The emphasis on Jamie Chadwick joining Andretti Autosport to become the first woman in 13 years to drive full-time in the freshly branded Indy NXT by Firestone development series has landed on DEI—Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
For the three-time W Series Champion/Extreme E racer and for Michael Andretti, chairman and CEO of Andretti Autosport, and team longtime marketing partner DHL, “DEI” has a deeper meaning. It’s about Defeating, Exceeding, Impressing.
“There’s a lot of hard work that’s going to go into the next few months, but I’m excited for it and looking forward to what’s to come,” said Chadwick, who’ll drive the No. 28 DHL Andretti Autosport Dallara in the 2023 Indy NXT by Firestone season starting with its inaugural race weekend next March 3-5 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.
“Ultimately, I wanted to progress out of W Series into the next step, which in Europe would have been something like Formula 3, and then ultimately in America is Indy NXT. Really, the opportunity I have here in Indy NXT is far greater than anything I was able to achieve over in Europe with Formula 3,” she said.
“You always want to put yourself in the best position with the best team and the best environment, and to be in that environment with the likes of Andretti and Indy NXT, I think it was definitely a huge opportunity that gave me a big, big chance now for the future, whereas unfortunately I didn’t quite have that come together in Europe. I think it’s definitely the right move. It’s for sure a good step up.
“The performance of the cars in general is definitely higher,” Chadwick said. “I was surprised by how quick they were when I first tested. That said, they’re really enjoyable to drive. So I think it’s a different driving style required. The main thing is the slightly longer races. We did a bit of street tracks in W Series, but here there are quite a few street tracks, as well as ovals, which are going to be a new challenge for me. There’s quite a few differences, but I think having followed the championship and followed as well IndyCar over the last few years quite closely, it’s something I’m really looking forward to and excited about more than anything else.
“It’s one thing having the opportunity to now step up and progress into the championship like Indy NXT, but it’s another to be doing it with a team like Andretti. I think everyone wants these opportunities, and very few people get them. So I’m very, very grateful. It wouldn’t be possible without the likes of DHL,” she said.
“I first came over to test with the team earlier in the year, and I had a really, really good feeling about it. I was in the process of weighing options. Do I stay in Europe? Where’s the best move for me beyond the W Series? The feeling I got over in America, involved with the Indy NXT championship and the team in Andretti, it just felt like a really good natural fit,” she said.
Chadwick joined Andretti Autosport Indy NXT teammates Hunter McElrea (No. 27 Dallara) and Louis Foster (No. 26 Dallara).
She is the Andretti team’s second full-time female driver, alongside Andretti United’s Catie Munnings, who competes in the Extreme E Series. However, she’s the fifth woman to carry the Andretti banner, following Danica Patrick, Ana Beatriz, and Simona de Silvestro, as well.
Andretti said he has supported the push for women’s opportunities in racing “for I don’t know how long. We’ve had many, many women drivers. We gave a woman her first win: Danica Patrick at Motegi. So we have always supported it. But in the end, I’m still looking for the best talent to drive our cars. Jamie is showing that.”
For Andretti, performance trumps marketing appeal.
Andretti said of Chadwick, “The first thing she brings is talent. I think she’s a proven winner. We’re excited to give her a chance to move up to Indy NXT. She’s shown great potential already in the testing. She’s been right on pace. I’m expecting really good things out of Jamie this year. I think she can be a winner in the series, and if you’re going to be a winner in the Indy NXT series, you’re going to be able to go and win in the big cars. So that’s our goal with Jamie here, to do that. The commercial side then follows it, but we’ve still got to get the performance side out of it. It has to be a legitimate effort.”
Mike Parra, CEO of DHL Express Americas, said that “everything we’ve done over the last 12 years with Andretti Autosport has yielded great commercial opportunities for us.” But he emphasized that funding Chadwick’s racing was far less about cashing in on her appeal than it was elevating her career.
