Hunter McElrea claimed his first win of the 2023 Indy NXT season on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course this morning to move to second in the standings with only four races left to run.
Despite the win coming in lights-to-flag fashion, it was far from easy for McElrea.
Just 0.4370 seconds separated McElrea from his teammate James Roe at the chequered flag, the Kiwi resisting late pressure to hold on for a challenging race win. Roe had trailed by nearly seven seconds with seven laps to run but made quick ground to fall just short of his maiden career win.
“That was the hardest race of my life,” McElrea said. “From about Lap 15, I burned my rears (tires) off. I think we probably favoured the qualifying car a bit much this weekend. I think it was a bit self-inflicted, but it (the car) was a handful. I was hanging on for dear life.”
In the opening practice, McElrea was third fastest, setting a best lap of 1:15.4701, only for the Kiwi to better that in qualifying to top Roe by 0.3858 seconds to take pole.
Louis Foster passed Roe in the opening stints of the race to begin pursuing McElrea, who had pulled away off pole, and began chasing down the leader. On Lap 21, just half a second separated the pair, and Foster would attempt his first pass on Lap 23, only for McElrea to retain his position.
Foster attempted another move for the lead on Lap 27, diving up the inside at Turn 10 as McElrea closed the space. The two made contact, with Foster hitting the curbing hard and damaging his suspension. He would retire two laps later as a result.
That saw Roe move back into second, and he began to eat into McElrea’s lead quickly. He would fall just short, resulting in the Kiwi winning his first race this season. Reece Gold rounded out the podium, while championship leader Christian Rasmussen came home sixth.
Rasmussen retains his series lead, with McElrea jumping to second, 33 points behind.
Indy NXT returns on August 26 for an oval round at World Wide Technology Raceway in Illinois.
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