Louis Foster, who finished fourth in this year’s INDY NXT by Firestone standings, is considering his racing options for the 2024 season – either a second year in this series or advancement to the NTT INDYCAR SERIES.
Regardless of the path offered, the 20-year-old Englishman feels prepared for what’s ahead following last week’s test with Andretti Global at Road America.
“I honestly felt very comfortable with the jump,” Foster said of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES test on the permanent road course in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. “I think me and my (advisors) have done a really good job over my junior career preparing me for when I do jump into an Indy car. We did a year in Euroformula in 2021 with the sole purpose of preparing for INDYCAR so the downforce (increase) wouldn’t be a surprise to me, and it wasn’t.
“It felt very natural to drive, and I felt very comfortable from the get-go.”
Usually, drivers testing a new car find their best speed later in the day due to the value of experience, but Foster ran his quickest lap early in the running. He took that as confirmation he is ready to advance to North America’s top open-wheel category.
While Foster is chasing an NTT INDYCAR SERIES ride for next season – and there are still a few seats to be solidified – he said returning to Michael Andretti’s organization would provide an excellent opportunity to compete for the INDY NXT by Firestone championship.
Foster finished the recently completed season with a pair of race wins and four poles, and he was as quick as series champion Christian Rasmussen, who drove for HMD Motorsports with DCR. Rasmussen scored an additional pole, although two of his poles came when owner points were used to determine the grid after rain. But their qualifying averages were nearly identical. Rasmussen, in his second season in the series, led all drivers with a 3.14 starting position; Foster’s was 3.29. Foster also never qualified lower than sixth; Rasmussen had a seventh and a ninth.
Foster said he could gain more race experience by returning to INDY NXT by Firestone, but he feels his speed in qualifying is sufficient for the next level.
“Of course, there’s always more things to learn … and the majority of those things are about the American racing side of things, if that makes sense,” he said. “Do I think I’m going to get faster pace-wise? Not particularly, because I think I’m already at the top level that I can be.
“So, I don’t think my pace is going to be insanely better because it’s already at its limit, but with experience I can probably make better decisions and just be a more mature, well-rounded driver with the second year (in the series).”
Foster finished only five points out of third place in this year’s standings, which frustrated him because he was taken out of events early in the first races in Detroit and at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. In Detroit, he got hit from behind as the pole sitter approaching the race’s first corner, and the early exit prevented him from gathering experience on the new downtown street circuit. But he battled back to finish third in Race 2. At Laguna Seca, he took side contact in Turn 6, and his car veered into the gravel and hit the tire barrier.
Foster scored the minimum number of points in those two races, a contributing factor in why he failed to finish in the top three of a series championship for a sixth consecutive year. That streak included the Indy Pro 2000 championship in 2022.
“Like any racing season, there were positives and negatives, but I think there were a lot more positives than negatives,” he said. “I think it was a very good learning experience for myself.
“I think we definitely had the speed to win the championship, but maybe not the experience or the luck. That’s maybe my best analysis of it.”