Nolan Siegel

One of the most difficult things for a driver to do in racing is to recognize when a car isn’t capable of winning. For a sport that prides itself on speed and getting to the finish line first, it seems like an oxymoron to slow down to go fast.

Nolan Siegel, a driver well-versed beyond his years, has already developed a knack for recognizing this.

Siegel knows there are going to be times when other cars are better. For whatever circumstance, there are going to be race weekends when the race car isn’t good enough to reach victory lane. What separates champions of a racing series from the rest are the ones that can adjust their mindset to this and to also recognize that their race win is going to be placing the car in the finishing order where it should properly be placed.

Siegel has already figured that out.

“Winning a championship is the goal, right?” Siegel said. “But that's made up of a lot of small pieces, especially at the start of the season. I think looking at winning the championship, that's a little bit too broad as a No. 1 goal. I think going into especially the first few weekends, it just has to be maximizing the result. Some weekends, maximizing the result is winning the race and some weekends it’s not.

“For whatever reason, I'll have a weekend where I struggle or where the car struggles and the best we can do is third (place), so then I want to finish third. So I would say that my mindset is more just maximizing the result for the weekend. If I have a third-place car, I'm going to try to finish second. And if I'm in a car to win then I'm going to try to win. But yeah, I think if you can maximize the result every weekend, then that's how you get to a championship.”

There are drivers across all motorsports disciplines that never figure that aspect out. It’s difficult to. There’s a reason why most championships won are by veteran drivers. Experience matters.

Siegel admits that it’s not easy for him to do though. The temptation to push is always lurking. He says that there are many weekends that he feels like he could be better. The track might suit him, and he feels the pressure to do things beyond what the car can provide.

“I think it's hard to kind of get around that disappointment and settle for, you know, a worse result than you were hoping for but sometimes that's what you have to do,” he said.

Siegel said he has benefitted from having experienced people working around him. He singled out spotter and driver coach Charles Crews for helping him on this journey. Crews has had a vast array of experience in the sport, including spotting for Will Power.

“He has a lot of experience and has worked with a lot of really great drivers and I think he's passed on a lot of wisdom to me, Siegel said of Crews. “I've been lucky enough to have him help me kind of learn from other drivers he's worked with like will and people that are, you know, super experienced.

“I think it just comes from having the right people around you and they're able to, I think influence my mindset a lot. Especially when it's people I trust. Their input has a lot of weight.”

Another part of this equation is the fact that Siegel raced a lot of types of cars in 2023 – seven to be exact. There’s a lot of information he took from each of those teams that can help him on his race craft too.

“For one thing, I had great teammates, which is always a big thing because you know, it's not necessarily anything specific driving wise, but just watch in their natural habitat is a big learning experience for me and then from the engineering side as well,” he said. “I got to work with (veteran sports car engineer) Jeff Braun, Colin’s dad, he was engineering the car. So yeah, there were a lot of people that just have a ton of experience and pass on a lot of information. Even if they weren't trying to pass down that information, just being able to watch them and work with them was really helpful.”

That knowledge Siegel hopes will help him improve upon his third-place standing as an INDY NXT by Firestone rookie in 2023 to a champion in 2024. He has the same team back from his two-win, five podium and reigning Rookie of the Year for next season. With the top two drivers in points having moved on, the title could be his to lose.

Siegel embraces that role as a top championship contender and hopes to capitalize on the experience he learned in 2023 as he applies it in 2024.

“Yeah, I think for me a big focus for myself and kind of my group last year was race pace, and I think that was our biggest strength for sure,” he said. “It was, you know, all the races that I won or was on the podium and I you know, I think I won from like sixth than fifth or something. So the race pace was definitely stronger than the qualifying pace and I think some of that has to do with again, just being a rookie, it's harder to go out and maximize one lap when you know these other guys just have more experience in the car and are able to get more out of it over that one qualifying lap but my focus for the coming year is qualifying pace. And trying to start a little further up the grid because it just makes the job easier.

“So, if we can keep the kind of race management as a strength you know, push to pass management, tire management and just keep the race pace up. It'll be a lot easier if I can fix my qualifying and start, you know, on pole instead of fourth or whatever else on back.

“I think if you told me before the season, how it would end up I'd be extremely happy. I think it's easy to be disappointed with it because I feel like at the start of the season it was looking like it could have been better. But overall, I think third and Rookie of the Year was super strong. So, you know, looking for more in 2024.

"But overall, I'm happy with how 2023 went.”