Jacob Abel

Jacob Abel again showed why he’s a title contender this season in INDY NXT by Firestone, leading the opening practice for the Music City Grand Prix in mixed conditions Friday on the street circuit in downtown Nashville.

Abel, from Louisville, Kentucky, was quickest in the 45-minute session at 1 minute, 22.6592 seconds in the No. 51 Abel Motorsports car. Abel has been one of the breakthrough drivers this season in INDYCAR’s development series, climbing to third in the championship, 43 points behind leader Christian Rasmussen.

SEE: Practice Results

Drivers were forced to dig deep into their bag of skills during this session. Rain shortly before practice forced drivers to start on Firestone rain tires, with drivers switching to Firestone slicks as the damp, bumpy track dried.

“Really interesting conditions all session,” Abel said. “We got full wet, basically, and then drying and then full dry there at the end. We got to experience the track in all different kinds of states, so some good knowledge for the rest of the weekend.”

Abel will try to earn his first career INDY NXT by Firestone victory in the 35-lap race at 10:10 a.m. ET Sunday (live, Peacock, INDYCAR Radio Network). Up next is another practice at 10:35 a.m. ET Saturday, followed by qualifying at 2:05 p.m. (both live on INDYCAR LIVE, INDYCAR Radio Network) on the 11-turn, 2.1-mile temporary circuit that includes two crossings of the Korean War Veterans Memorial Bridge per lap.

Irish driver James Roe ended up second at 1:22.9877 in the No. 29 Topcon car fielded by Andretti Autosport, but his session had a costly end. Roe hit the concrete barrier in Turn 8 on his last lap, inflicting heavy damage to the left front of the car. Roe was unhurt.

Ernie Francis Jr. finished a strong session third at 1:23.0896 in the No. 99 HMD Motorsports with Force Indy car, with Hunter McElrea fourth at 1:23.1181 in the No. 27 Smart Motors car fielded by Andretti Autosport.

Kyffin Simpson rounded out the top five at 1:23.1214 in the No. 21 HMD Motorsports with CGR car. Championship leader Rasmussen was sixth at 1:23.2336 in the No. 6 HMD Motorsports with DCR machine.

Roe wasn’t the only driver caught by the unforgiving concrete retaining walls of the circuit. Rookie Nolan Siegel, second in points, hit the barrier in Turn 3 approaching the bridge with about eight minutes left in the session. Siegel was unhurt, but his No. 39 HMD Motorsports with DCR car suffered heavy left-front damage.