IndyCar

Jamie Chadwick eyeing IndyCar after Indy NXT breakthrough: ‘It’ll take a lot more than just one win’

Jamie Chadwick eyeing IndyCar after Indy NXT breakthrough: 'It'll take a lot more than just one win'

Jamie Chadwick became the first woman to win an Indy NXT road course race – but she came within a few days of never having the opportunity.

After joining Andretti Global for the 2023 season on what was expected to be at least a two-year stint in IndyCar’s top ladder series, a sponsorship change (as DHL left Andretti for Chip Ganassi Racing) left Chadwick’s 2024 status uncertain last fall.

“I was three days off losing my seat,” Chadwick told NBC Sports in an interview two days after her breakthrough victory June 9 at Road America. “We had in mind always a two-year program, but unfortunately with the sponsorship changes and things, it didn't make life easy. And to be completely open, I didn't actually have the budget fully in place when I said I was ready to sign. So I managed to sign and had a few people underwriting and supporting me and some very loyal partners stay with me, but it's taken a little bit longer to get everything together.

“So fortunately, I obviously secured the seat and was back with Andretti, but there was a very, very, very close chance where I wasn’t returning.”

2024 INDYCAR XPEL Grand Prix at Road America

Jamie Chadwick is first woman to win on Indy NXT road course, leading every lap from pole at Road America

The native of England held off challenges by Louis Foster and Jacob Abel for her first career victory in the series.

  • Nate Ryan,

  • Nate Ryan,

She returned triumphantly at Road America, leading every lap from the pole position and proving she is worthy of the exposure that she has built over the years a three-time W Series champion and Extreme E veteran. Chadwick has been featured in national advertising (including a commercial for IBM) but says her branding “still is always needing more.

“It's a sport that does rely on commercial support,” she said. “We were very close on a knife’s edge to not securing the season budget-wise, so yeah, it's all welcomed support, and I'm very lucky to have loyal partners. But I know if I want to go up to IndyCar, there's a good chance I'm going to need a lot more commercial support.”

In an exclusive conversation with NBC Sports, Chadwick, who turned 26 in May, discussed her successful Road America weekend, how she’s adjusted to the Indy NXT car in her second season, her name on a youth go-karting series and her aspirations of eventually racing in IndyCar (this interview has been condensed and slightly edited for clarity):

Q: You’ve made a jump on pace this season, but was Road America the weekend in which you finally had the pace to win?

Chadwick: “Yeah, kind of exactly that; you're bang on. We've had good pace all year, but yeah, there's always been a little bit of a gap, especially to sort of the top three. I feel like I've been in the top five quite comfortably, but then that top three, there's been a bit of a gap too. And actually, coming to Road America from last year, I knew this would be one of my stronger tracks. We actually went really well here last year but didn't make it into a result, But it's a track I loved and felt like we could go well, and we had a few issues in practice. We had a fuel issue in in Practice 1 and then we were chasing balance in Practice 2. So this is where it's nice to have you know such a strong team in Andretti because we were able to basically match the work that the other teammates had done after that going into qualifying and then knowing Louis (Foster) had just smashed out of the park in Group 1, and I was in Group 2. I knew, ‘OK, we've got a really good car here, and the track's improving. And I feel like we're in a great window.’ So I felt like there was a great opportunity in qualifying in our session.

“But yeah, going into the race, I still didn't know if I had the speed to be able to hold off the guys behind, but I knew we had a really good car. I knew I'd be happy if I got out front, and I could lead from the front, I'd be in a good place. So that we did and just managed to control the race from there. It still wasn't easy, especially with the slipstream effect of Road America. It's very difficult to get away, combined with the fact that there were a thousand restarts. (laughs) But yeah, we had a really strong car, and I was confident to be able to bring it home.”

Milwaukee Mile Open Test

Q: Presuming this was the first time you’d been leading since the W Series days; did it feel comfortable to be up front and be able to control the rhythm?

Chadwick: “Exactly. Super comfortable. Honestly, that's the most comfortable I've been in Indy NXT, actually. I don't say it's easier, but for me and from what I've come from, it felt a lot more natural to be out front. You can control the pace. You can manage things how you want to manage it. As soon as I realized that we had a strong car, I was comfortable. I could quite comfortably manage with the push to pass that we had available as well. I felt super comfortable compared to when you're in the middle of the pack. I’ve watched a bit of the race back. I don't envy those guys when you're trying to attack, and you're being attacked, and the racing is so aggressive. I was definitely happy to be out front.”

Q: So you just had confidence in the team to be able to get it right despite the issues in practice?

Chadwick: “Exactly that. Yeah, the team have done a really, really good job this year. I've worked really hard on my side to kind of put myself in a position where I know what I want in the car, but sometimes, you've got a teammate that's going in a different direction that's also something that's working as well. It felt a little bit like that. We were going in our direction, (Foster) was going in his direction, and at one point, I just happened to be like, ‘Hey, let’s just try what they’re doing,’ and it worked really well. Yeah, it’s great to have that environment in the team and Andretti this year being super strong. That’s making my life a lot easier for sure.”

Q: What as the afterglow of the victory like? Who did you hear from at the track and elsewhere?

Chadwick: “I was soaking it in for sure. Yeah, I never find these moments really properly sink in, so I tried to enjoy the moment as much as I can. We've got a pretty back-to-back season, so it does very much feel like we're straight into the next thing. And that's also quite a nice feeling as well. But just trying to read through messages and look at my phone where I can, and it is quite overwhelming, to be honest. Some of the biggest feelings that I got from the weekend was just in the IndyCar paddock, to be honest. The likes of Michael Andretti, obviously he’s the team boss, but he's also someone that's out to mentor me a lot. So his support, his father Mario’s support and then a lot of the IndyCar drivers as well, to be honest. Just having their support is a pretty cool feeling.

