Caitlyn Jenner’s Next Chapter as Race Team Owner Begins This Weekend

·7 min read
Photo credit: APU GOMES - Getty Images
Photo credit: APU GOMES - Getty Images
  • Caitlyn Jenner is the owner of the Jenner Racing team in the W Series, which debuts this weekend in Miami.

  • Driving for Jenner are Jamie Chadwick, former W Series champion, and 17-year-old Chloe Chambers.

  • The W Series serves as an undercard support series to Formula 1, with two races scheduled this weekend and eight other races scheduled as support races for F1 events.

Caitlyn Jenner is unquestionably the highest-profile owner in the all-female formula-style race series, which enters its third season this weekend as part of the inaugural Formula One Miami Grand Prix.

Jenner is not a racing neophyte. She has a long history as both a participant—including nearly 60 starts in IMSA competition—and follower of various forms of racing, particularly trans am and sports car efforts.

Two of her biggest highlights were winning the Long Beach Grand Prix celebrity race in 1979 and then finished second with co-driver Scott Pruett in the 24 Hours of Daytona in 1980.

“I mean, I love racing, I had a lot of fun doing it,” Jenner said in an exclusive interview with Autoweek. “But there’s so many other things you can do in racing. I like to think of myself as the Roger Penske of the W series. Tell him I need his help financially. Come on, Roger.”

A mutual friend introduced Jenner to the W Series.

“I follow Formula One, but I had not heard about (the W Series),” Jenner admitted. “(My friend) told me what the series was doing and I said, ‘Oh my gosh, I love this.’ We spent a weekend together and kind of hashed out a deal and I am so excited to do it.

“It was interesting. It came at a time when women’s sports was under assault. I am a big supporter of women’s sports, I think women should be in sports.”

Jenner has been involved in supporting and advocating for women’s sports for 50 years, dating back to the passage of Title IX into law in 1972.

With gender identity and transgender athletes such as swimmer Lia Thomas competing in female sports, Jenner is especially cognizant of what the W Series can mean for female athletes.

“Look at this platform that you’ve got here,” Jenner said. “These girls are running (in front of) three or 400,000 people here. But you know, thank you, Formula 1. And we want to take care of Formula 1, because we want this series to continue here. It’s good for women in sports, and half the people in the audience are women. Let’s be honest, they love it.”

The W Series serves as an undercard support series to Formula 1, with two races scheduled this weekend (Saturday and Sunday) in Miami. After that, there are eight other races scheduled as support races for F1 events at Barcelona, Silverstone, France, Hungary, Suzuka, and Austin, and wraps up with a pair of races at Mexico City.

Jenner admits her involvement in the W Series came a bit late, as corporate budgets were pretty much set for 2022. But she’s managed to counter that with sponsorships she already has amassed, but even more importantly, Jenner Racing signed world-class driver Jamie Chadwick and promising 17-year-old Chloe Chambers to drive its two race cars.

Photo credit: NurPhoto - Getty Images
Photo credit: NurPhoto - Getty Images

Chadwick won the first two W Series championships in 2019 and 2021 (the 2020 season was wiped out due to the COVID-19 pandemic). She was hoping for a Formula 2 ride this year, but when it didn’t materialize, she became available to return to the W Series and Jenner quickly scooped her up.

Chadwick will also continue her role as a test and development driver in F1 for Williams Racing. Jenner ideally would love to see Chadwick win another W Series championship but also wants to see her climb the racing ladder, with the plan still to see Chadwick move to Formula 2 next season as a prelude to eventually becoming a regular F1 driver.

Jenner securing Chadwick was a big deal, but she did get some pushback from fans of the W Series.

“Getting Jamie was a big deal, but I and Jamie actually got some criticism about doing it,” Jenner said. “Like, ‘why are you still here and not moved up?’ And honestly, I agree with that. I told her when I first met, I said, ‘Look, this is what I want to do: I want to promote the hell out of you. I want to get some big sponsors. We got a year to figure out one or two big sponsors. So next year, you’re not with the W Series, you move up.’”

Photo credit: NurPhoto - Getty Images
Photo credit: NurPhoto - Getty Images

Now, after waiting more than six months, Jenner is ready to see the fruits of her labors in this weekend’s pair of races.

Jenner has had a long and fulfilling career that began by winning the Olympic Gold medal in 1976 for the decathlon, followed by a marketing campaign that cashed in on her gold medal success with appearances on numerous products such as Wheaties, proved to be a natural in the TV booth as an announcer and analyst, was a race car driver, and once again about 2019, became a advocate for women’s and transgender issues and rights.

And now she truly is ready to become the Roger Penske of W Series Car, so to speak.

“It’s honestly been a lot of fun,” Jenner said. “I can’t believe we finally got here to our first race. We had to negotiate pretty hard to get and talk to a lot of people to get the drivers I wanted. The series works. The W series owns the cars. It’s a spec series, cars are as close as they can get.

“This series has just tremendous potential. NASCAR, I love them to death, but it’s the same old. Same old track, same old stuff, great racing, love NASCAR. Indy cars are pretty much the same. The only thing new really is the W series where it’s a completely new concept and opportunity for women.

“And right now, opportunities for women in the world are extremely important. They’re making headways in so many other areas, they deserve that opportunity. And the W Series gives us that opportunity. It gives them a platform publicity, everything about it to move up to the next level.

It’s been 46 years since Jenner won Olympic gold in capturing the 1976 Decathlon, an event that began a career that has covered a number of different trajectories.

But one thing has remained a constant for her.

“I'm 72 years old now, been around a long time,” Jenner said. “Finding challenges like this or in my life is real important. Now when it came about I said what a great opportunity for me to help these women take what they do and they love to do to the next level and help them out doing it. There's nothing more satisfying.

“All my friends are dying. I actually had another one (die) the other day. You go through life. First, everybody's like going to college. And everybody's getting married. And then all your friends, your buddies, are having kids. And then all of a sudden, all the kids are out of the house and they're going to college and on and on and on, and then you get to the point in life with all your friends start dying.

“But honestly, I'm fine. I’m going to keep living. That’s why I enjoy doing this even at 72. You know, the last day when the good Lord looks down and says, ‘Today’s your day and you move on to a higher place,’ but up until that point, I’m going to enjoy it.

“I just wake up in the morning, excited about the day. That’s a good morning.”

Follow Autoweek contributor Jerry Bonkowski on Twitter @JerryBonkowski