Christian Rasmussen of HMD Motorsports extended his points lead over Hunter McElrea by scoring his fourth win of 2023, as his opponent lost second to Andretti Autosport teammate Louis Foster following a late-race restart.
Due to the horrendous weather that afflicted Madison, Illinois, the Indy NXT field at World Wide Technology Raceway was set by championship points, meaning HMD Motorsports’ Rasmussen would start on pole with McElrea’s Andretti Autosport car alongside. Rasmussen’s teammate Nolan Siegel lined up third ahead of Jacob Abel of Abel Motorsports, while the Andretti cars of Foster and James Roe filled out the third row ahead of two more HMD cars — those of Reece Gold and Danial Frost.
There were 75 laps scheduled but there were doubts beforehand that the next shower would stay away long enough to compete the full race distance. Thankfully the 15 starters lined up well so there was no false start, and when the green dropped, Rasmussen pulled away from McElrea. However the strongest cars in the early laps were Frost – up from eighth to third – and Juncos Hollinger Racing’s Matthew Brabham, who rocketed from 11th to fifth in two laps.
By contrast, Siegel, Abel and Foster had dropped from 3-4-5 to 6-7-8, and Foster was desperate to remedy the situation, even rubbing Abel as he passed him on lap 10.
Up front, Rasmussen had pulled only a 1.2s margin over McElrea, who was doubtless nursing his tires by trying to not sit indefinitely in the dirty air of his opponent.
Foster and Abel moved past Siegel on lap 16, Foster passing him on the outside of Turn 3, Abel getting him on the way out of T4. Siegel was being somewhat cautious after suffering a shunt in the sole practice session this afternoon.
The Foster and Abel double-act continued on lap 23, zapping past Brabham to claim fifth and sixth. Then attention swung to the front, at one-third distance. Rasmussen, who had extended his lead to 2s, suddenly found his mirrors full of McElrea as he hit traffic. Over 10s back, Foster and Abel demoted Roe to claim fourth and fifth.
On lap 30, Rasmussen found himself driven high by Jamie Chadwick as he lapped her at Turn 1, and he inevitably lost momentum as he gathered it up. That allowed McElrea to close in and draft past the HMD car to take the lead.
McElrea lost momentum behind the second JHR car of Rasmus Lindh, and ceded the lead to Rasmussen. In fact, by lap 40 he was almost 3.5s behind the HMD car, and was starting to fall into the clutches of Frost. He finally stopped the rot with around 30 laps to go and started to shave his 4.7s deficit, and reestablish more than a 3s lead over Frost. In fact, by lap 50, the latter started to come under pressure from Foster who had left Abel 14s behind, fully focused on trying to claim a podium position.
Then on lap 55, out came the caution: Roe had smacked the Turn 2 wall hard. That gave everyone a chance to nurse their tires and meant the leaders no longer had to contend with traffic, come the restart.
The green waved again at the start of lap 64, and Rasmussen made a great break, ahead of McElrea, while after two laps, Foster swung past Frost on the outside at Turn 1. When McElrea tried and failed to pass Rasmussen, he lost momentum, and lost second to the charging Foster. Just a couple of seconds back, Abel elbowed Frost aside to grab fourth.
Foster had done a fine job after his poor start, but he had nothing for leader Rasmussen, who came home 1.8s ahead of Foster for his fourth win of the season, having extended his championship lead over McElrea to 50 points.
Abel held off Frost to claim fourth, with Siegel sixth ahead of Matt Brabham and Ernie Francis Jr.