WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca

The championship pursuit in INDY NXT by Firestone heats up heading into the Grand Prix of Monterey doubleheader June 22-23. Second-place driver Louis Foster chopped 39 points off the commanding lead Jacob Abel stormed to and enters this weekend’s doubleheader at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna just 19 points behind.

Can Abel emerge with the points lead intact following two races in as many days this weekend?

SEE: Race Details

Here are some storylines entering the weekend.

Abel vs. Foster

Entering the Month of May, the question was whether the 2024 INDY NXT by Firestone championship was a heavyweight clash between Abel and second-year driver Nolan Siegel. The two traded knockout blows, with Siegel leading every lap from the pole in the season opener on the streets of St. Petersburg while Abel returned serve accomplishing the same feats at Barber Motorsports Park.

Foster forced his way into the mix while Siegel departs the conversation, announcing Tuesday he will forego the rest of the 2024 INDY NXT by Firestone season and compete in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES driving the No. 6 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet for the final 10 races and beyond. Christian Brooks, a race winner in the USF Pro 2000 Championship, will replace Siegel for the remainder of the year in the No. 39 HMD Motorsports entry.

With Abel having an average finishing position of 3.33 in the last three races, Foster has an average finish of 1.33, with two wins (Indianapolis Motor Speedway Race 2, Detroit) and a runner-up at Road America in the same span.

WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca is next, and the pair was near each other in both races last year – Abel finished 14th and fifth, respectively, and Foster 18th and third.

“Obviously, this is a pivotal weekend, with two races,” Abel said. “But we did pretty well at the last doubleheader (on the road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where Abel earned a victory and a second-place finish to take the points lead).

“We’ve always been strong at Laguna, so we hope that continues, though hopefully without some of the bad luck we had last year. We tested there back in January, and the car was quick. Like Road America, Laguna was repaved last year, and we seem to be good at the high-grip, new surface tracks, it suits my driving style.”

Abel vs. Foster is shaping up to be the new rivalry for the 2024 championship.

Chadwick Seeks Two Straight

In the last series race, June 9 at Road America, Jamie Chadwick led all 20 laps from the pole in the No. 28 VEXT car of Andretti Global to become the first female winner in INDY NXT since Pippa Mann in September 2010 at Kentucky Speedway.

Ana Beatriz is the other female winner in the series, with single victories in 2008 and 2009. Chadwick is the first female to win an INDY NXT race on a road or street course, as Beatriz and Mann won on ovals.

Can second-year INDY NXT competitor Chadwick become the first female driver to earn back-to-back wins? She expects to be a front-runner over the final eight races of the season.

“Normally, before this weekend, I felt like there was a bit of a gap to these two (Foster, Abel),” she said. “Now, we're closing that gap. We can try to always be up front as much as we can. If I can compete wheel to wheel with these guys, then I know I'm in a good place. That's all I care about.

“I feel a lot more comfortable out front than I’ve ever felt all year.”

Chadwick finished outside the top 10 in both Laguna Seca races last season but should have a much better chance at a win this weekend.

Andretti Global has five wins in the last six INDY NXT by Firestone races at Laguna Seca, from four different drivers. Can Chadwick join Kyle Kirkwood (2021 sweep), Sting Ray Robb (2022 Race 1), Christian Rasmussen (2022 Race 2) and Hunter McElrea (2023 Race 1) as Andretti victors here?

Victory Lane Reserved for Rising Talent

Since 1989, INDY NXT by Firestone has staged 25 races at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, with 20 different drivers winning. Nineteen of the 20 winners went on to compete in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES.

With victory lane reserved for the drivers en route to the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, who will emerge victorious in both races this weekend?

Weekend Sweep?

Abel and Foster traded wins in the doubleheader weekend around the 2.439-mile, 14-turn Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in May. Can anyone sweep the final doubleheader weekend of the season?

That feat occurred three times in INDY NXT by Firestone competition at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca - Spencer Pigot (2015), Rinus VeeKay (2019) and Kirkwood (2021).

The last two years, there has been three different winners in four races, with Robb and Rasmussen sharing wins in 2022 and McElrea and Rasmussen last year.

Will anyone separate themselves this weekend?

Track Specs: 2.238-mile, 11-turn road course

Qualifying Record: Christian Rasmussen, 1:11.7225 (112.333 mph), Sept. 9, 2023

Push To Pass Parameters: 150 seconds of total time with a maximum time of 15 seconds per activation