INDY NXT by Firestone at Mid-Ohio

Following the doubleheader weekend at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca on June 22-23, INDY NXT by Firestone continues into the second half of the 2024 season with Sunday’s Grand Prix at Mid-Ohio, the ninth round of the 14-race season.

The newly paved Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio, offers a little of everything -- elevation changes, high-speed corners, flowing corners, tight corners, a narrow (40 feet) racing ribbon and a challenging entry to pit lane.

SEE: Race Details

“It’s very technical and really challenging with a good mix of slow, medium and high-speed corners,” Andretti Global driver Louis Foster said. “You have to treat it with respect.”

The biggest question for Mid-Ohio is can anyone stop Foster and Andretti Global and its domination of the field?

That may be a tall task this weekend. Dating back to the final two races of the 2023 season, Andretti Global has seven victories in the last 10 races, including five consecutively. Andretti Global has also led more laps this season the rest of the field combined, 146-139.

Between Foster’s recent dominance, Jamie Chadwick and her maiden series victory at Road America, James Roe and his three top-five finishes this season and rookie Bryce Aron entering Mid-Ohio on the heels of a career-best third-place finish in the last race at Laguna Seca, Andretti Global is peaking.

The team also has won 10 of the last 11 INDY NXT by Firestone races around the 2.258-mile, 13-turn road course situated north of Columbus, Ohio.

Here are some other storylines entering this weekend:

Can Abel Catch Foster?

Third-year INDY NXT by Firestone driver Jacob Abel isn’t having a bad season by any stretch. He enters Mid-Ohio with two victories and sits second in points, trailing Foster by 35. The only issue: Abel lost 44 points to Foster at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, as he entered 19 points ahead of the British driver.

Still, Abel has produced more podium finishes this season (six) than he had in his previous 28 starts (four). In 2024, Abel has seven top-five finishes and 70 laps led. The only blemish is an 11th-place finish in the second leg of the Laguna Seca doubleheader when Abel was assessed a drive-through penalty late in the 35-lap race for avoidable contact after an incident in the famous “Corkscrew” turn complex while battling for third with Reece Gold in No. 10 HMD Motorsports car.

“We were way faster than Reece and in retrospect, I should have probably should have been a little bit more patient, but this track is impossible to pass on,” Abel said. “So, I was just trying to make the move whenever I could. I feel like if Reece wanted to back out of it, he very easily could, but he chose to just completely turn into me. And that kind of wrecked him, so I think that’s why the penalty was called, so it was very frustrating.”

That mistake, coupled with Foster having four wins in the last five races and a runner-up result in the other event, has allowed the Andretti Global driver to accumulate 280 points compared to 215 from Abel since the doubleheader weekend May 10-11 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Can Abel re-emerge and return to victory lane? He finished sixth in last year’s race at Mid-Ohio and has 13 top-10 finishes in 23 combined starts across all forms of motorsports at the track.

“We’ve got some ground to make up now, and that’s our full push – to make the most of the next few weekends here in the championship,” Abel said.

Collet Growing into Leader at HMD

Riding into Road America, Nolan Siegel was the unquestioned leader among the 10-driver HMD Motorsports lineup. But Siegel’s INDY NXT by Firestone career is done, and rookie Caio Collet has started to fulfill that leadership role.

Siegel skipped the INDY NXT by Firestone race at Road America to focus on a substitute role at Juncos Hollinger Racing in its NTT INDYCAR SERIES operation. Then Siegel signed with Arrow McLaren to drive the No. 6 Chevrolet for the remainder of the season and beyond. Christian Brooks is driving the No. 39 HMD Motorsports entry for the rest of the season.

Collet has done a great job to step into a leader role for the team. While he’s not there yet as a verbal leader, Collet is letting his driving on track do the talking.

The Brazilian had an average finishing position of 10th through the first three races of the season. Over the last five, his average has jumped to 2.8. Collet has three runner-up finishes in his last four starts and emerged not only as a Rookie of the Year candidate but a championship contender.

“We made him use Push to Pass,” Collet said of his second runner-up finish in as many days to Foster at Laguna Seca. “Reduced the gap a little bit. Saturday was eight seconds, Sunday was four. Also, I think he pushed a little bit more.

“Big thanks to HMD. We worked hard overnight to try to reduce the gap, and we did it.”

Collet comes to Mid-Ohio within striking distance of Foster and Abel trailing them by 84 and 49 points, respectively. If Collet can continue this momentum, he could easily turn into the series’ next first-time winner.

Battle for Fourth

Foster, Abel and Collet have distanced themselves from the field, but the fight behind is something worth watching.

Eight points separate fourth through seventh in the INDY NXT by Firestone standings with HMD Motorsports rookie Myles Rowe leading the charge with 192 points. Chadwick (191 points), Callum Hedge (188 points) and Reece Gold (184) points are in the mix.

Rowe and Hedge are INDY NXT by Firestone rookies at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, but Rowe has won three of his last five Mid-Ohio starts in junior categories on the track. Hedge swept all three races in his only trip to the track in the 2023 Formula Regional Americas Championship.

Gold won a USF2000 race in 2020 and was second and third in the other two starts that season on this track. In USF Pro 2000, he finished sixth, fourth, seventh and sixth, respectively. Last year, he finished fifth in INDY NXT by Firestone competition.

Chadwick, winner this season at Road America and boasting four top-10 finishes in the last six races, finished 10th in her lone Mid-Ohio start a year ago in her rookie INDY NXT by Firestone season.

Lineup Changes

There will be four changes to the INDY NXT by Firestone grid at this event compared to the series’ last races, the doubleheader June 22-23 at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

Jagger Jones, grandson of 1963 Indianapolis 500 winner Parnelli Jones, is replacing Niels Koolen behind the wheel of the No. 33 HMD Motorsports entry. Jordan Missig is back as the driver of the No. 21 HMD Motorsports entry, which didn’t race at Laguna Seca.

Juncos Hollinger Racing fielded two cars at Laguna Seca but will not compete in INDY NXT at this event. Ricardo Escotto drove the team’s No. 75 entry at the last event. Lindsay Brewer, who has raced in the No. 76 car all season, is not driving for JHR this weekend due to what the team said in an X post was “due to contractual obligations being unfulfilled.”

Track Specs: 2.258-mile, 13-turn road course

Qualifying Record: Oliver Askew, 1:10.8079 (114.801 mph), July 27, 2019

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