer said. “My dad was my engineer, my mechanic, my crew chief, my coach, all the above. It was just me and him in karting, and it was a lot of pressure.”
At that time, his dream was to play collegiate hockey and advance to the NHL. With the fun meter not being pegged behind the wheel, he quit racing in 2011 and transitioned to a life consumed by hockey.
For the next nine years, while his family still raced, Allaer’s focus was on the ice.
By 2020, he was graduating from high school, but his hockey days were nearing an end. He took up iRacing for fun with the plan to go to college at Miami (Ohio) University to study mechanical engineering.
Before he left for college, Allaer’s family gave him a sentimental graduation gift. He drove his father’s race car at an SCCA driver school in Waterford Hills, Michigan.
It was a one-time deal. He would be able to get an SCCA license, but the plan was never to use it. Little did his family know, this test would spark an interest for a second racing stanza.
With a second chance, Allaer’s natural ability in a race car shined.
“My first time in the car I was two-tenths off of my father's track record there at Waterford,” he said. “My dad was like, ‘OK, well, maybe we do one SCCA regional.’ And that went well. And then it was like, ‘OK, maybe we do another SCCA regional.’”
That led to a SCCA National Championship Series seat in 2021. Even so, Allaer wasn’t giving up on school. He was able to complete online classes but still race.
In 2022, Allaer won the SCCA Runoffs Formula Continental class – in his father’s car. It’s a testament on how close their bond grew from a tense past in this profession.
“At the end of at the end of the week of testing, my dad said, ‘You know what, why don't you take my car out for a spin and see if it's any better, and you decide,’” Allaer said. “Of course, being my dad, (he) wanted to give me the best chance possible (to) succeed. He did not need to do that, but I end up going faster in his car, and we made the decision as a team that I drive his car.”
This was the exact car Allaer cleaned as a kid. He watched his dad race the No. 52, and Nolan took over the keys and created his identity by changing the number to 11.
A year later, Allaer backed that up his SCCA title with a second consecutive victory, this time beating his father head-to-head in a 1-2 result.
“It's become just our absolute passion,” Allaer said of racing. “There’s nothing we love more. So, it's really nice to have that connection with my grandfather and my uncle, my dad, to always be able to have something to relate to them. They understand everything I'm going through, and they can put their opinions and their input on it in a very educated sense.”
That same weekend, Allaer entered the Formula Ford race with a Ford engine. Even with the name Ford in the series name, there are other engine manufacturers in the championship.
That car was his uncle’s exact ride in which he won his first championship in 2011.
“He’d been all Honda since then, so to do it in the same chassis with the same engine that he wanted in it's just so incredible,” Allaer said.
That success led him to a career path crossroads. They elected to skip the USF2000 and USF Pro 2000 series and head straight to INDY NXT by Firestone.
This season Allaer will transition into a car that no one in his family has driven. HMD Motorsports will field the No. 11 entry for Allaer, who’ll begin the next chapter of this path March 10 during the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding race weekend.