New Zealand’s Hunter McElrea has returned to the podium in Indy NXT, finishing third in the 75-lap oval race at World Wide Technology Raceway.
The result sees McElrea retain second in the championship, 50 points behind race-winner Christian Rasmussen.
Thunderstorms and an intense weather system in the buildup to the event had limited competitors to just 30 minutes of track time before the race and resulted in the cancellation of qualifying. This meant the grid was set based on championship standings, with McElrea starting second, next to Rasmussen.
The championship leader pulled clear off the start and led the first 30 laps until he drifted high at Turn 2, avoiding lapped traffic, narrowly missing the barrier. McElrea pounced at the opportunity to take the lead.
The Kiwi led five laps before Rasmussen was able to re-take the position as lapped traffic again came into the equation.
Rasmussen pulled to a 4.3-second lead over the following laps, but McElrea began to reduce that as his rival’s tyres began to fade. Less than one second separated the pair by Lap 56, but a caution following a James Roe crash put paid to the battle.
Rasmussen was able to preserve his tyres behind the Safety Car and pulled clear off the restart, while Louis Foster worked past the Kiwi with five laps to run to claim second.
Jacob Abel, who is third in the championship behind McElra, finished fourth.
Indy NXT returns next week at the Grand Prix of Portland before the final round, a double-header, takes place at Laguna Seca on September 9-10.
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