Josh Pierson

INDY NXT by Firestone serves as a development series leading into the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, a place where young talent can grow. And none of the drivers during the 2024 season is as young as 18-year-old Josh Pierson.

Ed Carpenter Racing development driver Pierson competes for HMD Motorsports in INDY NXT by Firestone. This is his second season in INDY NXT, as he debuted in a partial season last year with HMD in between sports car racing commitments in the FIA World Endurance Championship.

If you gave most 18-year-olds an opportunity to be one step below a professional sporting league like the NBA, NFL, NHL or MLB, a touch of youthful arrogance could creep in.

Pierson is the opposite. He’s in no rush, and he has a level-headed approach that belies his young age. That’s why Pierson’s 13th-place finish in the season-opening Grand Prix of St. Petersburg isn’t detrimental to his growth. He is cognizant his youth gives him time to take the necessary steps, no matter how long it takes, to reach the pinnacle of major open-wheel racing.

“I want to go to (the) INDYCAR SERIES,” Pierson said. “It's been my dream since I was very little. It's something that I'm excited about. I want to go there. I want to improve, but I think that for me, I haven't really struggled with understanding that you have to build your way there. You can't just jump in and be immediately good. And I haven't been racing cars all that long.

“I'm very young. I understand that there's lots to improve and lots to build upon. So right now, it's more about focusing on what I'm doing and focusing on myself and I know that as long as I'm improving and as long as I'm making the necessary steps, then I can find a future in INDYCAR eventually. I've got time. Let's make sure that when I'm going to go that I'm ready.”

That maturity beyond his years is something Pierson attributes to situations that he was put in as a child.

His father, a successful businessman, was bold enough to let his young son travel by himself as a 9- and 10-year-old child. The younger Pierson was forced to grow up fast. At times, he spoke at conferences in front of a large audiences.

“I became very comfortable with public speaking very comfortable being in front of important figures,” Pierson said. “That, I think, is part of it. You have to mature a little bit quicker. I think I had to learn and adapt quicker and I was just in a unique situation, unique environment.”

Public speaking is something that raises the blood pressure of most humans. It came naturally to Pierson.

“I never was nervous for school projects or presentations,” Pierson said. “That was never my concern. And even now, I've been speaking in front of people. I really kind of enjoy this thing. This is where I'm comfortable and I'm happy in these situations.”

Pierson said his natural aptitude for public speaking has helped him find success inside of a race car.

When driving, he said he must compartmentalize a lot of information at a quick rate. Everything is going so fast, so a driver must slow their brain to retain the influx of information.

“You need to be able to take in the information you need to be able to get it fast and efficiently,” Pierson said. “And I think that maybe the public speaking helps me have a little bit more awareness of what's going on and be able to kind of block out the other things and just focus what's the car doing. What does it feel like? How can I approach this corner?”

The 2024 INDY NXT by Firestone season resumes Sunday, April 28 at Barber Motorsports Park (11:05 a.m. ET, Peacock, INDYCAR Radio Network).