“We did this more on the opportunity to expand and support Jamie’s journey,” Parra said. “DEI (diversity, equity, inclusion) is big for us. We’ve got a commitment as a company globally to have 30% of our senior roles all be (filled by) women across the board. Inclusion is something that we’re on a mission on, from a company that’s in 220 countries across the world. So . . . when we saw this opportunity to onboard someone who’s done extremely well in the W Series—and we have been following Jamie for some time—we said this is a great fit.
“We were already in the process of discussing with her camp on how we could support next steps, and suddenly Michael and I are having a conversation. And he says, ‘Hey, we’re looking at Jamie Chadwick.’ This was a great opportunity for us to partner again with Michael and continue to support Jamie’s journey,” Parra said. “And we think this is going to be not just great for the IndyCar Series and Jamie Chadwick, but great for DHL, its customers, its employees, as well as for Andretti Autosport. And no one better to be partnered with here on this one than Michael in bringing Jamie into the Andretti family.
“So we’re playing long ball on this versus short ball. The commercial side will come on its own. The thing here is supporting the journey and our commitment to the space and to the series. The day that stops, that’s the day we stop. But for now, we’re excited about what the upside and opportunity is for the organization, our employees, and our customers,” he said.
Chadwick, who grew up on the UK’s Isle of Man, acknowledged the promotional doors will open with this hop across the Atlantic. However, she said, “There’s a few factors that go into it, but I’ve always seen racing in the States [as] something that I’ve looked at and been interested in. It’s just about, when’s the right time to make the opportunity work and make that move.” She had participated in a USF2000 test session at Homestead Miami Speedway several years ago, so she has been on at least one American racetrack. But, she said, “I think, to be honest, I spent my entire career in Europe because I’m British, not for any other reason.
“Obviously, the W Series has been a huge opportunity for me over the past three years, but now looking outside of W Series, I’m fairly focused on how can I develop the most: How can I make the next big step to give me the best opportunity to progress in the sport? Looking at the opportunities in America with the seat time, the performance, everything, and the teams like something that Indy NXT offers,” she said. “It seemed like a really obvious choice. It wasn’t until I actually drove the car that I felt even more strongly about that in terms of how much I’m able to develop, learning in a car like that. Then, of course, as well, the commercial opportunities available over in America are significant, especially with the likes of DHL coming in to support me.”
Her trajectory, she recognized, is dependent on her on-track success.
“Performance is everything. If I’m having success, if I’m winning in Indy NXT, then I feel like I deserve the opportunity to progress. And vice versa, I think to have the opportunity to perform is also key,” Chadwick said. “So, to have this chance now to be with a top team in a top environment—to perform is key, but ultimately, in my opinion, it does boil down to performance. If I can perform, then hopefully that gives me the chance to be racing in the likes of IndyCar. And we’ll see about Formula One.”
Chadwick, still affiliated with the Williams Racing Driver Academy, said both the NTT IndyCar Series and Formula One are on her radar, “if I can say that. I’m not limiting or shutting any doors at all with this next step. Ultimately, I still see IndyCar as a future goal for sure, and I also still see ultimately Formula One, if it’s still possible, as an ultimate dream, as well. For my side, I want to have success at the next step outside of the W Series, which is the Indy NXT Championship. Beyond that, there are so many different things I want to achieve and ultimately do in the sport, whether that’s in IndyCar, Formula One, or even sports cars. There’s a lot on the bucket list, I guess.”
She is aware, though, that she can’t put the cart before the horsepower. All the DEI talk stays in the garage area when she slides into the cockpit. “What it does show is there is a proven pathway for women over in America. From my side, it doesn’t really change it,” she said.
“I just focus on doing the best job I can. With the opportunity I have, I think we’re really capable of doing that, so [I’m] just really focused on doing the best I can. In IndyCar, for example, [the] Andretti [team has] seen the likes of Danica win races. So I see it as a positive thing, that women are capable of being successful in the likes of IndyCar and Indy Lights. I want to use that as an encouraging thing and do the best myself,” she said.
