Nolan Siegel was left coping with a second runner-up finish in as many races this season in INDY NXT by Firestone on April 30 at Barber Motorsports Park.
Siegel, an 18-year-old series rookie from California, started second in the No. 39 HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing entry, directly alongside teammate and pole sitter Christian Rasmussen. Although Siegel never fell below where he started throughout the 35-lap race, he also couldn’t put together a proper run to challenge for the top spot, even with restarts on Lap 18 and Lap 31 on the 2.3-mile, 17-turn natural terrain road course. He crossed the finish line 1.9983 seconds behind Rasmussen, who led every lap and coasted to a third career win.
“I was trying as hard as I could to attack Christian, but the start of the lap is all fast corners where it's really difficult to follow,” Siegel said. “So, I think given that we're both in the same car, we're in fast cars, in every session we've been super close to each other lap time-wise, so it's pretty difficult to get a run here with the aero wash. I tried everything I could, but ultimately, I think that's just kind of the way it goes here at Barber. It's pretty rare that the pole sitter doesn't get a good launch and doesn't pull away here.”
The latest outing likely hurts less than the one Siegel endured in early March during the opening round on the Streets of St. Petersburg, Florida. He went from third to first with a strong move entering Turn 1 with six laps to go but lost the lead after making a mistake in the same corner just four laps later. He was left with a front-row seat watching another teammate, Danial Frost, take the win.
While the established pace through the opening two rounds pleases Siegel, there is also some frustration in letting two potential victories slip through his driving gloves.
“It's a little mix of both,” he said. “I think coming into my rookie season, starting the year off with two podium finishes is really solid and on paper is a fantastic start. After St. Pete, I was really, really close to the win there, and it didn't quite go my way, but to come finish second here again is great. It's a great result. It keeps me in the championship fight. We're happy, but definitely want that win.”
Siegel sits second in the championship, five points behind Rasmussen (86-81).
The fact Siegel is building these types of performances as a rookie in the developmental category for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES is encouraging for what lies ahead. He only made one INDY NXT appearance before this season, during last year’s doubleheader season finale at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca where he scored a pair of top 10s (10th in Race 1; ninth in Race 2). Before that, he spent the majority of last year racing in USF Pro 2000, scoring two wins and six podiums in 18 races to place fourth in the title bout.
It is still very early days in adapting to the jump into INDY NXT.
“I'm learning every weekend in a new series, so I think we're going to get better and better from here,” Siegel said. “Honestly, not super concerned with the championship right now. It's so early on that I'm just looking to keep this kind of podium streak up and do as well as I can. I'm looking to beat Christian; I'm looking to beat everyone. But I'm just focused on doing the best I can and keeping the results consistent.”
The next race is the INDY NXT by Firestone Grand Prix on Saturday, May 13 on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. Live coverage starts at 1 p.m. ET on Peacock, INDYCAR LIVE and the INDYCAR Radio Network.