Best weekend to date for Jamie Chadwick in Indy NXT at Detroit
Jamie Chadwick enjoyed her best race in IndyNXT to date at Detroit, where she fought her way up to ninth and battled within the top 10 throughout race 1. While she was hit at the start of race 2, the British driver is now showing big improvements at every outing.
Having taken the place of Belle Isle on the Indycar calendar, the new Detroit street circuit turned out to be one of the trickiest and and bumpiest tracks on the 2023 Indy NXT series schedule, as the 2.647 km circuit features not many corners but many difficult spots - and certainly little room for errors, as the sessions proved.
At her first season in the series and with a car which represents a significant step forward compared to the Formula Regional car she raced in the previous years, British racing star Jamie Chadwick is improving round after round, despite the somehow limited track time that IndyNXT enjoys during race meetings. After a tough start on the streets of St Peterburg, Chadwick scored a P11 at Barber Motorsports Park, the first permanent circuit on the calendar, despite being hit on the first lap by a competitor that caused a bent front suspension.
While the result did not reflect it, the following round at Indianapolis Motor Speedway - on the road course layout - was an even bigger step forward. Jamie had shown good pace and, after a difficult first couple of laps, the Andretti Autosport driver had really strong race pace - at one point among the fastest on track - and completed several clean passes for position that gained her a P15.
Coming into the new Detroit street circuit, Chadwick aimed for more progress - and that's what she certainly achieved. A ninth place in practice proved that she would be able to contest for her first top ten of the season.
The practice session was all about learning the secrets of the track before putting in the fast laps for qualifying. Nolan Siegel (HMD Motorsports) was fastest at the end of practice, ahead of Hunter McElrea (Andretti Autosport) and Danial Frost (HMD Motorsports).
The qualifying session is split into two sections, with 15 minutes and 8 minutes of green flag action respectively. Andretti Autosport's Louis Foster claimed pole position for both the upcoming races - having also brushed the wall on his fast lap. But a slightly damaged rear suspension didn't stop the Andretti driver.
Jamie Chadwick had a difficult qualifying and was 14th and 15th fastest for the double header. She would need to make up some places to match her potential.
"Day 1 on the bumpy streets of Detroit", she summed up. "We had a fast package but had a messy run in qualifying and left a bit too much on the table."
Race 1 was drama filled - with a last lap heartbreak for Nolan Siegel, who came back from fourth to lead the field into the last lap, but a gearbox issue slowed him down to 8th just across the finish line. Reece Gold (HMD Motorsports) took victory, after a great battle with Siegel throughout the race.
Jamie Chadwick had by far her strongest race to date in the series - having approached the start with calm and avoided a few messy situations happning in front. Pole sitter Foster was tagged into wall before even making it into turn 1, and a few drivers picked up wing damage but continued.
At the restart, Jamie made up more positions and advanced to 12th. By lap 7, the DHL-sponsored machine was already in the top ten - for the first time this season. Jamie closed in on Francis Jr, who had a slightly damaged front wing after the first lap incident - while defending at the same time from Sowery. Chadwick would move up to ninth on lap 13 - and continued to show pace to battle with the cars ahead.
While she eventually lost a place to Sowery, Chadwick was solidly back in ninth place after a mistake by Danial Frost. She continued log good laps and battle within the top ten througout the race - until she came under pressure with 10 laps to go and ultimately dropped to P11, where she would cross the finish line.
Despite missing out on her first top-10 in IndyNXT, Chadwick proved that with some mileage under her belt, she will be climbing the order.
“That's a long, tough, physical race, but we stuck in there", Jamie said. "I didn't race as well as I would've liked. Gave up a few too many positions but we still stayed through it and kept the nose clean."
"Now we just have to get ready to fight again tomorrow.”
The second race on Sunday, on the other hand, offered little chances to show her potential.
After a good start from P15, Chadwick was eyeing another strong race, but she was crashed out at the first corner by Kyffin Simpson, who hit the back of the #28 DHL machine, forcing Chadwick to a pit stop on lap 1. The Andretti Autosport crew changed the rear wing and sent Jamie back out on track, albeit three laps down.
The second race at Detroit became a test session for Jamie, who still completed 40 laps - after also picking up a tyre puncture. Simpson later received a 30 second stop and go penalty for causing the accident.
"Feeling disappointed, I just got caught in a tangle on that one", she commented. "We had to change the rear wing after someone rain into the back of me, so from there it was a bit painful."
"We then picked up a right rear flat, so that caused more complications. We stuck in there and got the laps, but I'm just frustrated that we couldn't fight today", Chadwick added.
There was finally redemption for Siegel, who won his first race in the series after the heartbreaking last corner technical issue on Saturday.
Siegel's biggest challenger was Christian Rasmussen (HMD Motorsports), who tried to snatch the lead several times but wasn't ultimately able to make a move stick over his teammate.
Jagger Jones was the only driver to retire in race 2, as Chadwick couldn't recover higher than 16th place. "It’s all starting to come together despite contact in Race 2", Jaime wrote after the weekend, as she is visibly getting more comfortable in the IndyNXT Dallara.
The fifth round will take place from 16th to 18th of June at the Firestone Grand Prix at Road America.