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  • Writer's pictureVIVIEN STREBELOW

Jamie Chadwick shows big step forward despite unfortunate first round

While her pace wasn't ultimately reflected in the final result due to a series of contacts, Jamie Chadwick showed great speed throughout the St Petersburg season opener, often running in the top five; a progress that should encourage the British racer, entering her sophomore campaign in IndyNXT.

Jamie Chadwick, Andretti Autosport, St Petersburg, 2024 Indy NXT
Photo by Penske Entertainment: Joe Skibinski

Indy NXT is back for the 2024 season and features a packed grid that promises an exciting new season as support of the NTT IndyCar series. The new year sees 20 drivers - the highest number since the series was founded in 1977 - including two female racers, as Jamie Chadwick returns for her sophomore campaign and Lindsay Brewer, who joins the top Indycar's feeder series after contesting the third-tier USF Pro 2000.

The calendar also features some new rounds, such as the return of Milwaukee Mile and Nashville Superspeedway - which last hosted a race in 2015 and 2008 respectively.

Jamie Chadwick contested her first season in North America after winning three back-to-back titles in the all-female W Series championship, at the wheel of a Tatuus Formula Regional car. In W Series, Chadwick had claimed an outstanding 11 wins, 10 pole positions and 18 podiums out of 21 races.

The British racer made her debut in Indy NXT in 2023, where she contested a highly positive campaign. She finished fourth among the rookies in 2023 and, with knowledge of the car and of the North American tracks now under her belt, a second season in Indycar's stepping stone feels like the natural development.

Amidst changes to the format, the venue of the season opener remained unchanged: the tricky street circuit of Saint Petersburg, Florida, which often presents a big challenge for rookies and veterans alike. Chadwick had first raced IndyNXT machinery at the track last year, collecting a positive 13th place finish, gaining five spots despite a contact with the barriers in the opening stages.

“I’m so excited to go back to St. Petersburg", Chadwick said before the weekend. "Last year, this track was where I had my first INDY NXT race, so coming back with a season under my belt is a full circle moment. St. Pete offers an enjoyable track with a dynamic layout that promotes good racing, so I can’t wait to get the No. 28 car out there again and focus on getting a good result.”

The first practice session was already typically action-packed, with two red flags interrupting the session as the 21 drivers, most of them rookies, tried to adapt to the narrow street circuit in Florida. The first one already came in the opening minutes, when Nolan Siegel (HMD Motorsports) made contact with the barriers after he had taken the top of the timing board in the first runs. But he wasn't the only one to hit trouble, as rookie Niels Koolen (HMD Motorsports) also stopped on track.

The second red flag was caused by Jamie Chadwick, who showed impressive pace during the practice but found the wall at turn 4 after locking up. She was in good company - but there were also drivers who couldn't avoid the wall, causing more damage. Luckily, Chadwick managed to continue after a front wing change and continued to show very promising pace, eventually finishing the first session of the year in a strong fourth place.

Louis Foster (Andretti Global) was fastest, ahead of Michael d’Orlando (Andretti Cape) and Caio Collet (HMD Motorsports).

Practice 2 was also a busy one, with plenty of traffic and late red flags that interrupted the session. With under ten minutes to go, Christian Bogle (HMD Motorsports) and Jack Williams Miller (Miller Vinatieri Racing) went side by side - with Bogle running straight into the barriers. The session went green with around three minutes to go and drivers headed out before the session was red flagged again when Nolan Allaer (HMD Motorsports) hit the wall with just nearly zero seconds left on the clock.

Foster was again on top, ahead of Collet and Jacob Abel (Abel Motorsports). Jamie Chadwick showed once again really promising speed and clocked the 5th fastest time - highlighting how the British driver had carried momentum from her positive debut season and, after a streak of top ten finishes in the second half of 2023, she has made a further step forward.

Jamie Chadwick, Andretti Autosport, St Petersburg, 2024 Indy NXT
Photo by Penske Entertainment: Chris Jones

The new IndyNXT qualifying format this year splits the field into two groups which would then shape one line of the grid each.

Siegel was fastest in group one - which meant that his group would be starting ahead of group two. P1 of group 1 was the polesetter, while the fastest from group 2 will be lining up alongside on the front row. That meant that Siegel claimed pole position, ahead of Abel (fastest in group 2) and Myles Rowe (second fastest in group 1).

Jamie Chadwick contested the second group - just like Lindsay Brewer - and, with the fifth fastest time, around half a second from the top, she would be lining up from P10. Her starting position left the British star with a bitter taste, as a red flag cutted the session short.

“I think we showed really good pace in practice today, but we knew it was going to close up in qualifying" - Chadwick commented. "Our group got a little unlucky with the reds there, but the No. 28 crew still had a good run at it and we’re in the mix for fighting tomorrow."

"It’s going to be an interesting day, but I’m happy to have the season underway” - Jamie continued.

Siegel, who started from pole, was never really challenged in the race on the streets of St. Petersburg, leading from lights to flag with Abel trying to stay close behind; the latter, though, soon saw Siegel pulling away in the lead.

In the opening stages of the race, Jamie Chadwick had gained a position and was up to ninth place - but at the final corner of the first lap, she was hit and sent wide by Josh Pierson (HMD Motorsports), and the incident put her at the back of the pack. Pierson was then handed a penalty and sent to the back, but Chadwick's race was compromised.

Nevertheless, Jamie had great pace and was quick to catch back the pack. She had already got past two other cars with bold moves, when she closed in on Koolen for 16th.

Chadwick went for the move into turn 1, but went a bit wide at the direction change of turn 2 as she scraped the wall. The contact, unfortunately, was enough to cause suspension damage and she had to pit at the end of lap 9.

“I'm feeling disappointed after today’s outcome", Jamie said. "We really only got one lap in when we got tapped by another car, which set us back for the rest of the race from there."

After repair work from the team, the No.28 machine was back out for the end of the race and took the chequered flag, albeit 24 laps behind.

"We were able to get back out at the very end of the session to finish up the day, but it was still not the day we were hoping to have", she continued. "Aside from the race, we had good pace and there are still plenty of positives to take from this weekend into the rest of the season. "

A caution slowed Siegel down in front as he had already opened a gap of nearly 8 seconds when Bryce Aron slid into the barrier. But Siegel stayed calm and managed a good restart to easily keep the lead from his team mate Abel.

As the saying goes, yellows rarely come alone; the race was neutralized once again as Miller made contact with the wall. The race resumed with seven to go, but Siegel made clear that today no one would have a chance against him and disappeared into the distance.

Siegel won ahead of Abel and Foster, in a dominant showing on the streets of St Pete.

Despite the unfortunate end of the opening race of the season, the step forward shown by Jamie Chadwick is a very encouraging sign for the Andretti driver, whose pace throughout the weekend suggested a potential top six finish. Coming into more familiar tracks, she might be able to continue her progress to the top.

The next race will take place on the 28th April at Barber Motorsports Park. 



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