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Chadwick: Indy NXT a “huge option” for young female drivers

Written by Archie O’Reilly

Three-time W Series champion Jamie Chadwick has described Indy NXT by Firestone as a “huge option” for young female drivers, including those currently in Formula 1 Academy, after taking her maiden podium in the premier American open-wheel ladder series.

“I think the whole Indy ladder is a really good opportunity with the way it works with the seat time, everything,” Chadwick said. “Europe is also a great opportunity but it is super tough and super saturated. There’s a great opportunity over here. Being over in Miami with the F1 Academy cars, it’s incredible to see the growth of women’s motorsport.

“I’m proud to play a small role in that. I think the thing we can do now is just encourage as many young girls through the ladder as possible. I want to see more girls in USF Juniors, USF Pro [2000] and Indy NXT. There’s still work to do but it’s very cool to see the progress.”

Chadwick was an 11-time winner in the now-dissolved female-only W Series championship, finishing off the podium only three times in 21 races. Her third of three years in the series ended three races early as the championship failed to secure necessary funding. 

So Chadwick looked to move Stateside and venture into the NTT IndyCar Series ladder in 2023. 

Her first season, driving for Andretti Global, saw some inconsistency but notable improvement through the year. After finishing her first six events outside the top 10, Chadwick ended the season with five top-10 finishes inside the final eight races. That trajectory has continued into 2024.

“I think there’s a lot of ease in just knowing how the season goes coming into a second year,” she said. “I feel like the approach is already kind of two, three steps ahead of what it maybe was before. My approach this year is to try and go for big results, just maximum attack. If I make mistakes, I make mistakes. 

“I didn’t really have the opportunity last year to really fight at the front or be in the thick of it as much. I was a bit too off the pace to have the opportunity. This year I just want to go for it as much as I can, even if I make mistakes.”

Chadwick started the season by qualifying 10th in St. Petersburg and a further improved sixth at Barber Motorsports Park. But an early pair of incidents out of her control in St. Pete saw her put out of contention, while a late spin at Barber meant possible back-to-back top-10 finishes were instead two 20th-place classifications.

Having shown top-10-worthy pace in every session across those weekends, the feeling was that Chadwick did not have the result that she deserved. Heading to the IMS road course, that was about to change with a third-place finish in the opening race of their doubleheader, progressing from sixth place in qualifying.

“A day like today where you can make the most of the situation and get a podium, that’s where I feel it’s starting to pay off,” Chadwick added on her renewed approach for 2024.

Ultimately, Chadwick does not feel she had the pace to “make a meaningful challenge” to leading pair Jacob Abel or Nolan Siegel across two late-race caution restarts “without it probably being a bit haphazard”. But a podium is still a reward for what she believes was a race executed as well as it could have been by her No.28 Andretti team.

She admitted it means “a lot more for sure” than her successes in W Series, particularly considering many have doubted her capabilities in a mixed category.

“Especially coming off the back of last year, which was a tough transition into the series, to find what I felt was good form and pace this year - but struggling to convert that into a result - to then get our first podium here definitely means a lot,” Chadwick added. “It did fall into our hands nicely but we’ve had good pace all year. It felt like we were knocking on the door.”

It was a reward for an off-season of hard work for Chadwick, who has often spoken about the necessity of having to keep up from a physical standpoint. She said that was a “big” thing she put onus on improving heading into her sophomore year in Indy NXT.

“These are physical cars,” she said. “Coming from something like W Series, which is probably closer to an F4 car, I knew it was going to be a challenge. But until you’re really in the thick of it and in the season, you don’t really know. And for that reason I was underprepared last year. 

“I beefed up quite a bit over the off-season, which has definitely helped and paid off this year. Also just knowing what’s coming… Last year, going to tracks for the first time, spending a lot of energy on learning so much, it makes me take my hat off to the rookies that come in and do an incredible job because it isn’t as easy as it looks.”

Chadwick was keen to quash the perception that it is “maybe not as tough” racing in the United States. She believes these views are “definitely” not accurate.

“It’s actually very hard to make such a big step,” she further said of her improvements so far this year. “I’m so happy with the step that we’ve made. At the end of last year we started to make the improvements and then it just took the off-season to really make the progress that we needed to. I’m very happy in that sense. 

“There’s still improvement to make. I want to be ultimately where Jacob is [winning races] at some point. There’s still a step to that but, at the same time, I’m very happy with the progress and just the validation that it’s all starting to pay off.”

Heading into the remainder of the year, Chadwick is keen to become a more consistent feature at the front of a now-21-deep Indy NXT field. Her trajectory makes this ambition more than justifiable.

“I think we’ve made a solid foundation, a solid step to allow me to do that.”


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