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Siegel bumped from Indy 500 field – Legge, Ericsson, Rahal make up final row

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After a tumultuous month of May, Dale Coyne Racing rookie Nolan Siegel has been bumped from the Indy 500 field. Siegel, who is running four races in the No. 18 for Coyne while running full-time in Indy NXT with HMD Motorsports, spun and hit the Turn 2 wall during his final qualifying attempt and will not take part in next Sunday’s race. The rookie was bested by Katherine Legge, Marcus Ericsson, and Graham Rahal, who will start next Sunday’s Indy 500 31st, 32nd, and 33rd respectively. Rahal had praise for Siegel after locking himself into the field.

You guys don’t know his name, but you will. He’s won in every class that I’ve watched him in, and I’ve known the kid since he was 10 years old. He was a little little guy then, but you know in the future he’s a winner. And it’ll be winning at this level sometime soon.

Siegel had been keeping up the pace for the first few days of practice before a violent crash during practice on Fast Friday that sent his No. 18 Honda into the wall before flipping over backwards, landing the 19-year-old driver upside down. The nature of the impact necessitated a complete chassis change. Since DCR is a relatively small operation, the one backup car the team had available was a chassis set up for a road course, and was last used a weekend ago by Jack Harvey on the IMS Road Course.

Credit: Joe Skibinski/Penske Entertainment

Just like Ericsson, who also went to backup road course car after a practice crash, speeds went down in a big way with the new car for Siegel. While the California native was last of the 34 entries on Friday before his crash, he wasn’t too far off from teammate Legge with a top speed of 229.813 mph. However, on the first day of qualifying, Siegel and the No.18 had a difficult time even putting up one lap in the 228 range. After multiple attempts, Siegel eventually mustered a 228.276 average on his final run of the day, which was still over two miles per hour shy of Rahal in 33rd.

On Saturday night, the Coyne driver made a phone call to 2013 Indy 500 winner Tony Kanaan. Siegel received some advice from the 20+ year IndyCar vet, and eventually, Kanaan, who currently serves as the Sporting Director for Arrow McLaren, got permission to serve as a consultant for Siegel on Sunday. In an interview during Sunday morning practice, TK described his role as one of “moral support”, and was not there to give any sort of technical or setup advice.

I did the best I could… Going flat is either going to lead me to the grid or to the wall.” said Siegel after his final run that ended two laps early.

For Ericsson, disaster was near after an incident on Thursday nearly derailed his May. In his first qualifying run during the last chance shootout, the Swede mistakenly thought his attempt was over after lap three of four and let off the gas a lap early. The 2022 winner had to wait for his engine to cool down before going out for another run, putting up an average speed of 230.027 mph to guarantee a starting position of 32nd next Sunday.

Rahal got his revenge after being bumped last year, but it was an up and down day for the veteran. The Ohio native posted a 229.974, average speed, good enough for 33rd. However, the IndyCar vet is nowhere near satisfied with his qualifying effort.

“There’s no reason to celebrate 33rd. That’s not where we should be and it’s not where we want to be.”

– Graham Rahal after qualifying on the last row for Sunday’s Indianapolis 500

Legge, after qualifying 28th with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing in 2023, has qualified for her fourth 500, this time in 31st. Her best finish is 22nd with Dragon Racing in the 2012 race.

The 108th Running of the Indianapolis 500 takes place a week from today. Coverage starts at 11:00 am on NBC, with the green flag at 12:45.

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Born and raised in the suburbs of Indianapolis, Gabe joined the TCF team in 2023 to cover the IndyCar Series. He currently studies Broadcast and Digital Journalism at Syracuse University. You can follow him on Twitter @gabe_perrin.
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