INDY NXT by Firestone at St. Petersburg

The first green flag of the INDY NXT by Firestone season flies at 10:10 a.m. ET Sunday on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida. The ensuing 2024 season has the potential to be a 14-round heavyweight title bout.

The series returns three drivers who reached victory lane in 2023 – Nolan Siegel, Louis Foster and Reece Gold – and there figures to be several others, including returnee Jacob Abel, capable of joining them in 2024.

SEE: Spotter Guide | Weekend Schedule

A season ago, there were seven different race winners and six different pole winners. Fourteen different drivers finished on the podium. That’s double the amount of podium finishers from 2022, when there were just seven. Also, 17 different drivers scored a top-five finish after just 10 did so in 2022.

With more drivers mixing it up, the number of on-track passes increased to 1,226 in 14 races, 651 more (113 percent increase) than 2022. The average number of lead changes per event increased 25 percent, from nine to 12, and the average margin of victory was tighter in 2023 by just over a half-second (2.59 seconds vs. 3.13 seconds).

Can the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg keep the momentum rolling?

Andretti Global’s Turn?

Andretti Global and its alliance team, Andretti Cape INDY NXT, make up six cars on the grid this weekend at St. Petersburg. Those two organizations, combined with HMD Motorsports, comprise 76.1 percent of the field (16 of 21). There’s a good chance one of these drivers celebrates a season-opening victory Sunday morning.

Andretti Global and HMD Motorsports have combined to win four consecutive races around the 1.8-mile street circuit. Trends signify Sunday’s 45-lap affair favors Andretti Global.

Kyle Kirkwood (Andretti Global) and David Malukas (HMD Motorsports) won the doubleheader weekend, respectively, in 2021. Andretti Global’s Matthew Brabham won the single race in 2022 while Danial Frost (HMD Motorsports) won last year.

That bodes well for Foster, Bryce Aron, Jamie Chadwick or James Roe of Andretti Global and Salvador de Alba Jr. or Michael d’Orlando of Andretti Cape INDY NXT this weekend.

Foster won last year’s pole but finished 14th after clipping the wall and fading down the running order. Chadwick (13th place) and Roe (17th place) also had disappointing days. Hunter McElrea was Andretti’s best finisher, in fifth.

Andretti veterans Foster, Chadwick and Roe each see the 2024 season as a pivotal one of their respective careers. The sophomore season in the series has paid dividends with each of the last two champions being in their second full-time season. Each was with HMD Motorsports, though.

If HMD was to go back-to-back in St. Petersburg, it has a pair of quality drivers to do so.

Siegel, the top returning point scorer in the series who returns the same personnel in 2024, was runner-up on the streets of St. Petersburg last season. Gold, another sophomore driver for HMD, finished eighth in his INDY NXT debut, but he won last June on the street circuit in the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix.

Abel’s Progression

Abel is on the cusp of a breakthrough victory. He’s improved every year but has yet to find victory lane in USF2000, Indy Pro 2000 or INDY NXT by Firestone.

The streets of St. Petersburg could be the spot. A third-place finish in last year’s race was one of four podium finishes in 2023. With two runner-up results (Road America, Iowa Speedway), he’s due for the breakout victory.


There are some notable rookies that could earn some hardware Sunday.

Myles Rowe (HMD Motorsports with Force Indy) will be an interesting story to watch this season. Driving for Pabst Racing with Force Indy, Rowe won the USF Pro 2000 championship in 2023 with five victories a year after finishing second in USF2000 – again with five wins.

Now, Rowe graduates to INDY NXT by Firestone as he tries to become the first full-time African American driver in the INDYCAR SERIES since 2002. He’s won each of the last two years on this 1.8-mile track, victorious in the second race of both the 2022 USF2000 championship and 2023 USF Pro 2000 championship.

His Brazilian rookie teammate, Caio Collet, could turn some heads this weekend, too. He drove an INDY NXT car for the first time last October with HMD Motorsports at the Chris Griffis Memorial Test on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. He ended up fifth quickest overall. Collet found more pace in a test in November at Barber Motorsports Park, finishing second overall.

Another HMD rookie, Callum Hedge, is the reigning FR Americas champion and knows how to win.

Andretti Cape INDYNXT’s de Alba has won six driver titles, with two in NASCAR PEAK Mexico Series and four in the Gran Turismo (Supercopa) Mexico series.

Josh Mason, a British rookie, brings a wealth of experience having spent most of his career in Europe, including competing in 2023 in the FIA F2 championship – one step below Formula One.

Rising Car Count

The expected 21-car field for the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg would be the largest INDY NXT by Firestone field at St. Petersburg since 2009 when 27 cars were on the grid.

That comes after a season where the series averaged 17.9 starters per event, the highest total since 2009, a span of 14 seasons.

This year’s field also includes two women – British driver Chadwick and American Lindsay Brewer of Juncos Hollinger Racing. Brewer is the first American woman to race in INDY NXT by Firestone since Leilani Munter in 2007.

There’s also a second-generation INDY NXT driver, as Indiana native Jack William Miller makes his series debut with Miller Vinatieri Motorsports. His father and team co-owner, Dr. Jack Miller, competed in INDY NXT before climbing to the INDYCAR SERIES and Indianapolis 500 in the 1990s.

Revamped Qualifying Format

Group qualifying at 1:05 p.m. ET Saturday will decide the starting grid for Sunday’s race. The group format will be used for all road and street races this season.

Based on the best lap times from the practice session immediately preceding qualifying, the fastest driver in that session will choose which group will compete in the first of the two qualifying sessions. With 12 minutes allotted for each group (with a guarantee of one timed lap), the fastest driver between the two sessions will be awarded pole position with the drivers who finished behind that driver, in order and in that group, occupying the odd-numbered starting positions (3, 5, 7, etc.) for the race and the drivers who finished in order from the other group occupying the even-numbered starting positions (2, 4, 6, etc.).

One driver and entrant championship point will be awarded to the fastest car in each qualifying group.

Track Specs: 1.8-mile, 14-turn temporary street circuit

Qualifying Record: David Malukas, 1 minute, 4.6491 seconds, 100.233 mph, April 23, 2021

Push To Pass Parameters: 150 seconds of total time, with a maximum time of 15 seconds per activation