Note: This is part of a series of INDY NXT by Firestone team previews for the 2023 season.
Starting Lineup: Louis Foster (No. 26 Copart/USF Pro Championship Scholarship Dallara), Hunter McElrea (No. 27 Smart Motors Dallara), Jamie Chadwick (No. 28 DHL Dallara), James Roe (No. 29 Topcon Dallara).
2022 in Review: The year kicked off with McElrea on pole on the Streets of St. Petersburg, Florida. However, a strong outing came undone by a mid-race crash and handed the lead to then-teammate Christian Rasmussen. Rasmussen ended up running out of fuel on the penultimate lap, which promoted Matthew Brabham to top spot and providing Andretti Autosport with the opening-round victory. Andretti Autosport wouldn’t have a driver reach the top step of the podium again until summer, with Rasmussen winning at Road America. The momentum continued with McElrea taking victory at the following two rounds, at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and Iowa Speedway. Sting Ray Robb made an effort to keep the streak going but came up short with a runner-up performance in Round 10 on the Streets of Nashville. Brabham returned Andretti Autosport to Victory Lane the following race at World Wide Technology Raceway, giving the organization a clean sweep on the ovals on the calendar. Although the team missed out on a win at Portland International Raceway in the season’s penultimate round (Brabham finished second), Andretti Autosport ended up sweeping the doubleheader finale at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, with Robb and Rasmussen each scoring respective wins. Robb’s run of consistency that spanned one win, eight podiums, two poles and four fastest laps in 14 races was enough earn runner-up honors in the championship standings. Brabham and Rookie of the Year McElrea finished third and fourth, respectively, in the overall title race. Rasmussen came away sixth.
New for ’23: McElrea is the only returning driver on the team, with three-time W Series champion Jamie Chadwick, USF Pro 2000 champion Louis Foster and James Roe making up this year’s lineup. Rasmussen opted for a switch to HMD Motorsports, while Robb made the step up to the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. Chadwick is the first full-time female competitor in the series in 13 years.
Keep an Eye on This: There are obvious expectations for McElrea in Year 2 of INDY NXT by Firestone, especially after a strong rookie campaign that featured two wins, six podiums and two poles. Both victories came from starting on pole. If the 23-year-old American-born New Zealander challenges for the title, it’ll be because of more poles and/or more calculated race craft to work through the field.
Little-Known Fact: Andretti Autosport has won three of the last four championships in INDY NXT by Firestone (Note: COVID-19 forced the cancellation of the 2020 season). Additionally, the organization has captured a total of five titles since joining the series in 2008.
Jamie Chadwick Louis Foster Hunter McElrea James Roe