Your season guide to the 2023 Indy NXT Championship

Indy NXT seems to have a subscription to turbulent off-seasons. After last winter’s change of control and new competition setup, this winter saw a name change and uproar about the exact terms of its scholarship package. Regardless, the series formerly known as Indy Lights is looking at its biggest field since 2009. In this season preview, Feeder Series takes you through the 2023 field.

By Jeroen Demmendaal

A confession up front: we’re still not quite sure why Penske Entertainment has renamed its main feeder series into the NTT IndyCar Series to Indy NXT. The reasoning given at the time was that it wanted to attract a new and younger audience, which apparently couldn’t be done with the venerable Indy Lights moniker that served the series so well since the early 1990s.

Then again, maybe this writer is just an old man yelling at clouds. Because despite the turbulence of the last two off-seasons, no less than nineteen Dallara IL-15 cars will hit the track this weekend in St. Petersburg. Whatever it is, something is clearly working, and Indy NXT is more popular than it has been for at least a decade; that can only be applauded.

Back in September, we forecast that the grid would have around 20 cars and that optimism has borne out. As we also already predicted in our silly season update in October, the rather ambitious plans of Legacy Autosport to field two cars eventually came to naught, but all other additions to the grid that we anticipated are present in Florida.

That means HMD has grown its contingent to an incredible NINE cars (including the incorporation of Force Indy’s one-car operation), Cape has joined the show with two cars, Abel has expanded to two full-time cars, and Juncos Hollinger has returned with two entries to take the place of TJ Speed.

As for the scholarship, Penske Entertainment has clearly listened to the feedback it received after last year’s mess. It seems like 2022 champ Linus Lundqvist is out of luck and won’t be compensated for the mother of all miscommunications around his scholarship, but the 2023 champion has an improved package to look forward to, even if it’s still a bit leaner compared to 2021 and before.

A final item of interest is the new tyre. After years on Cooper rubber, Indy NXT has switched to Firestones for 2023. While publicly everything was said to be hunky-dory after the first test at Homestead in January, Feeder Series learned from several conversations with paddock insiders that the tires had quite some teething problems in terms of peak performance and wear. It will be intriguing to see how they perform this season and who deals best with any remaining issues.

HMD Motorsports

With that out of the way, what does the field look like? Let’s start with the behemoth that is HMD Motorsports. The expansion to nine cars is not universally seen as a good thing, with some fans joking about Indy NXT becoming a de facto HMD Series. At the same time, there’s nothing wrong with ambition and professionalism, and HMD has both in spades.

First up, the returnees. Christian Rasmussen has made the jump over from Andretti Autosport, after a rookie year in which he was often fast but also made plenty of mistakes. If the young man from Copenhagen manages to iron out those mistakes, he will be a title contender from day one.

The same should really be true for Danial Frost, who enters his third year in Indy NXT after a slightly disappointing sophomore season. Having said that, the Singaporean impressed in a recent IndyCar test with Dale Coyne and has plenty of funding. Expect this to be his last year in the series.

Ernie Francis Jr. is expected to challenge for top-5 finishes this season | Credit: James Black, Penske Entertainment

Kyffin Simpson had a turbulent rookie year, starting out with TJ Speed and leaving for HMD halfway through, after a fallout with his former team. He has a new engineer for 2023 and while he might not be an immediate title contender, this season is set to be a lot better than his rookie year.

Ernie Francis Jr. might very well be the most improved driver by the end of the season, as he and Force Indy team up with HMD rather than going it alone again. His abilities as a driver are known and he’ll now have access to a lot more data. Don’t be surprised if he regularly challenges for top-5 finishes.

Whether Christian Bogle is capable of doing the same in what will be his third season of Indy NXT remains to be seen. He’ll be the first to admit that he is not the team’s leading prospect, but a second year with HMD may very well allow him to improve beyond 11th overall, which was his final spot in the standings in both 2021 and 2022.

Then there’s HMD’s rookie contingent. While technically not a rookie, Rasmus Lindh only now starts his first full season in Indy NXT, after a forced delay of two years. A runner-up in both USF2000 and USF Pro 2000 before he was forced to make a sidestep into LMP3 competition, the Swede finally gets his chance to show what he can do in Indy NXT. Keep an eye on this one.

Rasmus Lindh was a runner-up in both USF2000 and USF Pro 2000 | Credit: James Black, Penske Entertainment

Nolan Siegel left a good impression at Laguna Seca last year, where he made his Indy NXT debut with HMD. Now heading into his first full season, the Californian has been racking up miles in sportscars and is still only 18. Also, his performances got considerably better when he moved up from USF2000 into USF Pro 2000 last year – could it be that the bigger the car, the faster he goes?

