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Indy racing’s NXT big thing Lindsay Brewer

Under a California sun less hot, but more blazing than you’d think – my forearms were beet red for days afterward – I found some respite under the tents next to Juncos Hollinger Racing’s Indy NXT hauler, where I had the chance to sit down with one of America’s best-known open-wheel prospects, Lindsay Brewer.

I was originally meant to interview Lindsay before her race, the second leg of a double-header at the iconic Laguna Seca Raceway, but it turned out to be scheduled right in the middle of her final preparations, so we arranged to meet afterward instead.

There’s something a bit surreal about talking to Lindsay, in that she seems like the protagonist of a racing movie who somehow escaped the script and started driving for real.

It makes sense, though, given her unconventional path – after the usual childhood success in karting, Lindsay took four years off to attend college at San Diego State.

Then she jumped back in the car and started working her way up the Road to Indy ladder, all while amassing a substantial fanbase that already rivals or surpasses that of several F1 drivers.

While it’s one thing to see a picture of her and know why she has three million followers on Instagram, it’s quite another to speak to her in person and grasp why so much sponsor money is riding on her.

She struck me as down-to-earth, but quietly confident in her own abilities – no doubt bolstered by the fact she’d just survived a demanding, chaotic race where typically strong performers like Jacob Abel and Myles Rowe struggled and came out of it with one of her best results this year.

While there’s no pressure for her to move up to IndyCar yet – nor should there be, since it usually takes two seasons in Indy NXT before a driver is ready for the big time – the potential upside once she gets there, especially if she does well, is too massive to miss.

But enough speculating on the future. Let me show you where her head’s at right now.

Q: Congratulations on matching your best finish of the season! Tell me, how different was it going through Laguna Seca the second time around?

A: Laguna Seca is one of the coolest tracks I’ve ever driven on. It’s probably the most physical track as well. I think my biggest challenge in this rookie season has just been my physical strength with these cars, because there’s no power steering and a lot of downforce.

I knew that today would be even more physical than yesterday – we have IndyCar rubber down from qualifying in morning warm-up, and it’s a lot hotter today, so definitely a tough race, but it felt good.

I kept my nose clean, didn’t make any mistakes, and had my fastest lap on the second-to-last lap of the race. I think that’s how I moved up some positions and battled a bit. So, yeah, it was a pretty good weekend overall.

Q: Let me rewind a bit to yesterday. You ended up having an effect on that third-place result. I won’t rehash it, I’m sure people saw, but can I get your side of the story?

A: I mean, I never want to affect a race like that. Race control determined it was [Yuven Sundaramoorthy’s] mistake to go in on the inside when he was that far back while I was already turning, and he made contact with me.

Plus my radio wasn’t working—it’s not an excuse, but I probably should have lifted a bit earlier, since I wasn’t on the same lap as him.

But it was an unfortunate situation, because I was also battling for a position and didn’t quite know who was who, and he kind of came up out of nowhere. I went and apologized to him after.

I know it was technically his fault, but, again, it wasn’t my lap to be racing with him. It’s just an unfortunate situation overall, and absolutely not what I wanted to happen.

Q: You started the year driving solo here, and Ricardo Escotto only entered the picture recently. How much does having a teammate on the track with you change your approach to the race?

A: It’s nice to have a teammate for sure. I feel like I mainly focus on my own program. It’s great to have another teammate out there, but whether I have one or not, we have a lot of good data from previous years that I’ve been able to look at when I’m by myself.

It’s good to have Ricardo as well—he’s a rookie too, so we’re both trying to learn. But while it’s great to have someone with me just for the support, I like to mainly focus on my own program with my engineer.

Q: Being at Juncos Hollinger, you’ve got two very experienced, talented drivers to look up to in Romain Grosjean and Agustín Canapino. What’s the best bit of veteran wisdom they’ve taught you in your time here?

A: I wouldn’t say there’s one specific lesson. I feel like they just say, “Send it. Don’t worry about what other people say. Try your hardest.”

But anytime I’m around them, they give me advice on the track walks, and they’re very helpful. So it’s good to have that sort of mentorship with me, and they’re very supportive of the Indy NXT program.

Q: Later in the season, you’ll be running four different ovals, three of which you’ve never raced on before. Given the unique style of racing ovals produce, what are you doing to make sure you’re prepared?

A: It’s definitely going to be a challenge. Gateway was my very first oval and was very difficult for me, to be honest. But after testing at Milwaukee, I actually really like ovals, so I’m really excited for the rest of the season.

Q; One last question. As an IndyCar fan, I really appreciate the chance to see people jump around into other disciplines. We had seven drivers go to Le Mans last weekend, and Katherine Legge’s running Pikes’ Peak today. So I’m curious, do you see any other disciplines in your future at some point? And if so, which ones really draw your eye?

A: Yeah, 100 percent. I just like to drive anything, to be honest—racing is what I love.

So let’s say I run Indy NXT for a couple of years, or let’s say IndyCar doesn’t work out—obviously, the 500 is my dream. IndyCar is my dream. But if that doesn’t work out, I would totally drive NASCAR.

I would totally drive sports cars. Honestly, I’m open to anything. I just love driving. So for sure, I want to dip my toes into other series.

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