Home Featured McElrea resists Andretti team-mates for dramatic Indy Nxt win at IMS

McElrea resists Andretti team-mates for dramatic Indy Nxt win at IMS

by Ida Wood

Photo: Chris Jones

Hunter McElrea resisted two of his Andretti Autosport team-mates to take a dramatic first Indy Nxt win of 2023 on Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s road course.

After several formation laps, poleman McElrea led the field away. Fellow front row starter and team-mate James Roe Jr looked at the outside line going into turn one but tucked in behind, avoiding contact and bottling up everyone behind.

There was almost contact further back at the turns five/six chicane, and points leader Christian Rasmussen went off. He still gained a spot on lap one to go from ninth to eighth, but remained there for most of the race.

Louis Foster dived down the inside of Roe at turn one on lap two, while further back Rasmus Lindh spun down to last. There was almost no overtaking for two thirds of the race, with McElrea normally leading team-mate Foster by 0.6 and 0.9 seconds.

Victor Franzoni retired from 12th with a broken front-left of his car at the start of lap 10, a huge lock-up of Kyffin Simpson’s front-left tyre going into turn seven on lap 11 preceded him going deep into turn one on lap 15 and losing sixth to Nolan Siegel, and at the same time Jagger Jones retired with mechanical issues.

Foster finally got within half a second of McElrea on lap 18, and on lap 23 was 0.223s behind. He got close at turn one, was on McElrea’s gearbox exiting tun four and they almost collided as they ran side-by-side to turn five.

McElrea locked up but stayed ahead, and was not pressured again until lap 27 as Foster attempted to pass at turn eight. His front-left wheel struck McElrea’s car, and it shifted the camber of the wheel. Foster rapidly dropped back and lost places as he struggled to steer, and retired in the pits at the end of lap 29.

Roe now had 6.558s to make up on McElrea with 6.5 laps to go, and he started to close in on the leader, who had burned up his rear tyres.

Going into the 35th and final lap it looked inevitable Roe would get ahead, but McElrea sat in the middle of the road entering turn one and it forced a lock-up from Roe. He then did not have the tyres to make a move later in the lap, despite a pace and a Push to Pass advantage.

“That was the hardest race of my life,” said McElrea afterwards, admitting he had “no idea how I somehow stayed ahead”.

The action behind also finally kicked off in the race’s final third.

Siegel had a huge turn one lock-up on lap 25 and fell behind Simpson at turn five, Ernie Francis Jr spun on lap 27, and Lindh drove over the back of Francesco Pizzi’s car on lap 30.

Two laps later Siegel and Josh Pierson twice swapped places, and Jamie Chadwick behind tried to capitalise but went off and lost many places while Kiko Porto passed her and a slowing Siegel.

Gold finished third, 16.7276s clear of Jacob Abel, Simpson was fifth and Rasmussen emerged in sixth and with a healthy points lead. Pierson ended up eighth, Chadwick was 10th and Siegel dropped to 12th which meant he conceded second in the championship standings to McElrea.

Race result (35 laps)
Pos Driver Team Time
1 Hunter McElrea Andretti Autosport 45m18.6916s
2 James Roe Jr Andretti Autosport +0.4370s
3 Reece Gold HMD Motorsports +1.6447s
4 Jacob Abel Abel Motorsports +18.3723s
5 Kyffin Simpson HMD Motorsports +22.5553s
6 Christian Rasmussen HMD Motorsports +23.2684s
7 Danial Frost HMD Motorsports +23.6658s
8 Josh Pierson HMD Motorsports +27.9859s
9 Kiko Porto Cape Motorsports +30.3422s
10 Jamie Chadwick Andretti Autosport +32.8976s
11 Colin Kaminky Abel Motorsports +33.7251s
12 Nolan Siegel HMD Motorsports +34.4103s
13 Christian Bogle HMD Motorsports +35.9527s
14 Ernie Francis Jr HMD Motorsports +39.8513s
15 Rasmus Lindh Juncos Racing +1 lap
16 Francesco Pizzi HMD Motorsports +2 laps
Ret Louis Foster Andretti Autosport
Ret Jagger Jones Cape Motorsports
Ret Victor Franzoni Juncos Racing
Fastest lap: McElrea, 1m16.9777s

Championship standings
1 Rasmussen 362   2 McElrea 329   3 Siegel 307   4 Abel 305   5 Foster 269   6 Gold 260   7 Roe 259   8 Frost 233   9 Simpson 221   10 Francis 200