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Taylor Ferns will make four Indy NXT starts this season with ABEL Motorsports. (DB3 photo)

USAC’s Taylor Ferns To Tackle Indy NXT

Open-wheel racer Taylor Ferns has decided to tackle a new challenge this year — Indy NXT, the feeder division for the NTT IndyCar Series.

The 28-year-old will make four starts for ABEL Motorsports this season at four different tracks: Iowa Speedway, World Wide Technology Raceway in Illinois, Wisconsin’s Milwaukee Mile and Nashville Superspeedway.

“I’m not just going out there to drive around in circles. I have high expectations,” the ever-determined Ferns said. “This is something I’ve been working on since I was a kid.”

While her dream of racing Indy cars has existed for years, it wasn’t until recently that all the dominos of “divine intervention” fell into place for Ferns to secure her first opportunity in the national open-wheel series.

Taylor Ferns in action during the 2023 season. (Taylor Ferns Racing photo)

One such domino was Indy NXT’s decision to include more than two oval races on the schedule — an arrangement that hasn’t occurred since 2013.  

That was the only green light Ferns needed, and she inked the deal with ABEL in the wake of the news. Now, the focus is on testing and training rather than phone calls and paperwork.

While the look and feel of an Indy NXT machine is certainly different than the pavement sprint cars Ferns currently races, there are a few similarities between the two that have put her at ease with the transition.

Both cars have a single-seater, open-wheel design. In addition to strictly running ovals, Ferns will be making her series debut at Iowa Speedway — the same track where she made her USAC Silver Crown debut in 2012.

That’s about where the similarities end. Compared to her sprint car, the Dallara IL-15 machine only has about half the horsepower and is a rear-engine car, rather than front engine.

“Indy cars or Indy NXT cars would be the most similar to what I’m doing right now,” said Ferns, who will also be running the 500 Sprint Car Tour and a part-time USAC Silver Crown schedule this year.

She expects to feel more at home in the ABEL Motorsports entry than she did in the late models and stock cars she wheeled as a teenager.

“I tried to the stock car route before, and now, I’ve decided to do something different,” Ferns said.

The Shelby Township, Mich., native confesses that NASCAR was once the epitome of what she wanted to do with her racing career. It’s the very reason she got behind the wheel of a late model and eventually made her ARCA debut in 2013.

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Taylor Ferns will make her Indy NXT debut at Iowa Speedway, the same track where she made her USAC Silver Crown debut in 2012. (Submitted photo)

But early on, friend and mentor Lyn St. James made sure IndyCar was on Ferns’ horizon.

As one of nine women who have qualified for the Indianapolis 500, St. James was a large proponent for Ferns to pursue the open-wheel path.

She even brought Ferns to her first Carb Day at the Indianapolis 500 — an experience that gave then-15-year-old Ferns the chills.

“It’s something I’ve always kept on my radar and I’ve always been open-ended since I was a kid. I always said that I just wanted to race for a living — I didn’t care if that was NASCAR or IndyCar or World of Outlaws,” Ferns said.

While it’s been an idea in the back of her mind for decades now, Ferns has become increasingly focused on finding her way to Indy. It’s all about getting to the Indianapolis 500, which is Ferns’ ultimate dream.

In her mind, the inaugural venture into Indy NXT this year is the next logical step toward reaching the pinnacle of Indy car racing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway one day.  

Listen to the full story from Ferns’ on the latest episode of ‘On The Drive‘ podcast.