The pass for the lead was bold and risky amid a track getting wetter by the lap, but INDY NXT by Firestone rookie Louis Foster knew he had to make it.
Foster locked up his right front tire in the bid to overtake race leader Christian Rasmussen approaching Turn 4 late in the INDY NXT by Firestone Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio, and he made it stick. Foster then had to hold off a couple of challenges in the four-lap shootout that followed to win his first series race.
SEE: Race Results
Driving the No. 26 Copart/USF Pro Championship entry of Andretti Autosport, Foster became the sixth driver in the season’s first seven races to reach victory lane.
“It’s been a long time coming, for sure,” Foster said of his first series win. “I’m so thankful to get it finally.”
Of the pass on Rasmussen, the 19-year-old English driver said the increased dampness was a factor.
“I think it was starting to rain a little bit or something,” he said. “It was slicker in the back (part of the track). That made Christian make a mistake and then (the hard braking approaching Turn 4) destroyed my front right (tire). Going down the straights and (the car) was shaking.”
Kyffin Simpson finished second with Rasmussen third as HMD Motorsports took the other steps on the podium. Simpson’s No. 21 program is backed by Chip Ganassi Racing, Rasmussen’s No. 6 car is connected to Dale Coyne Racing.
Rasmussen started on the pole and led the first 26 laps of the 35-lap race, but falling to third cost him a chance to draw even closer to Nolan Siegel for the series lead as the season reached its halfway point. Siegel, the winner of the past two races, was running fifth with eight laps to go when he couldn’t keep his No. 39 HMD Motorsports entry on the track in Turn 10. After a long slide through the wet grass, Siegel’s car was stuck and the necessary extraction cost him a lap to the field. He finished 15th of the 17 competitors.
The result of the late incidents helped Rasmussen close to within 17 points of Siegel. Hunter McElrea (No. 26 Smart Motors) finished fourth, and he is now only 39 points out of the series lead. Foster’s victory allowed him to jump to the fourth position in the standings, 42 points behind Siegel.
Rasmussen, who won at Barber Motorsports Park in the season’s second race, couldn’t help but think he should be even closer to the series lead.
“Obviously, not the (finish) that we wanted today,” he said. “It was tricky with the conditions – it was dry and then there was rain and then there was dry. When the rain first came it felt like the car never really came back to me. We were sitting pretty good (prior to that) with a good gap and then the rain came.”
The race started amid dry conditions, but there was contact in Turn 4 just past the backstretch starting line. Contact between the cars of James Roe (No. 29 Topcon of Andretti Autosport) and Danial Frost sent Frost’s No. 68 HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing machine into a full spin. Frost was able to resume without assistance.
On Lap 6, Christian Bogle spun into the gravel trap at the exit of Turn 2. With the No. 7 HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing entry beached, a full-course caution period was necessitated. No such stoppage was needed when Matteo Nannini, who won the series race on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in May in the No. 75 Juncos Hollinger Racing machine, pulled off the track at the exit of Turn 5 on Lap 17. The other incident involved Jagger Jones going off course in Turn 10 in the No. 98 Lead Sled car of Cape Motorsports. Jones was able to return to the track without assistance.
Jamie Chadwick finished 10th in the No. 28 DHL entry of Andretti Autosport to become the first female driver in INDY NXT to finish in the top 10 since Pippa Mann finished fifth in the final race of the 2010 season at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
The series’ next race, the eighth of 14 this season, is the INDY NXT by Firestone at Iowa Speedway on July 22 (11 a.m. ET, Peacock, INDYCAR LIVE, INDYCAR Radio Network).