“Especially having done some of the Formula One package stuff, I love how integrated our series (Indy NXT) is with IndyCar. And we're either racing just before or just after them a lot at the time. So we interact quite a lot. And yeah, I was going out for the (Indy NXT) driver presentations before the (IndyCar) race, and I'm pretty sure every single (IndyCar) driver came up to me and said, ‘Well done,’ which was something I've never experienced before. So that was very cool and inspiring as well in many ways. That was special.”

Q: Looking back at your struggles in the first half of the 2023 Indy NXT season, was it mostly about adapting to a heavier car without power steering?

Chadwick: “Yeah, last year coming into the series, I had tested the car, but it was on a different tire. And when we got to the first race, I was like, ‘This is a lot tougher than I was prepared for,’ and that combined with the fact I was coming from a much different series with shorter races, a lot less power, a lot less downforce. So in many ways, it was a big step up. So I knew I was going to have to make the difference. But once you get in season, it's very difficult to make a big, big difference to your physical strength. Yes, you get more car-fit, but it's not that easy to change what you're doing midseason.

“So as soon as the offseason came, we hit the ground running. I changed trainers. I worked with a specialist boxing coach. And I gave him one sort of instruction: Just make me as strong as possible. And it felt like that's what that's what he's done. So yeah, I'm super happy that that's made a big difference. But also there's a lot of other factors. We've changed the car a lot over the course of last year to get me into a place where I'm comfortable with the effort that it takes to drive. And it isn't the standard car that Andretti wouldn't usually run. And so I'm very lucky they've adapted the car for me, and actually a lot of the male drivers have gone to what I'm driving now as well. So, yeah, that's helped a lot as well.”

Q: Your social media feeds since winter has been filled with posts about working out at a boxing gym with a new trainer, Dan Lawrence. How has that emphasis on fitness been working?

Chadwick: “Yes, he's in England, but we train remotely a lot of the time. And then in Indianapolis, I sometimes train as well with a guy that a lot of the drivers train with as well. I just looked at what (Lawrence) had done, particularly with some of his athletes, and I look at female boxers, especially, and I think they're some of the strongest athletes in the world. And I was like, ‘If you can make me as strong as that, then I think I'm going to be OK.’

“And I don't think I'm as strong as that yet, but he's definitely done a very good job with me. I couldn't tell you the exact numbers, but it's crazy how much stronger I've gotten. And also, there's loads of other factors, working with the right dietician and definitely having a lot more protein in my diet. Things like this have made a big difference, but I put on 4 kilos since last year and for my size that's quite a lot. I keep saying I hope it's muscle because otherwise I just put on a lot of weight (laughs), but yeah, it's definitely made a big difference.”

Q: You’ve also been posting about your involvement in the first all-female karting championship and mentorship program in England. What’s the backstory there?

Chadwick: “That was something we launched at the beginning of this year and really it's something we've been talking about for a long time, but it was trying to do what we can to really tackle the grassroots level of the sport. There's so much that we're doing now, so many initiatives to help women in the sport but not a huge amount at that entry level. So it’s an all-female karting series that runs at three different locations in the U.K. and supported by Daytona, which is a ride-and-drive karting company in the U.K. And yeah, it's subsidized racing for an all-female lineup.

“So whilst the argument is we want to avoid this segregation, the argument on the flip side of that is what we're doing is creating an environment and a community that young girls can go enjoy and make friends and feel safe and comfortable. When I started in go-karts, there were no other girls, and it's not an environment that many would jump to be in, so it's all about just encouraging people to start in the sport in the first place. We had nearly 400 young girls show interest. And then at the first event, we had nearly 50 8-year-olds, 50 12-year-olds, so it was incredible to see. So, yeah, it's really a bit of a passion project for my side now. We've already had the first couple of races, and it finishes toward the end of the year, so it's amazing to see. There are some clear talents and also some people that have never done it before but are loving experiencing the sport for the first time.”

Q: Looking ahead now that you’re an Indy NXT winner, does reaching IndyCar become the primary goal over the Formula One aspirations that you had in the past?

Chadwick: “Yeah, I mean I'm on this sort of journey over here in the States, and I'd love to be able to step up into IndyCar. But I do keep saying it's going to take a lot more than just one race win to guarantee me anything in IndyCar. So I just need to keep working hard in Indy NXT.

“I think I'm in the perfect place and perfect feeder series to transition and move up if I can have the right success, so yeah, that’s my full focus at the moment and yeah, hopefully IndyCar isn't too far away. I’ve had a few discussions (with Andretti Global management). Andretti has a super strong three-car lineup at the moment, but the discussions are there and that's the great thing about being in a team like Andretti. You feel well placed if you're performing and in the right environment. You look at what Kyle Kirkwood did. He won with Andretti (in Indy NXT). He didn't get the option straight away to move to IndyCar with them, but now he’s got a great setup there. So yeah, I feel like if you can do what Kyle did at a team like Andretti, I hope you can be rewarded.”

Q: You’re ranked ninth in the Indy NXT points standings with eight races remaining, including a doubleheader at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, so what is the objective for the rest of 2024?

Chadwick: “We’re way off in the championship, unfortunately and frustratingly. We actually should be top three, top five if we'd had a little bit more fortune earlier in the year. So I think that's definitely still our aim to climb up the championship and still be getting results. I set my goal for this year to win a race and to get a podium, and we've done that already. So yeah, now we just need to keep working and keep chipping away.”

Source

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button