Nannini holds off Foster at IMS for first Indy NXT victory
Matteo Nannini drove to his first career Indy NXT by Firestone victory, holding off fellow series rookie Louis Foster in a compelling duel Saturday on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
Nannini drove his No. 75 Juncos Hollinger Racing car from the pole to the victory by 0.3909s over the No. 26 Copart/USF Pro Championship car of Foster, fielded by Andretti Autosport. The Italian led all 35 laps of the IndyNXT by Firestone Grand Prix despite unyielding pressure from Foster over the last quarter of the race.
“I really wanted this win, mainly for the team,” Nannini said. “We didn’t start the championship where we really wanted, but I know we have the car to do it, the crew to do it. So, I would have been really pissed if I would not have been the winner of this race.”
Kyffin Simpson finished a lonely third in the No. 21 HMD Motorsports with CGR machine, 9.8065 seconds behind winner Nannini on the 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course.
This was the first Indy NXT by Firestone victory for Juncos Hollinger Racing since September 2019, when current NTT IndyCar Series racer Rinus VeeKay swept the season-ending doubleheader at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. That also was the last Indy NXT by Firestone win for a team other than HMD Motorsports or Andretti Autosport.
Nannini jumped from 17th to fourth in the standings for IndyCar’s development series with the win.
Hunter McElrea finished fourth in the No. 27 Smart Motors car fielded by Andretti Autosport. Championship leader Christian Rasmussen rounded out the top five in the No. 6 HMD Motorsports with DCR machine after a spirited duel for position with McElrea for much of the second half of the race.
Nannini controlled the race from the start, building a lead of one second after the first green-flag lap and padding that margin to 1.58s by lap 7. But Foster stayed in touch, deftly managing his Firestone tires and push-to-pass time for a drive toward the front. With 10 laps to go, Foster closed the gap to within three-tenths of a second.
“I just tried to manage the car to the end of the race,” Nannini said. “I had a little issue with the braking. It was losing (time) quite a bit, but here we are. So happy for the result.”
Foster had two good looks at trying to pass Nannini at the end of the back straightaway entering Turn 7, on lap 33 and the final lap, but couldn’t pull close enough to make a potentially winning pass stick. Nannini had exhausted his push-to-pass before the final lap, with Foster having five seconds remaining on the final trip around the circuit.
“I was pretty convinced we could get it done there, but with the car and the tires coming off (wearing), it’s unfortunate, really,” British driver Foster said. “Our last two weekends haven’t gone particularly well, so this weekend it was all about points, and we got that. Hopefully we can build on this from here in Detroit.”
The next Indy NXT by Firestone event is a doubleheader June 3-4 at the Detroit Grand Prix on the streets of the Motor City.