Jacob Abel was one of the breakout performers of the Indy NXT series in 2023. Driving for the family-owned Abel Motorsports team, the Kentucky native earned his first pole position, led laps and stood on the podium four times on the way to placing fifth in the standings.
He’ll return for one more season of open-wheel schooling next year, and after the 2024 NXT season, Abel hopes to graduate to IndyCar. To get a feel for what it’s like to wield a Dallara DW12 chassis with more than 700hp from a 2.2-liter twin-turbo V6 engine, Abel will head to Florida next week and participate in his first IndyCar test with the Dale Coyne Racing team at Sebring.
“There’s many goals with this test,” the 22-year-old told RACER. “Abel Motorsports owns one Indy car and an extra tub, so where that leads with the team isn’t known yet, but I know I want to get to IndyCar as a driver and I’ve always been willing to look at other options with other teams. This was just a great opportunity to get me into an Indy car early and experience what it’s like.
“Dale Coyne is a really cool team owner when it comes to young drivers, because he’s one of the only ones that truly pays attention to all the smaller series and all the younger drivers. So he was very familiar with me and all the driving I’ve done, which is refreshing because sometimes I get a little bit overshadowed by the team and everything they’re doing.
“So he reached out and basically said, ‘Hey, do you want to do this?’ Which was pretty cool to me, because it makes me feel like my development has been noticed. It’s basically just to get a taste. Next year, we are planning on doing NXT, but doing an IndyCar test opens the door to other opportunities.”
Although he’s focused on fighting for the NXT title, Abel wants to be ready if an IndyCar team finds itself in need of a driver.
“Whether that could be a last-minute need, or maybe an Indy 500 thing with Abel Motorsports, even though I don’t know if that’s necessarily [team manager] John [Brunner] and my dad’s plans, but it’s always in the back of my head,” Abel said. “If there’s a substitute driver need, it puts me already in a good place on many fronts.
“It’s a childhood dream. I’ve been around the Road to Indy and on this path for four or five years now, so to get just a little bit of a taste of the big series and the big cars is an important thing. And if nothing else, it will motivate me to push harder and really attack the whole 2024 NXT season and then trying to get something for IndyCar in 2025.”