Siegel Powers to First Career Pole on St. Petersburg Streets

Nolan Siegel’s first career pole in INDY NXT by Firestone came at the right time Saturday.

In the first race of the season, Siegel was in the first qualifying group for the INDY NXT by Firestone of St. Petersburg. That proved to be the difference amid a competitive session.

New for this year, INDY NXT by Firestone competitors were divided into two qualifying groups, and Siegel’s group ran without a caution. The second group had two red flags, including one when the field was on what presumably would have been the fastest laps. That group came up a few tenths short of Siegel’s pace-setting time.

SEE: Qualifying Results

Siegel’s pole-winning and track-record lap around the 14-turn, 1.8-mile temporary street circuit was 1 minute, 4.5759 seconds. Jacob Abel was quickest in Group 2, but he didn’t get a chance to finish his final lap due to the crash of series newcomer Callum Hedge in the final set of corners.

Second-year series driver Siegel will go for his third career series victory in the 45-lap race that begins shortly after 10 a.m. ET (Peacock, INDYCAR LIVE, INDYCAR Radio Network).

“It’s my first pole in INDY NXT, so it feels really good,” the driver of the No. 39 HMD Motorsports entry said. “Starting 2024 up front is the best way to do it, for sure. Everyone’s worked super hard in the offseason, and HMD did a great job. It’s a nice reward.”

Abel settled for the second starting position in the No. 51 Abel Construction entry. His best qualifying lap was 1:04.5825.

Series veteran Abel was pleased with the new format and applauded series officials for trying to present a level playing field for qualifying. Having 21 cars on track would have been a lot for one group, and the format is similar to the one used for years in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. Drivers were placed in groups based on their best lap times from practice.

“With the format, there’s going to be a little bit of luck involved,” Abel said. “Today we got a little unlucky with all the red flags in our session.

“But we got the most out of our car there, and starting on the front row won’t be too bad.”

Abel led 27 of the 40 laps in last year’s race before finishing third, and he will be seeking his first series win in Sunday’s race. Siegel finished second in last year’s race, won by Danial Frost, and led four laps.

Series rookie Myles Rowe (No. 99 HMD Motorsports with Force Indy) and two-time INDY NXT by Firestone race winner Louis Foster of Andretti Global (No. 26 Copart/Novara Technologies) will start Sunday’s race from the second row. Their best qualifying laps were 1:04.5985 and 1:04.6027, respectively. Foster led four laps last year as the pole sitter, finishing 14th.

Sunday’s race will be the first of 14 events this year for INDY NXT by Firestone.