DETROIT (Friday, June 2, 2023) – Rookie Louis Foster swept qualifying for both races of the INDY NXT by Firestone Detroit Grand Prix on Friday, taking both poles for the doubleheader in very different fashion.
2022 USF Pro 2000 champion Foster, from Great Britain, earned his first second and third career poles in INDYCAR’s developmental series. He also was the quickest qualifier in his first INDY NXT by Firestone start, the season opener in March at St. Petersburg, Florida.
The 19-car INDY NXT by Firestone field competed for both poles in a split qualifying session that featured two eight-minute rounds separated by a short intermission. The first round set the grid for Race 1 at noon Saturday, with the second round establishing the starting lineup for Race 2 at 12:45 p.m. Sunday (both races live, Peacock and INDYCAR Radio Network).
Foster took the pole for Race 1 with a smooth, composed lap of 1 minute, 6.9468 seconds in the No. 26 Copart/USF Pro Championship car fielded by Andretti Autosport.
“The first one was a good session,” Foster said. “It was pretty easygoing. Just hit our marks. For the last two years, I’ve turned up to brand-new circuits and had to qualify quickly. So, I knew this would suit me this weekend.”
But the tricky nature of the new nine-turn, 1.7-mile circuit on the streets of downtown Detroit caught Foster with about three minutes left in the second session. He struck the concrete barrier in Turn 9 with the left rear wheel of his car, bending the suspension. Still, Foster stayed on track and powered through to take the pole with the quickest lap of the day – damaged car and all – at 1:06.8374.
“I tapped the wall on the exit of the last corner with like four laps to go,” Foster said. “So, I was like sideways down the straight with the steering. Not a great thing to happen in qualifying, but we made it work. The team did an amazing job.”
Hunter McElrea qualified second for Race 1 at 1:07.5926 in the No. 27 Smart Motors car fielded by Andretti Autosport. Rookie Reece Gold recovered from numerous trips into the runoff early in the session to qualify a season-best third at 1:07.9741 in the No. 10 HMD Motorsports with DCR car.
Rookie Nolan Siegel, fastest in practice Friday afternoon, qualified fourth for Race 1 at 1:08.0795 in the No. 39 HMD Motorsports with DCR car. Championship leader Christian Rasmussen rounded out the top five at 1:08.0915 in the No. 6 HMD Motorsports with DCR machine.
In qualifying for Race 2, Rasmussen jumped to No. 2 on the starting grid at 1:07.0280, followed by Siegel at 1:07.0557. Gold continued his impressive weekend by qualifying fourth at 1:07.1225, and McElrea rounded out the top five at 1:07.3539.
Ernie Francis Jr. produced an impressive performance in the second qualifying session after driving to the 14th spot in the first session. He ended up a career-best sixth at 1:07.5676 in the No. 99 HMD Motorsports with Force Indy car, still recovering from surgery for a broken wrist suffered in late April in the race at Barber Motorsports Park. That injury forced him to miss round three of the championship on May 13 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.