Nolan Siegel nearly turned a methodical drive into victory at the season-opening INDY NXT by Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 5.
“The California Kid” scored a runner-up result in only his third career start, but more was in the cards before his only mistake of the race made for a bitter ending. Siegel started sixth and found the lead on Lap 35 of 40 after Jacob Abel tried to fend off Christian Rasmussen on a restart but went into a power slide through Turn 1, which opened the door for Siegel’s No. 39 HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing car to dart by both.
However, Siegel’s time at the front only lasted four laps as another late restart allowed his only miscue on the day. He charged into Turn 1 but ended up pushing wide and left the inside available for teammate Danial Frost to deliver the winning pass.
In the pain of losing, though, Siegel found solace in the performance and a career-best result.
“I learned a lot,” said Siegel, 18. “Not my debut weekend. But I've only done one weekend in INDY NXT so far. So, I was really happy to come home second. I know we had the car to come through the field.”
With only 14 rounds comprising the 2023 INDY NXT by Firestone schedule, the second-place finish already has Siegel thinking about the title.
“I think it's huge for championship points. and staying in is what it's all about,” said Siegel, who scored two wins and finished fourth overall in the 2022 USF Pro 2000 Championship. “Being (the) most consistent and not making mistakes. I think staying in the top five, on the podium, is going to be important for us. Really excited about it and really excited for the rest of the season.”
The other part of the equation is the fact Siegel is trying to maximize every chance among an ultra-tight field of 19 drivers (the biggest since 2009), which puts a premium on qualifying and restarts.
“It's a super-close field,” Siegel said. “Danial and I, we qualified within a tenth (of a second) off each other and were two-tenths off pole. The field doesn't really spread out in the races. We’re all super tight.
“Restarts and starts are crucial. If you make a little mistake, you get passed by two or three cars. Each restart you can go from fourth to first or first to fourth. It shuffles around and makes it really exciting and a great race to watch and compete in.”
And that’s why the late restart will haunt Siegel until the next round at Barber Motorsports Park on April 30.
“Absolutely,” he said. “Of course. I’m going to be thinking about it until Barber.”