Abel Shifts Focus To Title Tussle after Breakthrough Victory

  • Racing News
Nolan Siegel, Jacob Abel, James Roe

For the first time in his INDY NXT by Firestone career, Jacob Abel basked in the ambience of a victory, celebrating a win April 28 at Barber Motorsports Park.

Winless in his first 29 INDY NXT by Firestone starts, Abel compiled a perfect weekend, pacing the 21-car field through both practice sessions, earning the pole in qualifying and capping the action by leading all 35 laps in the race.

“To get it done is pretty special,” Abel said.

The jubilation of a victory rewards Abel with the unique benefit to look ahead at making a serious run for the INDY NXT by Firestone championship.

“We can look squarely at the championship and really focus on that for the rest of the season,” Abel said. “To get it done this early in the season is really important. We're really aiming squarely at that championship. To get this first win out of the way is really important. Now we can focus more on that.”

Abel is tied with fellow sophomore driver Nolan Siegel (95-95) for the championship lead speeding into the May 10-11 doubleheader on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. The strong start of the season for both drivers could spark a 12-round heavyweight title bout between the two over the course of the 12 remaining races.

“Props to Nolan,” Abel said. “He kept me honest. The whole entire race, he was right there. He’s a great competitor, and I look forward to many battles like that throughout the season.”

Sizing the two competitors up, in his second full-time season, Abel finished fifth in points last season with one pole, eight top-five finishes and 11 top-10 results. Siegel, competing in his maiden INDY NXT by Firestone season last year, was named Rookie of the Year with HMD Motorsports on the heels of two wins, six top-five finishes and nine top-10 results. Siegel finished third, 18 points ahead of Abel. The “California Kid” returned to the series with the same personnel working on his No. 39 HMD Motorsports entry. Abel, a Louisville native, also returned the same squad.

Both drivers have won a race from the pole this season. Siegel led all 45 laps at St. Petersburg with Abel finishing second. Abel returned the favor at Barber Motorsports Park, leading all 35 laps with Siegel second in pursuit.

Both are trading knockout blows for a championship. Does either land the haymaker or does this go down to the wire? Does Abel Motorsports have the stamina to go the distance with its smaller, family team and take it to the 10-car juggernaut that HMD Motorsports has built and has produced the last two series champions?

“All respect to Nolan (Siegel),” Abel said. “We've had a lot of battles the past couple years. Him and a bunch of other guys in the field I really trust racing around. I can't say that about everyone in the field.”

Siegel shares the same level of respect for Abel.

After two seasons where Linus Lundqvist (2022) and Christian Rasmussen (2023) ran away with the championship, this battle between two American drivers could spark a special rivalry this season, similar to previous recent duels between Colton Herta and Pato O’Ward and Kyle Kirkwood and David Malukas.