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Jamie Chadwick loving “brutal” Indy NXT series

W Series champ tells TG about adjusting to the IndyCar feeder series and racing ovals for the first time

Published: 01 Aug 2023

“It’s quite a brutal car. To drive it properly you have to wring its neck. You really have to just drive it to the absolute limit.”

Jamie Chadwick is describing her Indy NXT machinery, a Dallara-built, open-wheel racer weighing less than 650kg and powered by a 2.0-litre V8 that churns out 420bhp. Plus another 50bhp under turbo boost.

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It’s a mighty jump from the Tatuus F3 car that took her to a trio of W Series titles, but a necessary one to drive forward her career. Indy NXT is to IndyCar what Formula 2 is to F1, with May’s Indy 500 winner Josef Newgarden among its former champions.

And it means Chadwick has had to move away from the “smoothness and the pinpoint accuracy” that she’s used to, to an almost “off-road, rally” style of driving. “There’s something that’s been fun about that,” she says. “But understanding that limit and how to get the most out of the car is taking a bit of time.”

Her first six races brought little in the way of results, but in her last two events she’s shown signs of progress by breaking into the top 10 for the first time.

“It’s been tough,” she says. “In Europe there are fewer variables. So say you go from F3 to F2, you’re just getting used to the speed of the car and maybe the different tyres. Whereas at least the tracks stay the same.

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“Here, everything felt new. I turned up to the first race, a street track I’ve never driven, the car’s new, everything just felt peculiar. And that was a big thing that took some time to adjust to.”

A lot must’ve changed behind the scenes? “Big time,” she agrees. The training for one, plus the way of working with her Andretti Autosport team and engineers, as well as the racecraft itself.

Jamie Chadwick Indy NXT

“But as time’s gone on I’m starting to understand it; learn more about what it takes to be competitive over there. I’ve really enjoyed that challenge so far.”

And that goes for the ovals as well. Her last race at Iowa was her first taste of a speedway, a daunting milestone for any driver but especially for one who’d never run in traffic before her first race. Nevertheless, she revelled in it.

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“It only looks like two corners, and they’re pretty much flat out both ends, but the way you have to feel the balance of the car is very different,” she explains. “And then the racing’s a whole different ball game.

“Trying to pass cars and understand where you want to place the car, and you’ve got a spotter in your ear telling you where the other cars are.

“You never really slow down, you’re just constantly at speed. The race wasn’t even that long, but you’re just battling constantly,” she laughs. “It was fun!”

Chadwick is following in the footsteps of Pippa Mann, another British driver who moved from Europe to the States and who got her big break in the series (when it was known as Indy Lights) in her second season.

When TG caught up with Mann - a seven-time Indy 500 racer - in the spring, she said she hoped the 25-year-old would get two years in Indy NXT to find her feet and show what she can do, and Chadwick confirms she’s indeed on a two-year programme.

“Having that opportunity to learn a lot of the tracks and a lot of the unknowns this year to then go into next year with a lot more experience under my belt I think is very useful,” she says. “We only have two ovals on the calendar, so to have a second year of that before even looking at something like IndyCar - which has a lot more going on in that sense - would be important.

“But what’s nice from my perspective is I’ve seen the likes of Pippa progress from the Indy Lights championship to IndyCar. So I see it as a clear opportunity, if I can perform. And the focus now is fully on performance for next year to try and justify that.”

And while IndyCar is on her radar, Chadwick admits her racing bucket list includes several forms of racing beyond single seaters.

“Le Mans for sure,” she says. “I’ve been lucky enough to do the Nurburgring 24 Hours, but I’d love to do that in a top car. And Daytona’s up there as well. We’ll see what opportunities might come around.”

Photography: Penske Entertainment

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