Even younger is Josh Pierson, who drove the 24 Hours of Le Mans at age 16 and now begins the first of a planned two years in Indy NXT with HMD. A development driver for Ed Carpenter Racing in IndyCar, the youngster from Oregon is clearly a big talent and has time on his side. Pierson will miss a few Indy NXT races in 2023, as he will also continue in World Endurance with United Autosport.

The final card in HMD’s deck is Josh Green. The New Yorker was a front runner in USF2000 and started his rookie season in USF Pro 2000 last year with a win at St Pete. Unfortunately, that was immediately the highlight of his year with Turn 3, and he finished 6th in the standings. Green is a methodical and smart driver, however, and may very well surprise a few people in his rookie year.

Andretti Autosport

While HMD almost doubled its car count, its main rival Andretti Autosport sticks with four cars, and it will be interesting to see which approach works best. Its line-up is an exciting one, with Hunter McElrea leading the team in his sophomore year. Statistically speaking, he was the best driver of the second half of last year and if (like Rasmussen) he can leave out the little mistakes that pop up from time to time, he’s an immediate favourite for the championship.

His main competitor for the title may very well be Louis Foster. The British driver dominated USF Pro 2000 last year, after making the switch from Europe, and now takes his scholarship to Andretti. Foster has clearly taken to American open-wheel racing like a duck to water and will benefit from Andretti’s wealth of experience and success in Indy NXT.

Jamie Chadwick makes the shift to Indy NXT from W Series, where she won the championship in three consecutive years | Credit: James Black, Penske Entertainment

The third car will bring a lot of additional eyeballs to Indy NXT, as three-time W Series champ Jamie Chadwick makes the switch to America. The British driver has a big and loyal fanbase, has shown encouraging pace in pre-season testing, and has solid backing from DHL and series leadership. A title bid is probably slightly out of reach, but we expect her to be chasing top-5s before too long.

Finally, James Roe has also found the funding to continue his Indy NXT career. The Irishman played second fiddle to Simpson at TJ Speed last year, and a switch to HMD did little to improve results. On past performance, he is likely to be the slowest of the Andretti cars, but it is difficult to predict.

Juncos Hollinger Racing

With HMD and Andretti accounting for 13 of the 19 cars on the grid, it’s likely that the other three teams will once again fight for scraps. However, that doesn’t mean these cars should be ignored, because this part of the field does contain some exciting names that could spring a surprise.

Juncos Hollinger Racing has switched places with TJ Speed and returns to Indy NXT after a one-year absence. Reece Gold stays with the team and climbs the ladder after two strong years in USF Pro 2000, in which he just missed out on a championship. The youngster from Florida will face a learning year, but don’t count him out for the odd top-5 finish.

His teammate Matteo Nannini comes with a lot of experience from both F2 and FIA F3 but is an unknown factor in the US. A planned foray into NASCAR last year fell through, which means the Italian now returns to the team where he first tested an Indy NXT car. A wildcard, this one.

Abel Motorsport

Last year, Abel Motorsports started with two cars as it graduated from USF Pro 2000, but Antonio Serravalle only ran in St. Pete and the second car appeared sporadically later in the season. This year, the plan is two run full-time cars, with sophomore Jacob Abel obviously piloting one of them.

The 21-year-old from Kentucky went to New Zealand for the Formula Regional Oceania Championship this winter, where he performed well. Abel also had a strong finish to his rookie season in Indy NXT, with three top-5 finishes in the last three races. He will be hoping to repeat that a few more times this year.

His teammate will be Colin Kaminsky, whose announcement video on social media immediately gained him a bunch of new fans. It would be unfair to expect too much from him, but after two part-time campaigns in USF Pro 2000, he is a fascinating addition to the grid.

Cape Motorsports

Finally, there’s the arrival of Cape Motorsports, a team which moves up from USF2000, where it racked up championships for years like there was no tomorrow. A new challenge, then, for brothers Dominic and Nicholas, who also have IndyCar ambitions further down the line.

Jagger Jones is the grandson of Indy 500 legend Parnelli Jones | Credit: James Black, Penske Entertainment

Their lead driver is Jagger Jones, a former stock car driver who switched to open-wheel last year and immediately made an impact in USF2000 with Cape. The learning curve for team and driver will be steep, but the grandson of Indy 500 legend Parnelli Jones is clearly a gifted young man, and it will be exciting to see how he develops.

In the second car the team has signed USF Pro 2000 graduate Enaam Ahmed, who has tested extensively in the car. Like Jones, the Pakistani driver will face a steep learning curve with his new team, but the two make an intriguing pair for Cape.

Where to watch

In the US, Indy Lights broadcasts are a part of the NBC Peacock subscriber package. In most of Europe, Indy Lights will be broadcast via INDYCAR Live, while Sky will broadcast the races in the UK.

Header image credit: James Black, Penske Entertainment


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