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Rahal Powers to Pole, McElrea Wins INDY NXT Race To Start Brickyard Weekend

Saturday, August 12, 2023 Paul Kelly, Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Graham Rahal

Graham Rahal took the top qualifying spot for the Gallagher Grand Prix, while Hunter McElrea won the INDY NXT by Firestone race from the pole Friday on the IMS road course.

Brickyard Weekend took the green flag Friday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with open-wheel racing taking center stage on the 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course.

This is one of the most unique weekends in global motorsports, as the stock cars of the NASCAR Cup Series and NASCAR Xfinity Series and the open-wheel machines of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES and INDY NXT by Firestone all compete in four races at the Racing Capital of the World.

Graham Rahal won the NTT P1 Award for the Gallagher Grand Prix NTT INDYCAR SERIES race, which starts at 2:30 p.m. ET Saturday. Hunter McElrea won the INDY NXT by Firestone Grand Prix on Friday, as the INDYCAR development series practiced, qualified and raced on the same day.

Stock cars also will roar Saturday at IMS. Practice and qualifying for the Verizon 200 at the Brickyard for the NASCAR Cup Series are scheduled, and the NASCAR Xfinity Series will practice, qualify and race in the Pennzoil 150 at the Brickyard presented by Advance Auto Parts.

Tickets for Saturday’s action and the Verizon 200 at the Brickyard on Sunday are available at

A recap of NTT INDYCAR SERIES qualifying and the INDY NXT by Firestone race:

-- Rahal earned his first NTT P1 Award in six years, powering to the pole for the Gallagher Grand Prix in a 1-2 tour de force for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.

Rahal turned the top lap of 1 minute, 10.1132 seconds in the No. 15 Code 3 Associates Honda during the Firestone Fast Six. It was his fourth career INDYCAR SERIES pole and first since June 2017 at Belle Isle in Detroit.

SEE: Full Story

The site of Rahal’s long-awaited pole also was significant due to the contrast of emotions from when he last competed at the Racing Capital of the World, in May. Rahal celebrated with his wife, Courtney, and their two young daughters on pit lane today, a welcome change from their heartbreaking despair when Rahal was bumped from the 107th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge during qualifying.

“It means a lot,” Rahal said. “Everybody has seen it: We’ve had to work ridiculously hard to get back. This isn’t a win, but it feels like it for us. It’s just nice to feel competitive; it’s nice to be able to push and get something out of the car. You ask for it, you demand it, and it’s there. It feels really sweet.”

Rahal’s teammate Christian Lundgaard qualified second at 1:10.2286 in the No. 45 Hy-Vee Honda as the team owned by 1986 Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Rahal, late night TV icon David Letterman and business magnate Mike Lanigan took the top two spots in qualifying for an NTT INDYCAR SERIES race for the first time since April 2019 at Barber Motorsports Park, when Takuma Sato won the pole and Rahal started second.

-- McElrea drove to his first INDY NXT by Firestone victory of the season, leading all 35 laps from pole.

But this was far from a stroll on Easy Street.

McElrea, from New Zealand, held off Andretti Autosport teammate James Roe by .4370 of a second to earn his third career victory in the INDYCAR development series and his first since July 2022 at Iowa Speedway.

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Roe, who trailed by nearly seven seconds with seven laps remaining, earned his first career podium finish in the No. 29 Topcon car after starting second. His previous best was fourth last Sunday at Nashville.

“That was the hardest race of my life,” McElrea said. “From about Lap 15, I burned my rears (tires) off. I think we probably favored the qualifying car a bit much this weekend. I think it was a bit self-inflicted, but it (car) was a handful. I was hanging on for dear life.”