Jamie Chadwick finishes P13 on Indy NXT debut at St.Pete
"I learned a lot and have a lot to work on, but just happy I got through it." - Jamie Chadwick completed her first weekend in Indy NXT with a 13th place finish on the extremely challenging St.Petersburg street circuit.
A new series, a new car, a new continent with new tracks and a whole new challenge: three-time W Series champion Jamie Chadwick started her adventure in the newly-rebranded IndyNXT - formerly known as Indy Lights - on the streets of St.Petersburg, Florida, one of the most challenging tracks for a rookie. Having been dominant in her last seasons, Chadwick struggled to move up the single seater ladder due to a lack of funding - until the young driver from Bath, UK, finally landed an important opportunity Stateside: a seat in the highly competitive IndyNXT, at Andretti Autosport. While all the eyes of the world were on the first female full-time entry in IndyCar's closest stepping stone since Pippa Mann last raced in the series 13 years ago, Jamie Chadwick's first year in Indy NXT was realistically always going to be a learning season. A significantly more powerful machine, alongside with a very different set of racetracks to learn from scratch are just the top of the list, as the British driver also acclimates to the environment of American motorsport. A driver that has won in every form of racing she has ever participated in - from British GT, British F3, MRF Formula, W Series - up until the 24H of the Nürburgring - there is very little doubt that she Chadwick has the talent to rise to the top in her new adventure, when given the proper time to learn. And while her first weekend in the series was not without its difficulties, Jamie comes home from St. Petersburg with plenty of positives to take away. On a track that proved to be extremely challenging for most of the drivers of all the series racing last weekend - including the experienced IndyCar racers - the practice sessions were filled with red flags for several incidents, which severely limited the track time of the drivers. From the first to the second practice session, Chadwick halved the gap to the front, gaining 8 tenths and slotting in P14. She again improved in the 10 minute qualifying session, where she recorded a 1:05.9157 lap, only 8 tenths to pole sitter Louis Foster, in an extremely tight field entirely compressed in one second. Starting from P18, Chadwick's target was to bring the car home and learn as much as she could from the 55-minute race. "I didn’t maximise qualifying today", Jamie said. "Still learning lap by lap and it’s super close so we’ll be fighting through tomorrow." Foster, IndyPro 2000 champion, lined up on the front row ahead of Jacob Abel for the opening round of the season, while Christian Rasmussen and Rasmus Lindh shared the second row of the grid. Overshadowed by many accidents and cautions, the race went green with Foster retaining the top spot ahead of Rasmussen, who passed Abel. But soon the race would be interrupted when Reece Gold and Enaam Ahmed collided after Turn 3. Chadwick took a cautious approach on the opening lap and avoided troubles; there was not much green flag running at the restart, as Colin Kaminsky and Jagger Jones made contact, with the latter ending in the tire wall at Turn 4. With no way to go, Jamie Chadwick found herself stuck behind Jones, having made contact as well. Nevertheless, she was able to get going again and pitted for a new front wing. The next restart saw Abel pass Rasmussen and Foster to get into the lead. Abel tried to pull away, but Foster soon closed in again, attempting to fight back. The next caution was deployed on lap 27, as Josh Pierson collided with the wall at Turn 10. The caution allowed Jamie to catch back up with the pack after her earlier pit stop. Her teammate Foster hit trouble at the restart and had to defend, while Abel kept the top spot. Back in fourth position, Foster ended up making contact with the wall and was forced to get back in the pits. Jamie Chadwick also had more problems at Turn 4, where she went deep and hit the tire barriers, bringing out a new caution. Damage was minimal and she was again able to rejoin the pack.
On the final restart, Abel was under pressure from Siegel - and Danial Frost seized the opportunity to move into first place with a couple of minutes left on the clock. Frost took advantage from a mistake by Siegel who went deep at Turn 2, snatching the leading position and the first victory of the 2023 season. Abel completed the podium. Jamie Chadwick had meanwhile rejoined the race and brought the car home in 13th position, completing her first race in the Indy NXT series and collecting her first points. She gained five places from her starting position. "I'm just happy I made it to the finish in my first Indy NXT by Firestone race today, it was such an eventful race", she commented. "I learned a lot and have a lot to work on, but just happy I got through it. I think that's a bit of a welcome to Indy NXT." With her debut behind her, Jamie will be focusing on the next round on the road course of Barber Motorsports Park, Alabama, on 30th April. On a more traditional circuit in regards to her previous experiences - and with now a better understanding of the car - Chadwick showed that with an improved qualifying she is in contention for a top-10 as early as in the next race.