James Roe

James Roe has been steadily rising into a contender for victory in INDY NXT by Firestone.

The 24-year-old Irishman is riding a wave of momentum after a late charge ended with a career-best runner-up result Aug. 11 on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

Driving Andretti Autosport’s No. 29 Topcon entry, Roe fell one spot from a second-place start of the 35-lap race, opting to manage tires and his push-to-pass while following teammates Hunter McElrea and Louis Foster. Although the gap grew to nearly eight seconds with 14 laps to go, contact between the frontrunners just six laps later saw the eventual retirement of Foster, which elevated Roe to second.

Then, Roe began to reap the benefits of his early-race equipment management and reeled in McElrea. The gap that was 6.2 seconds when his teammates tangled dropped to under one second with two laps to go around the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course.

Despite the intense pursuit and multiple attempts to take the lead, Roe finished .4370 of a second behind McElrea for his first career podium finish in INDY NXT by Firestone.

“Yeah, it was pretty close,” Roe said. “I basically settled in at the start and didn't use push-to-pass for about 20 laps. When Foster got by me, I knew he was very quick. He was more trimmed than both Hunter and I. That's the beauty of being teammates. You know what your guys are running, so I knew he'd reel Hunter in, sat back there, but there was actually quite a bit of deg (tire degradation on Friday) in the tires.

“So, by the time I got to use the push-to-pass that I'd saved, I crossed over that cliff on the tire – the tire life – and just didn't have it. So, the run that I got on McElrea, I got a terrible exit out of the previous corner, and that's basically down to the deg that we had. The Topcon car was very fast today.”

Roe became the first driver from Ireland to stand on the INDY NXT by Firestone podium since Aug. 4, 2013, when Peter Dempsey finished second at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The result continues a stellar run of form for Roe, in his first full-time season in the developmental category for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. He finished fourth at the previous round on the streets of Nashville. Additionally, he qualified fourth and finished ninth last month at Iowa Speedway.

“Our team is just phenomenal,” Roe said. “When it comes to work, no matter how good or bad a weekend we have, it's the exact same when we go back into the shop on Monday morning. The boys just keep working and working.

“A very good bond with him (points to Hunter McElrea). We work closely together, and bounce ideas off each other. Even with Jamie (Chadwick) and Louis (Foster) and the team, it's a very tight-knit group, a great group of engineers, and whatever we want, we get. That's why we're on this charge now. I'm looking forward to the back half of the year.”

Where it all began to click for Roe was at the opening race of the doubleheader weekend in early June on the streets in Detroit, where he was involved in an incident and lost his front wing but solidly ran sixth before fading to 10th. The situation forced him to manipulate his footwork within the cockpit, which has only evolved in the days since.

And Roe thinks these latest performances are only the beginning.

“Man, we're just starting,” Roe said. “I have not peaked yet. I'm telling you, I started to jog a few weeks ago. Like, that's where I'm at right now. We have a lot of stuff we want to do. We have a lot of plans, and the arms haven't even got swinging yet, so we're on charge.”

With just four races left this season, Roe knows exactly the impression he wants to leave in the minds of fans and rivals, too.

“Contender,” Roe said. “If we come back next year, this guy is going to be after the championship. That's what it's about. So, it's all good, man. There's a lot of good things in the works and it's exciting. I'm pumped up.”