Siegel Commands INDY NXT Opener In St. Pete

Siegel

Nolan Siegel celebrates in victory lane Sunday on the streets of St. Petersburg. (Chris Jones/Penske Entertainment photo)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Nolan Siegel made a championship statement in the first race of the INDY NXT by Firestone season on Sunday morning.

The 19-year-old HMD Motorsports driver, who started the INDY NXT by Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg from the pole, was never seriously challenged in leading all 45 laps.

Siegel masterfully executed the start of the race, then handled a pair of late restarts to score his third career series victory and third win in the past 11 races. His final margin over Jacob Abel was 1.3959 seconds, but he led by nearly seven seconds before the first caution occurred.

Best of all, Siegel looked the part of the driver signed for four NTT IndyCar Series races this season by Dale Coyne Racing, including the 108th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge.

He’s also, of course, a title favorite in INDY NXT as well.

“It feels amazing,” said the driver of the No. 39 HMD Motorsports entry in victory lane. “We’ve worked hard for this. First (series) pole this weekend, led every lap. (I) should have won here last year – I made a mistake and redeemed myself today.

“The car was fantastic; the pace was there. It made it easy to drive,” Siegel added. “I’m so happy to start the season this way.”

Even Siegel acknowledged what this domination means for the rest of the INDY NXT by Firestone season. Now, the field is chasing him.

“I think it’s definitely making a statement,” he tipped. “We’re going to be the car to beat this season and I’d like to keep it up front as much as possible all the way throughout the year.”

For the weekend performance, Siegel earned the maximum number of points – 54 – and will take a 14-point lead over Abel heading to the next race, the INDY NXT by Firestone Grand Prix of Alabama on Sunday, April 28.

Between now and then, Siegel will drive Dale Coyne Racing’s No. 18 Honda in the NTT IndyCar Series’ $1 Million Challenge at The Thermal Club in Southern California on Sunday, March 24.

Abel was left to ponder what could have been. This second-place finish in the No. 51 Abel Construction machine was his third such result over the past two seasons, including following Siegel to the finish line last June at Road America.

But Abel also deftly held back Louis Foster – another of the season’s championship favorites – in a spirited late-race, three-car battle for the podium positions behind Siegel.

Foster, who drives the No. 26 Copart/Novara Technologies entry of Andretti Global, finished third. Series rookie Michael d’Orlando grabbed fourth, just four days removed from signing to drive the No. 3 Andretti Cape INDY NXT entry.

The season began relatively smoothly, with the first lap of the race nearly clean until Josh Pierson tried an inside pass of Jamie Chadwick entering turn 13.

Chadwick got the worst of the contact and was pushed wide in the No. 28 VEXT entry of Andretti Global, while Pierson continued in the No. 14 HMD Motorsports car but was penalized for avoidable contact.

Siegel had his largest lead with 13 laps to go, when rookie Bryce Aron hit the wall with Andretti Global’s No. 27 Jaguar Land Rover Chesterfield machine in turn 10. That brought out the race’s first caution.

The second stoppage came four laps later when series newcomer Jack William Miller, the son of former NTT IndyCar Series driver Dr. Jack Miller, bounced off the turn-three wall with the left side of the No. 40 Patterson Dental Haven Go by SAAM entry of Miller Vinatieri Motorsports entry.

Neither he nor Aron was injured.

Reece Gold rounded out the top five in the No. 10 HMD Motorsports entry after being penalized three positions for improperly moving out of line at the start of the race.

The field featured 21 car-and-driver combinations, the largest for a series-opening race since 2009.

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