“And not just Danica—there’s so many women. Even Simona last year, for example, who had opportunities and success out in the States that I look at. It does make a difference. When I look at that, I see that’s been done before. It’s not like I’m trying to achieve something that’s never been done before,” Chadwick said. “It does change my perception on things and make it a little bit easier in that sense. The fact that Danica did it with Andretti helps a little bit, knowing the team (has) experience with some of the best female racing drivers in the world. It’s very cool to see, and hopefully I can, as well, make that same progression.”
She’ll be going to school, in a sense, throughout this winter.
“The physicality (of the car) is definitely tough. I think the thing that’s the toughest part or the biggest step up is the duration of the races. I definitely feel capable for one lap, but now looking at 45 minutes to an hour is going to be the challenge. But it’s something I definitely feel is achievable with training. I’ve driven the car enough to know what I need to do, and that’s where the winter’s going to be busy, but still something that I feel capable of doing,” Chadwick said.
“It will change a little bit with the tire change maybe with Firestone, but it felt like the actual weight of the steering was quite a lot lighter than I’ve been used to. It’s quite busy. You’re fighting the car a lot. So general cardiovascular things like that is higher,” she said. “So I’ve been working on that over this winter and will continue to work. So hopefully that’s something that isn’t an issue come the first race. And worth noting, Andretti as a team has been super good in terms of trying to help me with that, with steering wheel grips. Things like that they’ve supported a lot, because my hands are smaller and everything, so that’s been great.”
She said she is learning a lot about driving at the limit for Indy Lights and IndyCar. “There’s a lot more tire preservation, particularly in race runs. Although in qualifying you push really hard, in the race runs in anything I’ve driven, you’re very much below the limit to protect the tire, whereas over here with the nature of the tracks and the driving style, it’s possibly a bit more toward the likes of Extreme E. I wouldn’t say to that limit. I would say the challenge of Extreme E is very, very different, but something I’ve learned a lot from.”
Her latest ride, Chadwick said, “is a car that you have to push to and beyond the limit to get the most out of, which in comparison to what I’m used to, particularly with the tire, you’re generally just a bit under it. You don’t want to slide on the tire. You don’t want to overwork it... whereas this you kind of go to it and beyond, which is something that’s a bit new to me. I felt I was leaning maybe more on my off-road rally experience more than anything else. Still, other than it being a good general step up in performance, the car was really enjoyable to drive.
“What I also really liked, and there’s a big difference from W Series, is the amount of adjustability within setups from the engineering aspect,” she said. “So the ability to work with the engineer and go through many different test items in the day as opposed to being quite restricted on those options, I found really interesting and something I’m really looking forward to learning more about. I think having that ability to jump in anything is something that I’ve always wanted to have. For as long as I can, I’d like to be able to try and drive as many different types of cars in as many different types of environments as possible.”
She said she felt comfortable with the team and the car: “From the moment I walked into Andretti—did the seat fit? I had a really good feeling with the team. The impression I got straight away, I felt very comfortable. I felt like everyone wanted to support me and give me the best opportunity. So I was successful not just in the test, but now ultimately going forward. And as soon as I got in the car, I really enjoyed it.”
Moreover, she’ll enjoy the challenge of the road courses. “I think it starts quite top-heavy, St. Pete and then Barber, two of probably the tougher tracks on the calendar. But still, it’s good to throw yourself into it.”
Chadwick didn’t say much about her specific goals for 2023, saying, “I think it’s really hard to be quite so black and white with targets. It’s difficult to say, ‘If I finish in the top five, I’m happy,’ and then that’s it. That’s as black-and-white as it is. I want to be in a position where I can be a frontrunner. Every weekend I want to be in a position where I’m disappointed if I’m not in the front row or if I’m not competitive.
“Whether I’m winning every race, I think, is going to be a challenge, given the amount of things that are new—particularly the ovals are going to be a new experience... So, yeah, I want to hopefully be challenging for the podium, top fives, and we’ll see.”