Race Weekend Central

‘I Wasn’t Going to Go Home Because I Lifted’ – Nolan Siegel Goes for Broke in Indianapolis 500 Qualifying

SPEEDWAY, Ind. — With fewer than three minutes to go in Sunday’s (May 19) Last Chance Qualifying Session at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Nolan Siegel had one last chance to qualify for the 2024 Indianapolis 500.

Pulling off of pit road in a car that had not shown anywhere near the amount of speed needed to make the 33-car field, Siegel had to turn four laps with a faster average speed than Graham Rahal‘s 229.974 mph. His previous average of 229.566 mph was not fast enough.

The 19-year-old completed his first lap with a speed of 229.288 mph. Just a handful of seconds later, Siegel brushed the wall exiting turn 1 on his second lap, damaging the rear suspension and causing the car to spin and hit the turn 2 wall.

“I was going to go home because I went flat and did everything I could do,” Siegel told the media after qualifying. “I wasn’t going to go home because I lifted, so here I am.”

In an instant, Siegel’s hopes were over. The driver currently second in Indy NXT points hopped out of the No. 18 Honda under his own power to large cheers from the assembled crowd. The team reassured Siegel that he had nothing to be ashamed of.

“You left it all on the race track, buddy,” said a voice from the car’s timing stand on pit road. “We are really proud of you. These guys worked their tails off, you did everything you could. Sorry we didn’t have the speed for you.”

The California native was seen and released from the medical center and spoke to NBC’s Dillon Welch while the Fast Six session took place.

“We knew [going home] was a possibility going into today,” Siegel said. “I did my first run, that was the best four laps that I’ve done around here, ever. Some of the best four laps I think that I’ve ever done. It felt really maximized, we maximized the car and it just wasn’t good enough. Took a swing at it because we had no choice, we were going to be out of the show anyway.

“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’m not going to go home because I lifted on my last run. I’m going to go home because I did everything I possibly could and ultimately that wasn’t enough and we went too far. Going flat was either going to lead me to the grid or to the wall and it led me to the wall, so here we are.”

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After Siegel crashed his primary car during Friday’s practice session when the turbocharger boost pressure is increased to qualifying levels, the Dale Coyne Racing crew had to build up the backup car using the chassis Jack Harvey raced with at the IMS road course the previous Saturday.

The team added more downforce to the car for Saturday’s qualifying sessions to make Siegel more comfortable at speed. Siegel ran a bit faster in the Sunday morning practice session for the last chance qualifiers, but knew that there was still more speed to find.

That speed may have eluded Siegel and his team when they needed it most, but that never dampened Siegel or the crew’s willingness to give their best effort to try and make the race.

“I certainly appreciate everything that the team has done,” Siegel said. “We were in this together. They wanted it too. It’s not like I was the only one in this. They wanted it as well, and they worked really, really, really hard for a long time to make this happen.

“Big thank you to them. We were all in it together. They’re not thanking me for doing a good job. Everyone did a good job. I know that ultimately the result doesn’t reflect that, but they worked really hard, so super appreciative of the effort that they put in. You know, we were in it together for months. It’s like a family.”

About the author

Christopher DeHarde has covered IndyCar racing and the Road to Indy for various outlets since 2014. In addition to open wheel racing, DeHarde has also covered IMSA and various short track racing events around Indiana. Originally from New Orleans, DeHarde moved to the Indianapolis area in 2017 to further pursue a career as a motorsports writer.

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