Home Featured McElrea wins pace car-riddled Indy Nxt race at repaved Laguna Seca

McElrea wins pace car-riddled Indy Nxt race at repaved Laguna Seca

by Bethonie Waring

Photo: James Black

Hunter McElrea won a disrupted penultimate race of the 2023 Indy Nxt season at Laguna Seca, which featured four caution periods.

One of those was towards the end of the race and ran all the way to the chequered flag, which locked in the order. Christian Rasmussen, who finished second, now only has to start the season finale to officially be crowned champion although he already cannot be beaten.

The first caution period came on lap 18 of 35. Up until that point, there had been little action. McElrea had made a good start from pole and pulled a gap to Rasmussen behind. The top of the field spread out while the main action came courtesy of Reece Gold who was trying to battle his way up through the order. 

Just ahead of him, Jacob Abel was fighting with Louis Foster. A lock-up for Foster gave him the better line going into turn five and the two ran side-by-side. But Abel forced Foster wide and Foster ran into the tyre barriers. Abel was later handed a drive-through penalty for the incident. 

The pace car bunched the field up again but there was little time for battling on the restart. Kiko Porto had immediately found himself in the gravel while some small contact with another driver left Francesco Pizzi with a flat rear-left tyre. The pace car was brought out again. 

Nine laps remained when green flags waved again and this time the field managed to stay out of trouble on the restart. Gold and Christian Bogle were battling before a caution was thrown for a third time so marshals could clear debris. 

That left a five-lap dash to the flag, though HMD Motorports driver Rasmussen chose not to risk his position and fight with McElrea on the restart. The gaps were beginning to open up again when Jamie Chadwick and Nolan Siegel came together, sending both into the gravel and causing the fourth pace car intervention. 

The race would end behind it, with Andretti Autosport’s McElrea leading Rasmussen and Danial Frost over the line. It was McElrea’s second win of the year.

Kyffin Simpson stayed out of trouble to finish fourth ahead of Matthew Brabham and Victor Franzoni, who did a good defensive job early on but slipped backwards after the second caution period. 

Ernie Francis Jr ended the race with wing damage but still managed to hold off Jagger Jones and James Roe to finish seventh, while Gold ahead of Bogle in 10th. 

Race results (35 laps)
Pos Driver Team Time
1 Hunter McElrea Andretti Autosport
2 Christian Rasmussen HMD Motorsports +0.2923s
3 Danial Frost HMD Motorsports +1.3084s
4 Kyffin Simpson HMD Motorsports +2.1579s
5 Matthew Brabham Juncos Racing +2.9071
6 Victor Franzoni Juncos Racing +3.5777s
7 Ernie Francis Jr HMD Motorsports +4.2051s
8 Jagger Jones Cape Motorsports +5.0948s
9 James Roe Jr Andretti Autosport +5.8128s
10 Reece Gold HMD Motorsports +6.8870s
11 Christian Bogle HMD Motorsports +7.5752s
12 Francesco Pizzi Abel Motorsports +7.9520s
13 Yuven Sundaramoorthy Abel Motorsports +9.1230s
14 Jacob Abel Abel Motorsports +29.0405s
NC Jamie Chadwick Andretti Autosport
NC Nolan Siegel HMD Motorsports
Ret Kiko Porto Cape Motorsports
Ret Louis Foster Andretti Autosport
Fastest lap: Rasmussen, 1m13.5478s

Championship standings
Rasmussen 486   2 McElrea 433   3 Siegel 389   4 Foster 374   5 Abel 367   6 Frost 333   7 Roe 320   8 Gold 316   9 Francis 276   10 Simpson 270