until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


Chadwick's US move is paying off - and proving her critics wrong

by Charley Williams
5 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

The Formula 1 ladder’s loss was always going to be IndyCar’s gain. Jamie Chadwick has blazed a trail for female racers ever since she began competing in motorsport 11 years ago. Now, she’s an Indy NXT race winner, and her move Stateside is finally paying off.

And maybe it’s got a better chance of continuing in that style than her European career ever would have. 

Chadwick made history at Road America on Sunday when she became the first woman driver ever to win an Indy NXT (formerly Lights) race on a road course and the first woman to win in the series at all since Pippa Mann in 2010.

Starting on pole and leading every lap of the 20-lap race, she was in full control. Even when the race was red-flagged and a two-lap shootout was needed to secure the victory, she did so by obtaining a 0.823s lead on her championship-chasing Andretti team-mate Louis Foster on the restart lap.

During that red flag, Foster - restarting third - came onto team radio to ask Chadwick to give him some slipstream when the race resumed to help him in his battle for second with title rival Jacob Abel. He acknowledged second place was as good as he was going to get as he had no answer to Chadwick - and he was right.

Road America didn’t come out of the blue. There was plenty of scepticism about Chadwick’s low-key form in her NXT rookie season last year, but as our American Editor Jack Benyon kept pointing out, given she had a whole calendar of tracks to learn and a very different new series to acclimatise to against locally experienced opposition, her learning year was actually very promising.

This year, she’s qualified in the top 10 for every race and the top six for all bar one. She got on the podium at the Indianapolis road course but only a lot of bad luck had stopped her being up there more often before Road America.

That Road America weekend may turn out to be the most important of her whole career.

A strange thing to say considering, for three years, Chadwick was an undisputed champion. She won the inaugural W Series season in 2019 and went on to defend her title in 2021, when the series returned after a COVID hiatus, and again its final year in 2022.

Over her time in the all-female series, she comfortably secured the most wins, podium finishes, pole positions, and points. She won just over half the races in W Series history and was only off the podium in three of them.

Her dominance was unmatched, which only added to the growing concerns about the championship's viability in helping women find higher opportunities in racing. Given the usual career routes most of the W Series grid had been forced to take until its creation, there weren’t many benchmarks for judging just what being so dominant there really meant or how it would translate to the main F1 ladder - and seemingly not much appetite for finding out.

The series’ abrupt demise turned out to be a blessing in disguise for its best driver. 

W Series did its job in providing Chadwick with the visibility and on-track experience that young female racing drivers struggle to obtain compared to their male counterparts, while not lumbering her with the need to gather a huge budget.

Without that opportunity, she surely wouldn’t have been on the radar for the Andretti Indy NXT chance.

Getting onto the proper F3-F2 ladder at all - let alone getting near F1 - looked like a remote hope from W Series, and its F1-sanctioned F1 Academy successor still needs time to prove it can be a proper feeder for that route, too.

Indy NXT’s record for getting its drivers into IndyCar is far better than F2’s with F1. IndyCar’s bigger field and lower budgets help, as do its sporting culture being more accommodating for teams running additional cars or part-time entries. Don’t suggest to an IndyCar team that it would be easy to add an extra car for Chadwick in 2025 or ‘26 - the engine and parts supply and personnel challenges would still be huge. But it’s plausible in a way F1’s 10 teams/20 cars set-up just doesn’t allow.

Chadwick’s now in a series that really does work as a launchpad to the next level, with a team with a strong presence in that next level, and most importantly of all, she’s now winning. On merit. Ahead of title contenders. On America’s most fearsome road course. Take her seriously.

This US success hasn’t come without adversity. 

Chadwick has received a lot of negativity since her move to Indy NXT; you certainly wouldn’t see any other three-time motorsport series champion who has had their triumphs scrutinised as much as she has. 

Even after Road America, you scroll through X (formerly Twitter), and there’s still negativity surrounding her success. The expectations placed on her were so high, painting her as the future of women in motorsport when, realistically, immediately living up to that was always going to be impossible.

Patience isn’t something that we see often in the likes of F2. Drivers need to be at the top of their game; if you haven’t won a race in your first year, you most likely won’t be considered a future F1 driver. In America, it’s much different. 

Drivers are given time. Time to progress, time to adapt, time to improve. As Chadwick has got increasingly on top of the heavier, more powerful machinery beneath her, we’re seeing much more controlled, aggressive drives that have certainly paid off. 

This win embodies all of that and has set her well and truly on the path of success. A path that maybe is only actually properly starting now.

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