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Unlucky contact denies Chadwick top 5 after best qualifying to date

"It was just another one of those unfortunate situations" - Jamie Chadwick's best qualifying to date in Indy NXT couldn't be converted in a top five finish after an unfortunate contact resulted in a tyre puncture for the Andretti Autosport driver, who had been running as up as fourth at the Detroit Street Circuit.

Jamie Chadwick, Andretti Autosport, Indy NXT, Detroit Grand Prix 2024
Photo credits: Penske Entertainment / Joe Skibinski

Jamie Chadwick's best qualifying to date in Indy NXT couldn't be converted in her second top five of the season after an unfortunate contact mid-way through the race resulted in a tyre puncture for the Andretti Autosport driver, who had been running as up as fourth and was solidly in contention for a top-five at the Detroit Street Circuit that hosted the fifth round of the season.

Despite the frustrating result, the Indy NXT Firestone Grand Prix of Detroit highlighted once again Chadwick's step forward in her sophomore campaign in Indycar's top feeder series: after progressively getting closer to the top ten in her rookie season, Chadwick's performances in 2024 has been steadily on par with the front runners, showing pace to battle within the top five or the podium in most rounds so far.

Bad luck, though, has also been a constant oh her first part of the season, with either issues or unlucky contacts preventing her from collecting the deserved results in all but one race - the first contest at the road course of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where the driver of the #28 machine claimed her first podium in Indy NXT.

This trend unfortunately continued at Detroit - on a circuit where Jamie had impressed in 2023 with a run that almost ended in her first top-ten in the series in last year's doubleheader.

“Detroit is a recent add to the calendar as of last year, and when we were here, I really enjoyed racing on this track", Chadwick said before the event. "It’s definitely a challenging circuit since it’s very bumpy and speeds vary, but that makes for fun racing."

"I feel like I learned a huge amount after competing in Detroit and I’m excited to go back and try to push for another podium this weekend.”

The bumpy nine-turn street circuit features tight sections and a few overtaking spots - namely at the end of the long straight before the hairpin at turn 3 - and is known to result in chaotic races.

Jamie Chadwick, Andretti Autosport, Indy NXT, Detroit Grand Prix 2024
Photo credits: Penske Entertainment / Chris Owens

The weekend's schedule included two practice sessions - and Chadwick soon showed good speed: she ran within the top ten throughout most of the first session, then ended P8 in the second session, just a second to the pace setter Louis Foster. While again close to the group of the front-runners, Chadwick aimed to further close the gap for Saturday's qualifying - as usual a crucial part of the weekend for street circuits.

And Chadwick did deliver.

Entering the Group 1 session, Jamie was second fastest after her first run, before James Roe hit the wall, bringing out the red flag with a handful of minutes to go. The session resumed but her 1:06.505 proved to be enough to secure her a start from the second row of the grid.

It was her career best starting position to date in Indy NXT.

In the second group, Louis Foster was faster than Jacob Abel - who had set the pace in the first group, just ahead of Chadwick - and thus took pole, in a session disrupted by Myles Rowe's crash. Chadwick would therefore line up from fourth on the grid for the 500th Indy NXT race in the series' history.

“We were building up a decent session and I’m happy that we’re going to be starting on the second row tomorrow", she commented. "This is my best qualifying to date, so I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do with that during the race. Hopefully we can find what we need to end up at the top.”

On a cloudy but dry track, the fourth round of the season got underway with early drama for Nolan Siegel, who could not take the start after late technical issues on his HMD Motorsports machine.

A three-car battle for second place saw Jamie Chadwick having to take the outside line at turn 3 after the start, which put her in an unfavorable position with teammate Michael D'Orlando trying to demote her at the exit; Jamie defended confidently, but d'Orlando did manage to snatch fourth at the end of the first lap. Foster held the lead with a very strong first lap, extending his lead to Caio Collet and Jacob Abel.

Chadwick settled in fifth position, but the first safety car of the race was soon deployed when Bryce Aron made heavy contact with the wall.

Jamie Chadwick, Andretti Autosport, Indy NXT, Detroit Grand Prix 2024
Photo credits: Penske Entertainment / Paul Hurley

The race resumed on lap 8 and Jamie had a good restart, but couldn't take the inside line again at turn 3, which forced her to defend from Jack William Miller at the corner exit. Miller, though, soon came under pressure from Hedge, which gave Chadwick the opportunity to focus ahead and open a 1.5 second buffer. She lapped on par with the two cars ahead and consistently improved her personal best times in the opening stages.

When Miller made a mistake and went deep, Hedge soon set the fastest lap of the race once in clean air and closed back in on Chadwick. Behind them, Sundaramoorthy was also making up ground in seventh, in a busy midfield. A contact between D'Orlando and Abel saw Jamie briefly moving up to third as she avoided the tangled cars, although Abel and Hedge found a way past the Andretti machine a few corners later, with Chadwick settling again in fifth position by lap 20.

A second caution was out for another off track moment for Miller, who eventually could rejoin from his run-off excursion.

The restart was another challenge as Chadwick this time stuck to the inside line - and had a great run into turn 1, but just as she was about to attack Abel, she was tagged by Sundaramoorthy at the exit, which caused a tyre puncture.

After a pit stop on lap 27, Jamie rejoined in P17, but she would need another caution to catch the pack. Despite being over 40 seconds behind, Chadwick set competitive times, over a second faster than the car ahead.

The caution did eventually come when Sundaramoorthy went deep into the run-off: at the restart Chadwick now had Bogle in her target. While she couldn't immediately catch the pack in time for the restart, the yellow was back out for a multiple car pile up at turn 6 that took Koolen, Allaer and Roe out of the race.

Now up to P12, it could have been a good chance for Chadwick to attempt a run for the top ten - but time ran out and the race ended under caution: Louis Foster took victory ahead of Caio Collet and Myles Rowe in a very disrupted GP of Detroit; it was another unlucky round for Chadwick, whose pace was again top-five-worthy but was caught in a contact with no fault of her own.

“Today was super frustrating", she stated. "It was just another one of those unfortunate situations. We were fighting in the top five and got a puncture on the rear tyre."

"We got back up to 12th with the attrition in the race, but it was still pretty frustrating", she continued. "Onto the next.”

While in no way representative of her pace, the 12th place was still her second best result of the year after the Indianapolis podium - highlighting how the 87 points collected so far after 5 races and four meetings do not reflect the major steps forward made by the British racer in her second season in Indy NXT, who now sits 13th in the drivers' standings.

Next up will be Road America, which will play host to the sixth round in a week's time, on June 8-9.



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