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Siegel finds plenty to build from in first Arrow McLaren start

Nolan Siegel’s first race for Arrow McLaren produced a solid run to 12th at his home race in the No. 6 Chevy. Among his predecessors in the car this season, Siegel’s finish at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca nearly matched the 10th earned by Theo Pourchaire at Detroit and the pair of 11ths delivered by Callum Ilott, and with more time to ready himself for the challenge, the 19-year-old expects to take another step at the next race.

“I think overall, it was successful,” the three-time Indy NXT race winner told RACER. “It was tough, and we knew it was going to be a difficult weekend going into it; we had virtually zero preparation. But I feel like as a whole, we made a lot of progress, so that was all we could really ask for. And I feel like we’re in a much better spot going into Mid-Ohio.”

Siegel (second from left) shared the LMP2 victory at Le Mans with Oliver Jarvis and Bijoy Garg. Jakob Ebrey/Motorsport Images

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Confirmed as the new driver of the No. 6 entry days before the race in Monterey, Siegel returned home from France with a remarkable debut victory in the LMP2 class in hand and went straight into getting fitted to his new car and shifting to the start of a new multi-year relationship with Arrow McLaren. The surprising split with Pourchaire came with some backlash — aimed mostly at the team — and Siegel was wise to focus on becoming a full-time IndyCar driver.

“I don’t pay attention to it,” he said. “I don’t know how I was expected to get a call offering me a seat at McLaren in IndyCar for multiple years and say no. Of course I’m gonna accept that offer. There was already some interest for the future, and it made sense to start this year, so I’m going to do my best and accepted a great opportunity.”

Siegel’s race, the third of his budding IndyCar career, and with his third team, came with a decent start from 23rd and an abundance of restraint to open the 95-lap contest. Known for his smarts, Siegel followed a plan that prized clean running, and with the exception of a solo spin exiting Turn 2, the plan was followed until it was time to dial up the aggression in the second half of the race. A good strategy call jumped the No. 6 forward, and then Siegel made a number of wheel-to-wheel passes on his way to 12th.

“It’s a long race, and I knew it was going to be a bit chaotic,” he said. “Everything’s so aggressive at Laguna because it’s so hard to pass, so at the beginning, it was about staying clean and not doing anything stupid. The pace on [Firestone] primaries was not as good as the pace on alternates, so once we put alternates on, I felt like our race really came alive.

“Halfway through, I felt like our pace was super strong, and that’s when we started plugging away and undercut a few people on strategy. So that was good. Had some really good out-laps and at the end, once I had kind of gotten comfortable and the pace settled in on alternates, it was fun to actually get racy and pass some people on track. The more laps I did, the more comfortable I got, and I felt like by the end, I was able to actually race people hard and keep up with that top-10 group. That was a nice feeling. And it was the first time that I’ve really made a lot of on-track passes and felt competitive in IndyCar.”

Having team veterans Pato O’Ward and Alexander Rossi to draw from was a huge bonus for Siegel.

“It was great. They’re both obviously very talented and have been competitive in IndyCar for a long time. So having that experience is huge for me, and they’re both fun people to work with, really nice guys and are willing to help me,” he said. “I think it’s a huge benefit for me. I’m definitely grateful. I don’t think I could really ask for two better teammates to learn from in my first couple races with the team.”

If leaving the Indy NXT series for a big shot in IndyCar with Arrow McLaren wasn’t enough of a change, Siegel is transforming the rest of his life — one largely spent in his native Northern California — to blend with his new team that’s based in Indiana. Driving the No. 6 Chevy will only be part of his workload in the coming weeks and months.

“I have an apartment in Indy, and I’m going to be there quite a bit,” he said. “I just finished up a call with the (physical) trainer; the training program is going to start, nutrition is going to change…everything is going to change. There’s a lot going on behind the scenes, but I’m excited about this new chapter. And I’m gonna be an Indianapolis resident. So, big life changes for me.”

Story originally appeared on Racer