ABEL Motorsports takes INDY NXT pole at Barber

Meyer Shank Racing Carries Long Beach Momentum To Alabama
April 23, 2024
Felix Rosenqvist Paces Team Effort for Meyer Shank Racing in Alabama INDYCAR Qualifying
April 27, 2024
Show all

ABEL Motorsports takes INDY NXT pole at Barber

After setting the quickest time in both practice sessions, Jacob Abel earns the team’s second series pole position, while Yuven Sundaramoorthy and Josh Mason continue the roller coaster learning curve

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (27 April 2024) – Jacob Abel scored his second INDY NXT by Firestone pole position – and his first on a road course – with a dominant performance under pressure in Saturday’s qualifying session.

Abel, 23, continued the form that saw him set the quickest time in the series test at Barber late last year, posting the fast lap in both practice sessions. When the pressure was on in qualifying, the Louisville, Ky. native made it count, vaulting to the head of the grid for tomorrow’s INDY NXT Grand Prix of Alabama.

Teammates Yuven Sundaramoorthy (Oconomowoc, Wis.) and Josh Mason (Maresfield, UK) battled through both practice sessions to develop the Dallara IL-15 on the tricky 17-turn, 2.3-mile road course. For both drivers, the weekend was their first at Barber in the INDY NXT car, though Sundaramoorthy has raced – and won – at Barber in four USF Pro Championships races.

Given the team’s performance in pre-season testing, expectations were high coming into the weekend. Abel held the top spot through much of the two practice sessions, securing the top of the speed charts at the end of both. Sundaramoorthy, 21, and Mason, 22, focused on learning the track’s intricacies and finding the cars’ balance.

In qualifying Saturday afternoon, Abel again went to the top of the speed charts, with Mason fighting his way through traffic and Sundaramoorthy not quite able to find the pace he’d found in morning practice. With his fourth lap, Abel secured his second career INDY NXT pole position, with Mason starting 13th and Sundaramoorthy 16th.

“The ABEL Motorsports guys gave me a fantastic car all weekend,” said Abel. “Honestly, it was pretty easy out there. We worked hard at the test here and that gave me a great deal of confidence – and you need a lot of confidence here, given the high speed, especially as you get new tires quickly up to temperature. You also have to adapt quickly, and I think those are really my strong suits. This is definitely a small victory for sure, to get this pole, but we’ve been on pole before and we haven’t yet won a race. So that’s the job we need to do tomorrow.”

“The car got better through qualifying and my driving got a bit better, but from the get-go, it was a bit difficult,” said Mason. “Unfortunately, Louis Foster had an electrical issue in front of me on pit lane, so a few slower cars got past all of us and that stopped my momentum going forwards. I know that there’s still more time in there for sure, I’m just disappointed that the track positioning for me wasn’t there. But I’m happy with what we did in the end, and I’m looking forward to the race tomorrow.”

“After practice two this morning, I felt pretty confident that we knew exactly where the speed was,” said Sundaramoorthy. “I felt like we could get at least close to Jacob, and it just didn’t turn out that way, and I don’t know why. It felt like I was driving well and the time just wasn’t there, which is super frustrating. But it was a long race last year, with a good deal of attrition, so hopefully we can stay on the good side of that. The team’s been amazing – obviously, they put the best car on the grid. I’ve just got to do my part, and so far I haven’t done that quite, so hopefully I can figure it out tomorrow.”

Off-track notes 

In addition to the on-track sessions, all three drivers added a few extracurricular activities to their schedules. Abel serves as driver coach for the VRD Racing team in the USF Juniors series, which ran on Thursday and Friday. With only one INDY NXT session on Friday afternoon, Abel maintained his coaching duties, helping the team’s quartet of drivers – including race winner Sebastian Wheldon, son of the late Dan Wheldon – through four test sessions Thursday and two races Friday.

“The INDY NXT car is my priority this weekend, but the schedule has worked out to enable me to still work with the team,” said Abel. “I really enjoy working with those guys. I’ve seen them grow and achieve success, and it’s been fun to be a part of it. It’s not interfering with what I’m doing here, and if anything, it’s helping because I am spending more time watching on boards and teaching them how to drive the track so it helps me really focus.”

Sundaramoorthy joined ABEL team engineer Kent Boyer at a STEM event coordinated by the track Friday morning, speaking with local area college engineering students. He also checked one more item off his bucket list on Thursday: touring the Barber Museum. “I’ve been here four times and have never gone. It was definitely a top moment for me, a full experience to see all the cars and motorcycles. I wouldn’t say that I’m a super big gearhead, but I think we spent like three or four hours – the steam powered motorcycles from the late 1800s were cool,” said Sundaramoorthy.

And Mason? He was introduced to that most American of institutions – Buc-ee’s gas station/country store, located near the track. “I thought it was a restaurant, but my mechanic and he said it was a gas station. Apparently they have 150 pumps – but then I went inside and it was like a mall! They have everything – I didn’t know where to start so I just made a left turn when I walked in and went straight to the hats. I had to buy one.”

ABEL Motorsports thanks partners ABEL Construction Company, Advance Ready Mix, Boyd Cat®, S Team Motorsports, and OMP for their continued support.

The INDY NXT by Firestone Grand Prix of Alabama takes the green flag Sunday at 11:05 a.m. Eastern. The race will be streamed live in the U.S. on Peacock, while international viewers can watch via INDYCARLIVE.com, with INDYCAR Radio available at indycar.com/radio and on Sirius XM.