INDY NXT by Firestone at Road America

The annual INDY NXT by Firestone Content Day took place Friday, Jan. 13 at INDYCAR headquarters in Indianapolis, and one of the main talking points among drivers and team officials was an increase to the prize fund and other perks in the series starting this season.

INDYCAR hiked the awards based on feedback from teams after the 2022 season, as the developmental series for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES is expected to see 19 entries in 2023, the most since 2009.

Highlights of the new package:

  • Total prizes are being increased to $1.4 million.
  • The series champion will receive $850,000, an increase of $350,000, to be applied to an oval test at Texas Motor Speedway, the IMS Open Test/Rookie Orientation Program, the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge and an additional 2024 NTT INDYCAR SERIES event. The series champion also will receive an additional NTT INDYCAR SERIES test on the IMS road course.
  • Year-end awards have been increased for second place ($125,000) and third place ($65,000).
  • The championship team will receive a prize, $35,000, for the first time.
  • Awards for each race in the 2023 season will be $15,000 for the winner, $5,000 for second place and $2,500 for third place.

Other notes from Content Day:

  • The INDY NXT championship contenders are still to be sorted on track, but Andretti Autosport driver Hunter McElrea said there’s a clear winner among the combatants in the game of golf. He insists he is the best of the group. “They all (stink),” he said. The other series driver with some golf game: three-time W Series champion Jamie Chadwick of Andretti Autosport, who professed a mid-20s handicap. McElrea estimated his at 20.
  • McElrea said a trip home to New Zealand over the holidays was a perfect reset because it gave him perspective on how far he’s come with his career. The Andretti Autosport driver also admitted to spending too much time last year trying to prove himself. “Now I’m a lot less worried about what everyone else is doing,” he said.
  • Chadwick, who is from England, has only spent a handful of days in the U.S., and she said one of the most surprising things about this country is the number of fast-food restaurants, particularly McDonald’s.
  • Rasmus Lindh, driver of the No. 10 HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing entry, made a unique impression by sharing a prank he played on fellow Swede and Arrow McLaren Racing’s Felix Rosenqvist. Lindh, with the aid of his father, went to Rosenqvist’s apartment complex and removed the tires from his car and left it on jackstands, with no tools to fix the issue.
  • If anyone needs a wedding photographer, look no further than Josh Green. The driver of the No. 3 HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing entry made it a side hustle back when he was 14 and 15 years old. Although that may have been roughly five years ago, he still remains passionate about photography and usually has a 35mm camera with him at all times.
  • Christian Bogle considers himself “a big LEGO guy,” a hobby he shares with his sister. Most recently, he built a 4-foot Saturn V rocket and has the Eiffel Tower and a McLaren F1 car to build. “I’ve got some work to do,” he said, laughing.
  • Louis Foster and Reece Gold finished first and second in last year’s Indy Pro 2000 championship, respectively, and they both have moved up to INDY NXT for 2023. Foster is driving for Andretti Autosport, with Gold joining Juncos Hollinger Racing. But Gold said it’s interesting that in spite of last year’s points battle, he and Foster very seldom raced each other on the track. The first time was a side-by-side battle for a couple of laps at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park, and then at the start of the races at Portland International Raceway.
  • This might be a new group of INDY NXT drivers, but Gold noted that most of the drivers have raced against each other in previous categories. “It’s nice to know who you’re racing against,” he said.
  • Colin Kaminsky, who officially is an “aspiring INDY NXT driver” since he has not yet been confirmed to a team, is the only series driver who owns a karting track. Kaminsky founded Kaminsky Park, dubbed a “high-speed” outdoor track, measuring about a half-mile, that will officially open this spring in Monticello, Indiana. He and his father, Bob, have done most of the work.
  • Kaminsky is eager to cross-promote with the Indy Fuel, the Indianapolis minor league hockey team, because he was a goalie growing up, knows the position and believes he can still hold his own in the net. In fact, he wants to try defending against the Fuel, a team affiliated with the Chicago Blackhawks, Kaminsky’s favorite team.
  • Most of the INDY NXT field will test Jan. 23 at the Homestead-Miami Speedway road course.
  • New Juncos Hollinger Racing driver Matteo Nannini said the surprising thing about driving in the U.S. is that more people recognize his profession as a job. That’s interesting given that Nannini grew up – and still lives – in the part of Central Italy known as Motor Valley. Nannini said the other difference in the U.S. is that the McDonald’s here has better food than its counterpart in his hometown, which has much fewer customers per day. “Here there are hundreds of cars that go through the drive-thru (each day), so the food is fresher,” he said.
  • Nannini’s father, Eddy, was a Formula One engineer for Minardi, among other teams. Eddy’s first cousin is Alessandro Nannini, who drove in F1 until 1990 when nearly lost his hand in a helicopter crash.
  • Jagger Jones, an INDY NXT driver for Cape Motorsports, is on pace to graduate in December from High Point (North Carolina) University as a business and finance major. He said he will be the first member of the racing side of his family to graduate from college.
  • This might be a first for this level of racing: Jones is coming off service as vice president of his fraternity, Kappa Sigma. Little known fact: Phil Hill, the 1961 F1 champion, was a Kappa Sig at the University of Southern California.