Podium finish for ABEL Motorsports at St. Pete

ABEL Motorsports made its opening bid for the 2024 INDY NXT by Firestone championship as Jacob Abel scored his second straight second place finish on the streets of St. Petersburg, in front of a sizable Sunday crowd at the NTT INDYCAR SERIES’ Firestone Grand Prix.

Abel (Louisville, Ky.), Yuven Sundaramoorthy (Oconomowoc, Wis.) and Josh Mason (Maresfield, UK) each showed solid pace through the 45-lap race on the 14-turn, 1.8-mile street circuit – the first of 14 INDY NXT by Firestone races in 2024.

Saturday qualifying saw the field split into two groups, with Abel leading the second half of the session – though pipped for pole by an incredible .0066 of a second. Abel started on the outside of row one, with Sundaramoorthy 13th and Mason 20th for Sunday’s season opener.

The 20-car field took the green late Sunday morning and roared into turn one with Abel looking to make a move on the outside of Siegel. Quickly assessing the situation, he chose to tuck the No. 51 ABEL Construction Dallara into Siegel’s slipstream and keep the pressure on, looking to capitalize on any errors by the leader.

Both Sundaramoorthy and Mason had their adventures in the opening laps. Sundaramoorthy found himself shuffled back to 15th as cars jostled early, while Mason – having successfully completed his first ever rolling start – powered through the opening laps of his debut race in the series, pacing in 18th position.

Abel continued to fill Siegel’s mirrors as the race settled in, with Sundaramoorthy up to 13th. As Mason became more and more comfortable behind the wheel of the No. 21 ABEL Motorsports Dallara, he set up calculated passes and took advantage of others mistakes ahead to slide into 15th at the halfway point – while setting lap times among the leaders.

The race action was paused on lap 33 with a full course caution for a car into the wall at Turn 14. The field returned to green with nine laps remaining, with Sundaramoorthy putting the hammer down in his No. 22 S Team Motorsports Dallara and moving into the top 10 – only to have his progress halted as the race returned to yellow one lap later to retrieve a car in the Turn four runoff.

On the restart, Abel balanced an attack on Siegel while keeping an eye on a surging Louis Foster behind. Battling gear shifting issues going into the restart, Mason came to pit lane to allow engineers to check the data feed before heading back out on track. But the issues remained and Mason, not wanting to impact the race, pulled into an AMR INDYCAR Safety Team runoff.

With the final laps under green, Abel battled hard to hold position and took the checkered flag in second place. Sundaramoorthy looked to the outside to make a late pass but found the marbles, losing several positions but bringing it home in 12th, with Mason 17th.

While the results varied, all three drivers were happy with their performances and eagerly anticipate the season’s next event.

“We were strong here last year and that’s just continued,” said Abel. “Nolan had a ton of pace so kudos to him, it was hard to catch him. It was a long race, so I focused on saving the Firestone tires – but with Louis breathing down my back, I had to push as hard as I could and use my push-to-pass. But a good start to the season – it’s super easy to mess up the first race and that would be costly, with this many cars. Getting a good result was paramount: when it’s our time, that first win will come but the championship is the goal.”

“I was pretty cautious on the start, with everyone bunched up,” said Sundaramoorthy. “I didn’t want to do anything too hasty, but in hindsight, I could have kept a bit closer – but it was better than being in the wall here. The car felt great on the restarts, it really came alive late in the race. I was able to make a few good moves, though I tried on the outside which cost me a few positions. But we know we have pace; the team gave me a great car. I need to keep getting used to the car and I think we’ll be quick.”

“I’m happy with the weekend as a whole – and the atmosphere here in St. Pete was great, so it was a good experience,” said Mason. “We improved through the whole weekend and I’m happy with that. My goal early was to keep it clean – being a street course, there’s only one line that has grip and if you go off that, it’s hard to handle the car. I had to learn the rolling start very quickly, but the pace was good. Going into the second restart, I was able to shift to first and could get no further. I boxed, and the data looked good, but it turned out I was stuck in neutral. We’ll look at everything, and with a solid race weekend under my belt, I’m looking forward to Barber.”

Given the competitive nature of the series – and the team’s aim for the title and a solid season for all three drivers – team principal Bill Abel was pleased with the initial race weekend.

“All three drivers improved throughout the weekend,” said Abel. “Josh especially made a big jump, it’s just unfortunate that the car had the mechanical issue. Being the first weekend in the car, it was a learning weekend for him, and he did great. Yuven came in right where he left off last year, he will be a contender soon. Our goal is to be in the championship hunt and it’s hard to do that if you throw away the first weekend. A solid finish for the entire team.”

ABEL Motorsports thanks partners ABEL Construction Company, Advance Ready Mix, Boyd Cat, S Team Motorsports, and OMP for their continued support.

Next up for ABEL Motorsports and the INDY NXT by Firestone series will be the Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park, April 26-28. The race will be streamed live in the U.S. on Peacock, while international viewers can watch via INDYCARLIVE.com with INDYCAR Radio available at indycar.com/radio and on Sirius XM.

ABLE Motorsports PR