McElrea wins Indy NXT Laguna race 1, Rasmussen title all but won

Hunter McElrea timed his second pole position well as he tried to stay in the hunt for the Indy NXT title but, as ever, the Andretti Autosport driver was accompanied on the front row by Christian Rasmussen of HMD Motorsports.

McElrea got away well at the drop of the green with Rasmussen falling 1.7s behind by the end of the first lap. He had at least stayed clear of Danial Frost, who was being pursued by the Juncos Hollinger Racing car of Victor Franzoni, Kyffin Simpson (HMD) and Louis Foster (Andretti). Foster was under pressure from the fast-starting Jacob Abel of Abel Motorsports, who had jumped from ninth to seventh on the opening lap.

By lap 7, McElrea’s lead was out to almost 5s before Rasmussen started pegging it back, while also pulling 4s over Frost who was staying clear of the feisty battle for fourth between Franzoni and Simpson.


At the halfway point, McElrea’s lead was out to 6.8s, but that was deleted at half distance in this 35-lap race when Foster flew off the road at fast uphill Turn 6 while being passed by Abel (a battle for sixth). Foster believes Abel elbowed him off; race control concurred and demanded Abel serve a drive-through penalty.

The restart came at the end of lap 22 and didn’t last long, as Cape Motorsports’ Kiko Porto went off the track at the final turn and Francesco Pizzi (Abel) suffered a punctured left-rear tire and went off at Turn 2. He limped around and got a new boot without losing a lap, but having run a strong eighth, it was destined to be a disappointing day.

The lap 26 restart saw McElrea flawless again ahead of Rasmussen, Frost, Franzoni and Simpson, but Abel’s drive-through penalty promoted Matthew Brabham to sixth in the second JHR car, ahead of James Roe, Ernie Francis Jr, Jagger Jones and Christian Bogle.

A third caution then flew for debris on the front straight, leaving the 18 contenders with a five-lap shootout. Approaching the final turn as the green flag flew, Simpson dived down the inside of Franzoni, and Brabham followed suit to go into fifth.

The race ended under yellow when Nolan Siegel (HMD) dived down the inside of Jamie Chadwick (Andretti) at Turn 10 — he claimed she brake-checked him — and the pair spun off into the gravel.

McElrea’s win means he is still technically in the hunt, but Rasmussen’s lead is now 51 points.


Story originally appeared on Racer